Health professionals from all over the world are studying how addicts are coping with the isolation that is necessary to survive the current global crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has become a crisis of a completely different sort than any we have dealt with in our generation.
Much like the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Coronavirus spread quickly, favoring no one and having no mercy.
COVID-19 is not a national crisis, it is a global one, and people all over the world are trying to cope with the suddenness of a new reality.
As of now, the best weapon that we have against this illness is isolation; and isolation can be the addict’s worst nightmare.
Addicts More at Risk for Relapse During a Pandemic
In fact, experts from the United States believe that recovering addicts are more at risk of relapsing during a period of isolation.
Health professionals in the U.S. are already seeing more relapses while the country becomes stricter with the enforcement of its “no contact” recommendations.
It is recommended that people “shelter in place,” only leaving home for life-essential reasons, such as buying food or getting meds.
Only “essential” workers are allowed to work at this time in most places.
Isolation can cause some people to become depressed, and the entire situation is extremely stressful for almost everyone.
Most twelve-step meetings have been canceled, the addict’s routine has been thrown off, and his or her life is in an uncertain limbo.
Depression, stress, and anxiety are often the initial cause of an addict’s self-medication and can easily lead to a relapse of the same behavior.
This is especially true of those who are afraid to go to their doctor’s offices, therapist offices, or recovery meetings for fear of catching the virus.
Cravings are Returning, Self-Medication is Rising
With all of this happening at once, the addict can sometimes have a hard time coping.
Even though it has only been a few weeks since the United States began encouraging people to stay in their homes, many addiction counselors are seeing a rise in cravings to relapse and in those who are self-medicating.
One licensed mental health counselor, Denny Kolsch admitted that every group therapy session that he had held in a 2 week period had resulted in discussions about the Coronavirus.
And now, most of these types of meetings have been canceled or moved online.
The global pandemic has become a source of stress and fear for people from all walks of life, but it can be particularly hard for those who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and drugs.
One of the very first coping tactics that addicts are taught to help them get through their cravings is to reach out to others.
They are taught that by sharing their struggle with other addicts, they can gain strength. Isolating the addict is literally taking away his or her support system.
There is Help for the Addict, Even During a Pandemic
Even in the midst of what seems to be global chaos, there is hope for the addict.
There are many things that a recovering addict can do to cope with the isolation, stress, and boredom that comes from a pandemic.
Even when group meetings and therapy appointments are canceled, there are still ways to reach out to others for help and to help themselves to remain calm in order not to relapse.
Here are a few ideas:
- Look Online for Help – The online world is full of social media outlets, web sites, and even online therapy sessions where an addict can reach out to someone for support. Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous websites have several online options for seeking help. An addict can create his or her own online support meeting or may choose to attend one that already exists. Both sites also offer useful information that can help an addict who is worried about relapsing.
- Find a New Hobby – Boredom is often a trigger for a recovering addict. Finding a new hobby, starting a new project, or beginning an exercise routine can help keep both the mind and body healthy. Staying focused on something besides the anxiety over the crisis will lower stress levels and lessen fears. Anything from drawing to painting to gardening to walking can help alleviate the need to self-medicate.
- Be Informed – It is important for everyone to be informed during a global crisis such as a pandemic. This is especially true of those who often deal with severe anxiety or stress. The panic that comes from a lack of knowledge can cause any situation to seem hopeless. Truth can often help calm the situation because knowledge allows a person to react properly. It is important to be sure that your information comes from accurate sources, however. Remember, not everything you read online is true. It is also just as important to unplug from information overload if it gets to be too much.
- Have a Plan in Place – One of the main reasons that knowledge is so important to the well-being of anyone, especially recovering addicts, is that it gives the person a chance to plan ahead. If you know that you will likely need to stay home for a few weeks, for example, you can plan for that by buying enough food, supplies, and materials to keep you fed and clean and alleviate boredom. Knowledge will also make you more aware of how to protect yourself with masks, gloves, etc. if you do need to go out.
The most important thing that any recovering addict needs to remember during a pandemic is to reach out when he or she is feeling stressed, anxious, lonely, depressed, or even just bored.
Sometimes just a 10-minute phone conversation with a friend can completely change your focus and help you cope with the current situation.
By utilizing chat groups, phone calls, and social media, you can keep in contact with your support system, who can help you resist the urge to relapse during a pandemic.