Coping with the world we live in without using or abusing substances

Cambrea Schrank  

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  I remember at the beginning of 2020 there was a post shared on social media about how this year all the major holidays fell on the weekend. Seriously, what were the odds that Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s would be on a Friday or Saturday? The stars seemed to be aligned for 2020, and this long-ago post is a great example of the expectations we had for this year. Needless to say, the reality of this year has been much different.  

     Sometimes, people feel sad or not like themselves. For a lot of people this year, these feelings have lingered. We are burnt out, overspent and thinly spread. We are disappointed; and we are allowed to be. However, what we cannot do is try to fix or eradicate those feelings every time they arise with alcohol, drugs or another substance.  

     The stress from social isolation and other COVID-19 related life changes can lead to or worsen substance abuse. When you start, you may think you have it under control at first. “It has been a hard day, I deserve a glass of wine, maybe two,” you say for the tenth time that week. Zero judgment. It has been a difficult year.  

     But over time, you will associate that substance with that momentary relief you felt, time and time again. Dependency can slip so easily into abuse. Abuse has a good chance of becoming an eventual addiction.  

     If you have found yourself leaning a little too heavily on a substance, it is not too late to change your coping habits. 

According to WebMD, you may have a problem with substance abuse if you 

  • Lack interest in things you used to love 
  • Change your friends a lot 
  • Stop taking care of yourself 
  • Spend more time alone than you used to 
  • Eat more or less than normal 
  • Sleep at odd hours 
  • Have problems at work or with family 
  • Switch quickly from feeling good and bad 
  • Crave or strongly desire to use the substance 

What to do next:  

     If you feel that you are abusing a substance or are at risk of abusing a substance, contact your medical provider immediately, and if possible, tell a trusted friend or family member. 

     Likewise, if you know someone who is dealing with or recovering from substance use, now is the time to reach out and remind them that they are loved. Help them connect to supportive resources. Encourage them to use more effective coping strategies. 

Healthier alternatives to deal with stress: 

     As outlined on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website,  

  • Take care of yourself. 
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals 
  • Exercise on a regular basis 
  • Get plenty of sleep 
  • Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out 
  • Put down the bottle and pick up the phone. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor or pastor. 
  • Take a break for your sake. If current news events are causing your stress, take a break from listening or watching the news.  
A note that reads, "phone a friend".
Photo courtesy of

     It is not easy to change habits, especially if you are struggling with addiction or substance abuse; it is not like flipping a switch. It is a process that you should start now. Do not wait until New Year’s (which is promised to be a three-day-weekend) to make that resolution. Break the cycle, and take care of yourself, friend. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Hotline: 1-800-662-4357 

UCCS Wellness Center: 719-255-7515  

Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255