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COVID-19 and Mental Health

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What Social Isolation Means for Addiction Treatment

covid 19 mental health

As the world navigates through the many uncertainties brought on by COVID-19, such as financial stress, unemployment, fear of ourselves or loved ones getting ill, etc., we are also learning to cope in a way foreign to many in recovery – in social isolation. This is due to the precautionary measures being taken to stop the spread of the virus, but in turn eliminates in-person treatment, meetings, face-to-face therapy, group therapy, and many more practices in which challenges are handled in a healthy way. Along with treating substance use disorder, all these forms of therapy also combat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, which often come hand-in-hand with addiction.

Addiction recovery presents a unique set of difficulties, and is often characterized by the isolation it brings with it from past behaviors. People actively using drugs or alcohol often push loved ones away so that they are not judged, punished for their actions, discouraged from using, etc. Because of this, being socially isolated can be dangerous, and may serve as a vehicle straight into a relapse for those in recovery. For those in active addiction, it can accelerate their use. Both of these examples have been seen in 2020 with the increase in overdoses (11.4 percent year-over-year increase in fatalities for the first four months of 2020, per White House drug policy office analysis).

In order to effectively combat this new and uncharted territory, treatment centers are mobilizing their online presence with the help of accessible virtual services (such as Zoom or Telehealth) that can be conducted over the phone or computer.  These online resources are encouraged, although experts worry that those struggling may be more susceptible to their drug of choice without their regular, steady routine that includes in-person 12-step meetings and one-on-ones with their sponsor.

Johann Hari said that the opposite of addiction is connection. Many who have found recovery in the halls of Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, or one of its many forms, find this to be true. The 12 Step process that is practiced in both organizations places great importance on forging relationships with and helping others in recovery. These friendships and bonds are paramount to our recovery, which is why now, in the face of COVID-19, we are challenged more than ever to connect with and continue to be there for one another.

While we cannot be sure of the consequences to follow in the coming months, suffice to say that the isolation and economic downturn will likely lead to an even greater need for access to treatment and readily available resources. Coupled with the opioid epidemic that still looms, the addiction treatment community will face considerable new challenges brought on by COVID-19, and so it is vital to shore up support from one another and join to face it together. We’ve included some helpful ways to combat the effects of social isolation.

  • Keep in touch with other sober friends. There are online meetings you can attend, or if you have a sponsor, make sure to talk to them often. We are hosting Zoom Recovery Meetings every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday evening from 7-8pm, featuring speakers from all over the country.
  • Regulation. Try to keep your routine as regular as possible. It might be tempting to sleep in every day, but having a wake up time to adhere to will help you feel more regulated.
  • Stay active. Look up yoga routines online, or go outside for a walk. If you have any kind of gym equipment around the house, try to use them once a day to get your body moving.
  • Read and journal. Keep your mind active by turning off the TV or laptop and picking up a book to activate your mind. Writing down your thoughts is a great idea, too, especially if you’re feeling particularly anxious or isolated.
  • Meditate. A practice strongly recommended for those in early recovery, this is a great way to center your mind and restore serenity you might be lacking because of the current situation.
  • Cook. Try out some new recipes if you have the time and resources. This will keep you from eating too much processed food, and could kick start some new healthy eating habits, too.
  • Yard Work/Gardening. Spend some time outdoors to get fresh air and work on a project, like pulling weeds or watering the plants.

Utilizing some of these helpful tips can make social isolation a lot easier to face. It is a learning curve for everyone – but important to use the knowledge we have in order to move forward.

Granite Recovery Centers is proud to remain open for our clients at this time while still adhering to precautionary measures to ensure everyone’s safety. Our Admissions team is available 24/7 at 855.712.7784