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San Diego Sober Living - Recovery

The Dangers of Using Liquor as a Coping Strategy

Certain Hollywood actors can carefully manage their stardom so it doesn’t seep into their private lives too much. Sir Patrick Stewart, the British actor famous for his franchise roles as Captain Picard in Star Trek and Professor Xavier in X-Men, recently published a memoir titled Making It So in which he goes into painful detail about his struggles with alcoholism and painkiller addiction in the early 1990s. The celebrated actor turned to liquor and drugs after separating from his wife, Sheila Falconer, while actively involved in stage productions of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Hamlet. These days, the 83-year-old actor hopes readers of his memoir don’t make the same mistake he made: using liquor as a coping mechanism.

Incidence of Alcoholism as a Misguided Coping Mechanism

Although there are no exact figures on how commonly alcoholism is the product of an ill-conceived coping scheme, anecdotal research indicates it’s a highly significant factor. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology suggests the following:

  • More than 70 percent of people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) report using alcohol to cope with negative emotions
  • Many seasoned sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous can tell you most meetings are packed with people who developed AUD because they wanted to deal with emotional trauma

In essence, drinking to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions can easily devolve into AUD, and most people who start going down this path never realize when they’ve crossed the line.

Family Histories of Alcoholism

For many alcoholics whose recovery programs include a stay in a facility such as a Solana Beach sober living home, the chance to live in a household free of AUD feels liberating. Patrick Stewart grew up with an alcoholic father. He thought self-discipline would keep him away from such a destiny, but he ended up self-medicating when he separated from his wife. This is the kind of story many alcoholics can relate to, and it explains why many people with family histories of AUD end up drinking when faced with deep stress. Those who are exposed to AUD from an early age are more likely to reflexively turn to liquor.

The Slippery Slope of AUD & Coping

It seems axiomatic that people don’t drink because they want to become alcoholics, but it’s important to keep adaptation skills in focus. In Stewart’s memoir, he writes about his unplanned descent into AUD. He thought he could get drunk and nurse terrible hangovers with sleeping pills. Like many other AUD patients, he realized he was spiraling out of control, but he chose to ignore it because such was his coping strategy. This is the slippery slope of trying to drink your troubles away. It’s a terrible way to cope with difficult situations, and the odds of developing AUD increase with every drink.

Dealing with Depression & AUD

AUD and depression are strange bedfellows. Liquor is a depressant. Many people who choose to drown their sorrows don’t know about this effect because they’re blindsided by the onset of euphoria and loss of inhibition. Drinking is the last thing people should do when they feel depressed. This is a terrible coping skill. Unfortunately, research shows that up to 75 percent of AUD patients live with depression or anxiety that devolves into depression. This is also why treatment for underlying issues such as anxiety and depression is crucial for AUD patients.

If you’re newly sober and you need help with avoiding relapse, call on the compassionate team at Casa Pacifica. Along with providing sober living housing for men, we work with our individual residents to develop customized plans that integrate treatment, aftercare, and recovery support. Our services include sober companionship, mentorship for those who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, and sober coaching. Solana Beach residents can get more information about our sober living facilities by calling us today at (760) 230-2996.

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