Experts have warned that people struggling with addiction run a higher risk of relapse in the coming months, as the coronavirus pandemic causes anxiety and disrupts routines.
Whilst countries including the UK and the US have only been enforcing stricter measures surrounding movement and socialising for a couple of weeks overall, many health professionals there have noted a distinct uptick in the numbers of people contacting their services regarding relapses (or near-relapses).
Denny Kolsch, a licensed mental health counsellor who has a mental health and addiction treatment facility in Florida, said: “The message we’re receiving is stay away from people. Isolate. Don’t be around people, and [for] people that are in recovery, that’s like a recipe for disaster.”
Kolsch has noticed that group therapy sessions have turned to a discussion of COVID-19 without fail at his facility over the past couple of weeks, and spoke of one person who relapsed on fentanyl and heroin after losing their job when their workplace closed due to the virus.
Why Are Group Gatherings So Important For Recovery?
Many recovering addicts say that group meetings, such as those held by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, are essential to their recovery from alcohol or drugs.
Being able to discuss their fears and issues with peers helps them to keep a firm grasp on why they are doing what they are doing, and offers a feeling of solidarity with others.
For many recovering addicts, meeting up with others and taking part in sober activities helps to provide a distraction and offer them a new lease of life after their addiction – one which helps them to understand that life can go on outside of their addiction.
These regular meetings and gatherings also help them to create a schedule that fills the time, a critical part of recovery as dead space in their schedule creates too much opportunity to struggle.
What Can You Do To Help Yourself During The Pandemic?
But the situation isn’t hopeless for those newly in recovery, or who rely on their regular meetings to stay sober. There are lots of at-home activities suggested by mental health professionals, and those who work with those in recovery.
Starting a new project or getting a hobby can be incredibly rewarding to those who find themselves with lots of spare time. In an article for Healthline, Lori Coffey, LSW, LCADC, the National Director of Operations for Footprints to Recovery treatment centres, says that staying busy and keeping active can be a huge help at this time.
“Movement is a great tool in recovery,” she says. “[There is} no better way to get out of your head and into something with your hands. It also adds value to your day, which will reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
One amazing project we completed at our treatment centre was a garden. It became a construction project. The beauty of gardening is that it needs constant love and attention to flourish. It also gives a great sense of accomplishment with each harvest.”
Many people have a hobby or interest that they have always been fascinated with or keen to try but have never found the time. You could learn a new language, craft or skill. For those interested in learning to drive, whilst practical learning isn’t possible at this time, you could get ahead and start learning the theory side.
How You Can Avoid Isolation
Another one of the things that cause relapse is feeling isolated and alone. Even people without addiction issues may find themselves falling into unhelpful coping strategies such as drugs or alcohol to avoid anxiety, so it is important that everyone make an effort to stay socially connected in whatever ways they can.
Not being able to physically be with another person can be hard for those that live alone, or for anyone with difficult home life. A lot of people are feeling the strain of not being able to hug or touch others.
However, thanks to the phone and internet, there are still ways that you can feel connected to others. Video chat services including FaceTime and Zoom allow you to speak to your loved ones face-to-face and even in groups, and you will generally find that your attention is far more focused in a video chat than it would even be out in public.
You can also attend recovery meetings and therapy sessions over video chat or on the phone. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous both provide web pages devoted to online options including Zoom and Google Hangouts.
Whilst many feel that online options are not an effective enough replacement for in-person meetings, during this time, it is clearly a beneficial option to help people battle feelings of isolation.
Opportunities For Growth
Bob Forrest, co-founder of Alo House Recovery Centers, said that the current situation could be seen as a great opportunity for personal growth.
“You can text and Skype and have more meaningful conversations now,” Forrest told Healthline. “You can talk to people. Maybe, because we have so much time on our hands, we can talk about some meaningful stuff, instead of the Lakers and the Clippers.”
He added: “People need to sit down in a chair and quietly think, ‘What do I believe?’ Get to the root cause (of addiction) and give yourself a break.
“Try to come up with some answers for yourself. What’s the point of being sober? It’s about purpose and usefulness and being able to sit with all this. Why don’t you use the time to reconnect with the people who mean something to you?”
Cassiobury Court is available to help you if you are struggling with thoughts of relapse during this time.
Contact our local line on 01923 369 161 to discuss your thoughts or problems with one of our dedicated, professional team, or you can simply text HELP to 83222 and we’ll take care of the rest.
We offer a range of therapies, advice from professionals and even the opportunity to talk to previous clients of ours to help you to see how far you have come, and how far you will go over time.