During the COVID-19 pandemic, those with substance abuse issues and those in recovery have been presented with unique challenges; challenges for which no one was able to prepare. Isolation and the inability to attend recovery meetings are causing problems that are unique to the recovery community.
In the United States, we are seeing a spike in alcohol sales and anti-anxiety medication prescriptions1. There has also been an increase in relapses2. Many with substance abuse already feel isolated because of the issues related to their use, and Covid-19 has increased this. Many are experiencing an increase in isolation that they have never experienced before.
Because may new unexpected stressors, there are many ways that the current pandemic may affect those in recovery. Such as:
- Self help recovery meetings (like AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery) are staples among the recovery community, and these meetings are now not allowed in many places due to social distancing guidelines or government shut down orders. Virtual meetings may be an option for those with access to the internet.
- Isolation during our “quarantine” period can be problematic for those with substance abuse issues as humans are meant to be social creatures. For many, this can cause difficulties in mental health.
The pandemic is also changing how individuals receive treatment. Many treatment providers, group therapy providers, and doctors are providing services through telehealth right now. This presents new and unique challenges for the providers and clients. There may be technical issues or even lack of resources to participate in telehealth. This can present a new need for many individuals, while others may be more likely to receive treatment. The already limited health care in some areas may be even more limited which makes it even more difficult for individuals to obtain care that is needed3.
If you are dealing with a substance abuse issue, it is important to:
- maintain contact with your provider(s).
- continue using and developing healthy coping skills. This could include music, art, calling your sponsor or a hotline, or anything that is healthy and safe.
- identify conflicting values.
- put together a relapse prevention plan.
- pay attention to where you are at with the stages of change.
- identify a support system to help you if you think you are going to use unhealthy skills. A solid support system will help you ensure you have someone to talk to if you are struggling with something. This support system can include parents, spouses, sober friends, sponsors, others in recovery, and even friends from work.
There are 5 stages of change:
It is important to remember that these stages are not always straightforward; you can bounce around the stages in no particular order. Knowing where you are among these stages is important and will help you find coping skills that are healthy and appropriate.
It is also necessary to reach out for help if you need it. There are a number of ways to reach out for assistance locally:
- CBHC Crisis Stabilization Unit: 941-575-0222
- CBHC Therapy Hotline: 941-979-0796
- AA: 941-426-7723 (there are options for Virtual meetings, for information go to https://aadistrict5.org/)
- Drug Free Charlotte County: 941-255-0808
- United Way 211: Dial 211
- Text hotline: Text “home” to 741-741
- SAMHSA Hotline: 1-800-662-4357
Written by Heather Barner, RMCHI, MS, CBHC Therapist