MORGAN: Alcoholics face a dangerous time during lockdown

People are overlooking all sorts of consequences whether economic or social as they unrealistically demand a protracted shutdown of society in reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic

I am an alcoholic. It is not something I am proud of or ashamed of. It is simply part of who I am and something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. I have struggled with my addiction for a long time with ups and downs. It has been almost a year since my last drink, and I have no intention of having one again. I am finally happy with the concept of permanent sobriety. I am also aware that I will still have to be forever vigilant to ensure that I don’t fall down the hole again.

Over the years I have been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. While I had challenges with the spiritual aspect of the program, the support from fellow alcoholics at meetings has been of immeasurable value to me. When I worked on the road, going to regular meetings provided me with a safe and healthy outlet while I remained sober. If there is a community with more than a few dozen people, rest assured that there will be a local chapter of AA in the area. This also demonstrates just how widespread alcoholism is in our society.

Last week, Prince Edward Island witlessly and with little warning announced that they would be closing their liquor stores. There was of course a panicked rush and massive lineups as people scrambled to stock up on booze while they could.

The Chief Medical Officer was shocked by the response and responded by scolding citizens.

“I’m disappointed in Islanders’ response in the last three hours,” Heather Morrison said at a news conference. “Perhaps we underestimated that alcohol is considered essential for some people.”

Morrison’s tone sounded condescending and dismissive of the seriousness with which people take access to alcohol. As a Chief Medical Officer, I would have thought she would be aware of just how widespread alcoholism is and how dangerous it is to suddenly cut off an alcoholic. It makes me question her competency. What did she think was going to happen?

According to Statistics Canada, roughly 2.6 percent of Canadians are physically dependent upon alcohol. We are not talking about binge drinkers or folks who tend to respond poorly to being drunk. This is an actual physical dependency and adication.

Alcohol withdrawal is a very serious thing. It can kill a person if it is not done in a controlled environment. When new and heavily addicted members would show up to our meetings with AA, the first thing we recommend that they do is to consult a medical professional before drying out. I envy those who have never dealt with serious withdrawal in their lives, but if they haven’t done so it can be damn near impossible to make them understand how serious it is. It varies from alcoholic to alcoholic, but it is never pleasant. It can range from irritability, sweats and shakes to sickness, hallucinations, seizures, and death.