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Alcohol Abuse Agitated by COVID-19 Stirring Liver Concerns

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Anyone who does five meetings a week, talks to their sponsor, works with others, does service in a group, meditates, stays spiritual, deals with their obsessions promptly, and practices the tenth step every night — reviewing their day to see where they played a part in doing harm, causing resentment against a person, place, or thing — never relapses. “I’ve never met the person who thoroughly followed the path and relapsed. Not in 40 years,” he pointed out.

But the pandemic makes that path more difficult.

In fact, many inpatient recovery programs are shutting down because they can’t respect social distancing. It’s not only clients; caregivers and specialists aren’t necessarily prepared to take the risk of contracting COVID-19, said Hofman.

In some areas, the risk is low. “But in New York, do you really want to go into an enclosed building, bunking four to a room, where people are coming and going every day?”

And you can’t run a recovery center at 25% volume. “Recovery centers are starting to teeter on the verge of bankruptcy,” he said.

The program Hofman runs, which only takes six people at a time, is unique. Each person has a private room. And each session begins at step one; some other programs start halfway through the steps.

It’s not COVID-19 causing the increase in alcohol use, he said, reflecting on 40 years of observing and helping alcoholics and addicts. “I am a firm believer that you cannot create an alcoholic or an addict.”

Physiologic dependencies can be created, just as one might become addicted to caffeine by drinking coffee every day, he explained.

“People say they became an alcoholic because of this or that,” he said, but the fact is, they were likely always one. “There’s a difference between causing and exacerbating, or revealing.”

For example, when a 38-year-old man with a wife and three kids “ties one on, nobody cares as long as he keeps the lawn and the car maintained, he plays with the kids, he coaches little league,” Hofman pointed out. The man is able to manage his stress — possibly resulting from trauma and insecurity he experienced during childhood — while controlling his drinking.

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