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Fishermen Wellness: Alcohol Use

When Does It Become a Problem?

Nicole Foster, JD

Director of Peer Services, NAMI Maine

Sometimes when stress hits we just want an escape at the end of the day to release all those feelings, have some fun, unwind, or not feel at all. Stress has hit Maine hard during the COVID-19 crisis, especially for Maine fishermen. Instead of an anticipated tourist season that produces a stable income for a substantial amount of Maine families, fishermen are selling their catch on the side of the road or over Facebook, at a reduction in income.


With social distancing in place, you can’t go meet your friends at the local bar or restaurant for dinner and a few drinks. Instead, you go home, sit around the fire, and have a few drinks. Since you are home and don’t have to worry about driving, a few may turn into a few more. That way you can escape all the worries and stress Maine fishermen are facing today.


It is not surprising that alcohol sales have increased by 17% in Maine in the last three months. Sometimes we just want an escape.

Alcohol continues to be the number one used substance in Maine. Alcohol causes more deaths each year than any other substance and is the substance leading most people to experience legal troubles. Like any other substance, alcohol can become problematic. There is socially acceptable drinking and problematic drinking.


What are some signs to look for to determine if you or your loved one’s drinking has become problematic?

  • Unsuccessful attempts to limit alcohol consumption. You have tried to cut back on the amount of alcohol you consume but have been unsuccessful.

  • Spending more time drinking or taking longer to recover from alcohol consumption. You are spending more time drinking than other activities, and it is harder to get moving in the morning.

  • Strong urge to drink alcohol. You are stopping at the local gas station to grab a six-pack or nips because you just cannot wait any longer, the urge is too great. It is no longer that you want a drink, it becomes you need a drink.

  • Inefficient at work. Your captain/sternman is noticing that you aren’t moving as fast as you normally do, and you know it is because you drank too much the night before.

  • Memory loss. Drinking so much that you can’t remember the night before or anything that you did.

  • Unable to discontinue alcohol use despite of physical, social or interpersonal problems. Your family is bringing up your drinking and their concerns. You feel physically sick if you don’t have some alcohol in your system. You get arrested for an OUI. These things happen but you continue drinking.

  • Giving up social life, activities and hobbies. Your life has become alcohol and nothing else.

In 2017, 65,000 Mainers were diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. That may seem like a low number, but that is because those are the diagnosed cases, meaning those who sought treatment. That number is likely much higher.

Even during COVID-19, help is available. While treatment centers are not accepting inpatients at this time, there is an abundance of virtual help available. All the help you need to start your sobriety is on your smartphone or computer.

  • Counselors are seeing clients through telehealth. Contact NAMI Maine at 207-622-5767 ext. 1 for help in connecting to a therapist. AA/NA meetings continue to run online.

  • Portland Recovery Community Center has a list of all meetings currently running online across the state.

  • Facebook groups have been established to help support people struggling with sobriety. To find them, simply type recovery group in the search bar on Facebook.

  • You can also contact your local treatment center or NAMI Maine and ask about being connected to a Recovery Coach. A recovery coach is someone in recovery or an affected other, meaning a loved one of someone in recovery, who helps promote recovery by removing barriers and obstacles. A recovery coach also serves as a personal guide and mentor for people seeking recovery. They help you find your road to recovery and walk it with you. Recovery coaches have been where you are when you start your sobriety.

Remember, it’s never too late to start your journey to wellness!


A note from MCFA staff: Fishermen Wellness is a new on-going series by NAMI Clinical Staff. Each week a new topic will be featured pertaining to mental health and wellness for fishermen. We hope that this information is helpful to fishermen during COVID-19 and also under regular circumstances. Thank you to the clinical staff at NAMI for their support and insight during this time. Together, we persevere.

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An industry-based nonprofit that identifies and fosters ways to restore the fisheries of the Gulf of Maine and sustain Maine's fishing communities for future generations. 

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