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MedWatch: Alcohol Awareness Month

It’s Alcohol Awareness Month.

Alcohol sales have risen in the past few weeks.

Alcohol and other substances such as prescription drugs, marijuana, and other drugs are what many people turn to in order to cope with stress.

But that increased use can impact your physical and mental health in many ways, and put you at risk for substance use disorder.

Michelle Dunaway talked with Paul Bock and Kimberly Johnson, two certified peer recovery coaches at Munson Healthcare, for this month’s MedWatch.

Michelle: How is COVID-19 in particular more triggering for substance use disorder?

Paul: Substance use disorder is disease of isolation, so having nowhere to go presents a real problem.

A lot of people may use more now because they don’t have that usual support system. Perhaps they don’t know who to confide in or what to do.

Michelle: How do you know you’re at risk for substance use disorder?

Kim: First, it’s important to acknowledge that substance use disorder can affect anyone of any age or income group.

Under more normal circumstances, it can affect your day-to-day activities, like how you function at work.

At home, watch for signs like:

  • increased use despite wanting to cut back
  • a great deal of time spent using and/or preoccupied by us
  • giving up important activities because of use
  • Day-to-day patterns may also be affected like your sleep and energy levels.

Michelle: So where do you come in as a peer recovery coach?

Paul: A peer recovery coach is really someone who has walked the walk.

As people in recovery, we know what it’s like to go through this on a deeper level because we’ve been there ourselves.

So, in addition to professional counseling with someone who has studied mental health and has all of those tools, we provide an added layer of help at a different level.

I always say, I just want to have a conversation with you. How can I help you? I never have an agenda. It’s whatever the person’s needs are. We are focused on them.

Kim: There are things people will share with us in particular because they know that we know what it’s like.

People who suffer from substance use disorder often feel judged/a lot of shame. Once we open up about our own struggles, it helps people to share their stories. We provide that extra layer of hope.

Michelle: What would you say to that person watching this who feels like asking for help is a sign of weakness – or who is embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help?

Kim: It’s brave to ask for help. Addiction can make you feel like you’re weak and useless. So asking for help takes a lot of courage. The first time I walked into an AA meeting, I was so embarrassed and didn’t want to talk to anybody. But when I saw the people there opening up, I felt like I belonged.

Paul: I want to stress that it’s okay for the person to be exactly where they’re at right now. We are not here to judge you. We’re here to make you feel comfortable. And ask, what do you need? We know what resources to point people to – both now and any time.

Michelle: So how do people find help for either themselves or a loved one? Where can they turn to, especially during COVID-19?

Paul: There’s a whole community of peer recovery coaches throughout our region – we’re a tight-knit community.

To connect with a Peer Recovery Coach and other resources for help with substance use disorder, call Munson Healthcare Behavioral Health at (231) 935-6382.  This number will connect you to someone at any time and no referral is needed. We are here for you.

If you’d like to learn more about the resources available to you, .

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