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Navigating addiction, recovery and the pandemic during the holiday season

The holiday season tends to be a trigger for many people living with substance abuse disorders, and this year will be especially challenging with the pandemic.

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — Year after year, the holiday season proves to be a challenging time for those with substance abuse disorders and addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Usually, it's the holiday parties and increases in social events that make alcohol look especially inviting. This year will be even more complicated with the stresses of the pandemic also contributing to people's drinking habits.

According to a recent survey by American Addiction Centers, 58 percent of Floridians are suffering from "quiet stress" this year. That means instead of lashing out in anger or rage, people are bottling up their worries and letting the stress manifest in isolation. 

One in five of the survey respondents said they’re more likely to turn to alcohol as a stress-reliever during pandemic times than before the pandemic.

Footprints Beachside Recovery Center in Treasure Island has seen an increase in people coming in for help with alcohol addiction.

"Our alcohol admits are actually double from last year," said John Templeton Jr., the center's president.

RELATED: Treasure Island rehab center sees increase in drug and alcohol abuse due to pandemic stress

As a recovering alcoholic himself, Templeton knows the importance of face-to-face meetings and connecting with other sober people. Without support, recovery is nearly impossible.

"It was people who were isolated and it’s something that is not good for people in recovery; they need other people and they need support and that isolation. For all of us, it’s been an unprecedented time," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dedicated a whole page on its website for people with substance abuse disorders and COVID-19.


Templeton said you might know if you have a problem if your alcohol usage continues to have negative outcomes.

"If you continue your usage despite negative consequences, that’s an indicator and then loss of control," he said.

With the stress of the holidays adding another layer to one's recovery journey, Templeton urges people to look for help now.

"Recovery is 24 hours a day,; it’s a one day at a time approach but it’s rewarding and it’s effective," he said.


If you're worried about a loved one who might need to seek professional help, Gavin Cipaldo recommends leading by example.

Cipaldo is eight months sober after a relapse in March. Cipaldo said the pandemic derailed his sobriety and he didn't take the virtual meetings seriously. He admits he paid the consequences and ultimately had to start over.

Support from others got him back in the right direction. American Addiction Centers offers tips for helping loved ones with support and recovery.

Cipaldo is recovering from an opiate addiction but also stays away from alcohol, which leads him down the wrong path.

It'll be his first pandemic holiday season in recovery so he plans on ramping up his sobriety game by attending more meetings, planning sober activities and hanging out with sober people.

If a family obligation or special event leads him to be around people who are drinking, Cipaldo says having a sober buddy to get through the function can make all the difference.

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