Several months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic that spread around the planet forced people all over the world to adapt to a new, altered reality. The majority of countries imposed restrictive measures like social isolation, quarantine, and avoiding physical contact to prevent the spread of this potentially deadly respiratory virus.
We know we are protecting ourselves and others by following these recommended measures. However, we have to point out that practicing social distancing, staying in lockdown, and fearing for our health and the wellbeing of our loved ones can cause negative emotions. Issues like anxiety, frustration, loneliness, and a sense of helplessness can seriously affect our mental health.
This is especially true for people belonging to vulnerable social groups, like patients with mental health and addiction issues. Unfortunately, the statistics show that mental problems often go hand in hand with substance abuse and that around 50% of people with severe mental issues, like anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder, are also addicts.
Patients with a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder, battling both mental problems and substance abuse disorders, may find it difficult to stay on track with their recovery during the coronavirus outbreak. All of these negative emotions, combined with the inability to reach out to their health care provider and support group, may easily lead those in recovery into relapse.
For this reason, we will focus on staying sober and useful tips to help people recovering from addiction during the COVID-19 outbreak.
1. Do Not Give Up Your Medical Treatment
The risk of relapsing and starting to use again is only one of the challenges people recovering from addiction during the COVID-19 lockdown have to face. Another serious challenge is getting much-needed medicaments, like methadone, if they are on medication-assisted treatment.
Some people who are going through addiction treatment stated for USA Today that they experienced difficulties with getting prescriptions for their meds due to the fact that the whole medical system is overwhelmed.
However, you shouldn’t use these temporary obstacles as excuses for quitting your treatment. Try staying in touch with your doctor and sponsor instead and find out whether they offer virtual appointments.
Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP) that are in charge of providing medication-assisted treatment for patients recovering from opioid addiction have found an efficient way to distribute methadone and other essential meds. They have remained open during the Coronavirus crisis, adjusting their operation to new rules of keeping physical distance. Thus, patients will not have to come to the treatment centers daily to collect their medications during the COVID-19 crisis.
Stable patients can now get a 28-day supply of methadone that will help them overcome the struggle to maintain their abstinence. Less stable patients will receive medications sufficient for 14 days. By organizing things this way, the OTPs are following all the social distancing recommendations while still providing their patients with the meds essential to their addiction treatment.
This example should show you that even in these times of fear and uncertainty, some people and organizations will make sure that you stay on your path to recovery. For this reason, quitting your medical treatment shouldn’t be an option.
2. Stay in Touch with Your Support Group
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of attention, encouragement, and love that people recovering from addiction get from both their loved ones and support groups. In other words, group therapy meetings are an essential branch of addiction treatment that focuses on recovery. Drug addiction recovery is similar to a rollercoaster ride. At times you think you have everything figured out, but this can often be followed by difficult low points. You continuously need people you love and trust around you to stay you on the right track and remind you what the main goal is.
However, in this challenging time of social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, people battling addiction may feel abandoned and helpless because they are deprived of going to real meetings or seeing their friends and family.
We are here to remind you that most of these programs and support groups that help people go through drug addiction or alcohol recovery have moved their meetings to the virtual world. You only need an app like Zoom to attend these virtual meetings and continue sharing your experiences with other group members and your sponsor. Some psychology experts claim that staying in touch with sponsors provides that much-needed support and help for people in recovery. If you are not a fan of video chats, there is always an option of phone meetings.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has provided a comprehensive list of support groups you can contact, accompanied by other recovery resources you can use to get all the information and help you need. SAMHSA also devised a specific mobile app for behavioral health responders. This application contains invaluable information that would help responders reach people in need.
Now that you have seen that you don’t have to fight your battles alone on the path to recovery, all you need to do is reach out and seek help from your loved ones and your support program via the Internet.
3. Fill Your Day With Various Activities
We all know that old saying that idle hands are the devil’s playthings. And we have all experienced unbearable hours of boredom during this lockdown. However, for people going through mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment, boredom, combined with isolation, may trigger an array of negative feelings and fears that can lead them to use drugs to feel better.
To prevent this from happening, you need to create a daily routine that you will stick to during these challenging times. You can go for a walk in the morning then get on Facetime to have your first coffee with someone you love. You can take some time to prepare healthy meals before attending your virtual group meeting or having a chat with your sponsor. You can use evening hours to relax, read something, or listen to music. The essential part of building a routine is to leave no free time for thinking about your fears or insecurities.
You can also dedicate some time to learning something new or taking up a new hobby. You may plant that home garden you dreamed about for years or use YouTube videos to start working out. Once you learn something new or get something done for the first time, you will get a satisfying sense of accomplishment that will keep dark and tempting thoughts away.
4. Don’t Stop Taking Care of Yourself
This is a crucial message on this list of helpful recovery tips. Taking care of yourself in this frightening situation is of the utmost priority. There will be days when the stress and anxiety will get the best of you, and you won’t be able to get up and carry on with your day. We want to let you know that we all have bad days, especially in these extraordinary circumstances in which we have to accept social distancing and isolation as our “new normal.”
Try to pamper yourself on bad days. Go for long walks or enjoy hot baths. Don’t blame yourself for being “weak.” Try to avoid all the upsetting information about the coronavirus situation to prevent triggering an anxiety attack. If you experience one of these attacks, here is a simple stress management technique that will calm you down in a matter of minutes: go outside, breathe deeply, and stretch for several minutes.
Do whatever it takes to keep your goal clearly set in your mind. This will help you remember how much energy and effort you have invested in your recovery process and sobriety, and it will keep you from slipping into relapse in your darkest hours.
Coronavirus anxiety has become a real thing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, making it challenging for those in recovery to maintain their sobriety. There are many mental and physical challenges that people recovering from substance use disorders have to face, and these are made all the more difficult due to losing the levels of care they have gotten used to. Recognize your triggers and look out for the signs and symptoms of relapse. We hope you will find this useful and help you remain strong in your battle.