Managing Substance Abuse During COVID-19
Committing to a recovery journey just got harder thanks to COVID-19. The forced isolation, disruption in necessary routine, and in many cases, the temporary halt to in-person therapy and meetings have conspired to make recovery even more difficult.
Even those who may not have a diagnosed problem with alcohol addiction are turning to alcohol in record numbers during the pandemic. Alcohol sales, according to one account, jumped more than 55% in March in California as people turned to unhealthy habits to cope with the unprecedented stress.
These staggering numbers have mental health professionals on high alert. Bar and restaurant closures have evolved into Zoom Happy Hours and online parties as a way to stay connected and at-home drinking is increasing, especially as the pandemic continues. Yet, people are finding these events do not replace the real thing, which can create more sadness, disconnection and disappointment.
Ongoing stress, spending more time with family or isolating alone, financial stressors and boredom are often incentives – and excuses – for drinking more at home. Those who have recently begun their sober journey may find it more difficult to stay on a recovery path given such stresses combined with a lack of traditional support systems.
As if that were not enough, some indicators show that those who regularly use drugs and alcohol may be more susceptible to the virus due to lowered immune systems and compromised lung function. More studies are needed of course, but this potential vulnerability can be frightening to those already struggling with addiction.
While social distancing may be keeping you from your traditional support system, there are online programs and telehealth services standing by to help. Many organizations have moved their meetings to Zoom or are offering other methods (phone, text, chat) of outreach. Below are some ideas for finding support for your recovery journey:
-Check with your insurance provider to see what services are available during this time. Most insurance companies offer support for addiction and
will have resources for you.
-If you have already been connected to a group, reach out to see how they are meeting. It’s very likely they are finding new ways to support one another.
-If you have a sponsor, health professional, or therapist, reach out to them and make time to talk regularly.
-Make an effort to find an activity that you can do from home to occupy your time and energy. Home projects and physical activities are excellent ways to engage body and mind.
-Very Well Mind has compiled a comprehensive list of online services available to support you or someone you love.
Most importantly, know that your situation may be unique, but you are not alone. Reaching out and asking for help is critical to keeping you on your recovery journey even in the midst of a global pandemic. Your journey may have gotten more difficult, but there are many services and people willing and able to help.