College of DuPage Nursing Student Ruthanna Miller wrote for Healthy Lombard that it was midway through the second week of lockdown in DuPage County, Illinois when 28-year-old Lizzie took her recycling bin to the curb for the first time that month. She was startled by the weight of it and amused by the ding-ding-ding of the glass bottles inside. What she failed to realize was the reality of her newfound addiction.
It has been over a year since COVID-19 wreaked havoc in the U.S. Even in the early days of the virus, the nation saw unemployment rates skyrocket. According to the Congressional Research Service, part-time unemployment was up to almost 25% and full-time unemployment was near 13% in April 2020. With so many people out of work, it is no surprise that alcohol sales increased by 54% this past year. More free time along with the stresses of unemployment and social isolation seems to be the perfect storm for addicts everywhere.
For a large percentage of recovering addicts, there is an incredible correlation between the sober community and success in sobriety. COVID-19 has made in-person Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other support groups nearly impossible. Other coping strategies are also more unavailable, such as attending fitness centers, going on travel outings, and group activities. So, the question is: What is available during these times to help keep us sober?
While fitness centers may be temporarily closed or limited in capacity, there are still many other fitness options. Since lockdown began, a surge in at-home fitness regimes has hit social media platforms of all types. It takes only a quick search on outlets like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram to provide hours of personal fitness routines that can be done at home using items like water bottles, textbooks, and household furniture. These quick-tip videos and DIY workouts provide hours of time-consuming exercises that are just as good for the spirit as they are for the body (with the added benefit of being able to eat everything in the kitchen pantry without gaining the pounds).
Other ways to enjoy a substance-free night in COVID-19 times is to indulge in those “If I just had the time” hobbies. Crafting projects like knitting and crocheting have become so popular during the Pandemic that yarn companies are fighting to keep up with the demand. Conitex Sonoco, a global textile producer, reports that spun yarn went from 45.6 million tons of product in 2018 to 52.5 million tons last year—a significant increase. For months, puzzles and board games were sold out in stores everywhere. Crafting provides a healthy outlet to keep the hands occupied while also providing a product that can be touched, seen, and shared with others.
Amongst all the sadness and uncertainty, some may find their way into (or back to) the misuse and abuse of addictive substances like alcohol, drugs, and even food. Thankfully, there are endless outlets to provide joy and distraction in what can be explained as the worst global crisis in more than a century. The entire world has adapted, as it always does, and has provided communities of fitness freaks and crazy crafters who happily and full-heartedly share their passions and help spread alternative ways to stay sober. Before the end of this pandemic, the hope is to see a sober community filled with healthy bodies, crotched blankets, and happy hearts.
Congressional Research Service: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R46554.pdf