The coronavirus has introduced a variety of challenges to everyday life that most people may not have ever considered before. Stores, restaurants, and businesses have closed their doors and those that have reopened have introduced a number of restrictions to help protect employees and patrons alike. Large social gatherings are discouraged, and people are encouraged to stay at home whenever possible. While social distancing is designed to protect people and slow the spread of COVID-19, it is not always easy to cope with, leading to a rise in mental health issues and the risk for unhealthy coping mechanisms to develop.
Those who are at an especially increased risk are those who struggle with addiction and are working towards achieving sobriety. Those in recovery are at a heightened risk for relapse in the age of COVID due to a number of circumstances. Shelter-in-place orders increase feelings of isolation, loneliness, and boredom, all of which are triggers for relapse. Recovering from addiction is hard enough without the added challenges the pandemic has introduced. Getting sober during the COVID-19 pandemic may look different, but it is still able to be achieved.
The Unique Challenges COVID-19 Presents
For those who are recovering from addiction, the changes COVID-19 have introduced to our world has complicated the treatment process. While it is a trying time for everyone, those overcoming addiction have the added stress of struggling to not relapse. Staying at home increases feelings of isolation and can make people feel stir-crazy. This combination of feelings can have people looking for any means of escape and unfortunately, substances are often misused as a means of coping.
One of the biggest challenges currently is the fact that in-person gatherings are not happening. While this is in the interest of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, much of recovery hinges of the building of a sober support network to aid in the recovery process. Group meetings provide a sense of routine and accountability. They foster the development of healthy relationships with peers who share similar experiences. They encourage members to share and learn from one another. It is a critical component of recovery and losing this type of structure can be destabilizing.
When substances are no longer used, people find they have a lot more time on their hands. In recovery, people are encouraged to stay busy and find new, healthy ways to pass the time. Focusing on developing new interests while staying engaged with the sober community helps pass the time and prevents the mind from wandering towards thoughts of substance abuse. Being stuck at home most of the time now, however, creates space for boredom and loneliness to build and idle hands to wander. Isolating from others without access to the normal activities or gatherings increases the risk for relapse exponentially.
Addiction Treatment Resources During the Pandemic
Despite what is happening with the pandemic, people still need professional help when it comes to treating addiction. Many experts believe that the current climate introduces a number of additional risks including an increase in triggers, reduced access to providers, and greater difficulty connecting with support. This combination puts people at greater risk to relapse while simultaneously having less obvious access to treatment options.
In response to this, many treatment centers and support groups have adopted online formats, allowing people to continue engaging in treatment remotely. Phone calls and video meetings have been used to replace in-person meetings (Click here for online 12-step meetings in Los Angeles). While this may not be ideal, the ability to hear someone’s voice and connect with others virtually can help reduce feelings of isolation. It allows a connection with the sober community to be maintained. In addition, this virtual platform actually opens the door for more people to seek help than ever before. Virtual meetings mean that a person can attend a session at any time anywhere in the world. They no longer must arrange for childcare, take time away from work, or try to find travel arrangements. If anything, the online format has made treatment even more accessible to people who may not have otherwise had access.
Telemedicine has also become more readily available for clients in need of treatment services. Telemedicine allows clients to connect with a treatment team remotely. This makes scheduling appointments easy and convenient while also creating an easy way for all members of a treatment team to share information and collaborate on a client’s care plan. Clients are also able to use a number of resources to empower themselves in recovery. A variety of apps are utilized in telemedicine to help clients manage their own recovery, record milestones, and learn new methods of coping with stressors. While there are certainly benefits to in-person care, telemedicine makes it possible for clients to stay connected to treatment resources from the comfort of their own homes.
Despite virtual resources being made available, some people may still require the help of a more structured, in-person option. Sober living homes are still operating during the pandemic and precautions are taken to ensure the safety of all residents. As most healthcare providers are doing now, sober living homes screen residents and may require a short period of self-quarantine to observe for symptoms of the coronavirus. Sober living homes already have house rules in place to protect residents under normal circumstances and have expanded upon them to account for additional precautions. Sober living homes have added extra emphasis to house cleanliness, personal hygiene, and monitoring of symptoms to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Overcoming addiction is difficult enough under normal circumstances and the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of additional barriers and challenges. Treatment programs and resources are adapting to these changes by providing recovery tools through any means available. While some of these approaches may be somewhat unconventional, technology has made it possible for those in need to stay connected with peers and providers alike. It has also opened the door to many others, helping clients access resources they may not have otherwise due to stigma, lack of access, and other challenges. While treatment may look different in the age of the coronavirus, recovery is still possible.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.