Recent national reports are alarming regarding the impact COVID-19 has had on the mental health of Americans. Recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics report a disturbing rise in numbers of American suffering from mental health issues or substance use disorder issues. 40.9% of adult Americans reported at least one issue related to mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, which includes 30.9% of adults having issues with anxiety or depression, 26.3% reporting symptoms of trauma or stressor-related disorder, and 13.3% reporting starting or increasing substance use to cope with the pandemic. Reports of higher rates of having thoughts of suicide are increasing, as are the numbers being reported of drug overdoses. While local, statewide, and national safety measures, such as social distancing, are proving to reduce the spread and transmission of COVID-19, the isolation caused by these health and safety measures are taking a heavy toll on the mental health and substance misuse of Americans throughout the country.
Additionally, those individuals that are living in recovery from addiction are also feeling the impact of COVID-19. SAMHSA’s working definition of recovery is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” Throughout America, there are millions of people living in recovery. Some find recovery through traditional 12-Step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), some find recovery through other groups, such as SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, or Refuge Recovery, and still others find recovery through clinical and therapeutic help, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), or holistic practices such as yoga, fitness, or other healthy lifestyle outlets. However, there is one major component common to all these different avenues and pathways to recovery- connection. And due to COVID-19, many people living in recovery are finding connection difficult, as their means of access and connection to others is severed due to the necessity of following health and safety recommendations to keep themselves and others free of harm.
During COVID-19, those in recovery have found it difficult to connect. Many regular types of community-based recovery meetings have moved to a virtual platform, creating difficulty to connect outside of the virtual meeting area. There is something important about the human connection and how it relates to recovery, and the inability for people to keep up regular routines, meet with sponsors, supports, and others in recovery, or find the necessary social outlet with a community of recovering people certainly is impacted individual’s ability to maintain recovery.
So, what can someone in recovery do to attempt to manage their recovery and support ongoing efforts to thrive?
5 Ways to Stay Connected During COVID-19
Keep up a schedule and a routine
Having a schedule and a regular routine is very helpful for those in recovery, especially those in early recovery. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time. If you have a regular schedule of meetings, keep up with that schedule. If you speak to a sponsor or sober supports regularly, keep that up on phone or FaceTime calls or virtually through a platform like Zoom. As an example, people that have been working virtually during COVID-19 report that they are more happy and more productive when they keep their regular work school- rather than rolling out of bed, they get up at the same time they would if going into the office, shower, dress appropriately for the day, then work in a designated area in their home that is for work. This type of thinking will also be helpful for those living in recovery from addiction.
Don’t neglect the connections you had that worked for you in-person
As an example, many members of the 12-Step community know that the “meeting before the meeting” and the “meeting after the meeting” are often as important or even more important than the AA or NA meeting itself. This is the time that members of those fellowships connect with others, look for new members to help, or share their struggles with each other. They often go out to dinner after the meeting with sober friends or a sponsorship family. Try to keep these types of important connections during COVID-19. If you now have to attend virtual meetings, talk with some group members and open the meeting early, so that everyone can connect and chat. Or schedule a time to eat dinner through zoom with that same group of sober friends. If you and your sponsor met every Tuesday at noon for coffee, keep that commitment and instead meet through a virtual technology platform
Keep up a healthy lifestyle
Most people that enter from recovery from addiction begin some form of healthy living, whether that is keeping a better diet, engaging in fitness activities or holistic practices like yoga, dance, or meditation. Keep those practices intact. Most places, like gyms or studios, have gone virtual. It is easy to begin to neglect these types of activities- your healthy diet falls by the wayside or your fitness routine suffers. Stay vigilant and continue to engage in these activities.
If you are struggling, seek additional help
Many people that have been living in recovery for some time are seeing themselves struggle with the fear and uncertainty that has occurred due to a public health pandemic. No one should feel ashamed about seeking additional help for these issues. Relapses and fatal overdoses are rising. A person in recovery should find no shame in seeking additional help, often through a professional like a therapist or counselor. Perhaps seek out a professional that can help with meditation or calming breathing exercises. If you are someone in recovery that hasn’t engaged in healthier lifestyle choices such as working out, exercising or yoga, incorporate these types of activities into your daily routine.
Seek out community and connection wherever you can.
This can be through an established recovery network, a group of people engaged in similar health and wellness activities, a congregation if you are religious, or perhaps, as a parent, through a group of parents who are also dealing with their children during this time.
Connection is strength, and by its very nature, COVID-19 cuts off connection from others, so that we may look out for the health and safety of the local, national, and global community. So, we need to work that much harder during the pandemic to create and keep up the connection that is the lifeblood of recovery from addiction. We must stay vigilant and connected to one another, so that our recovery from addiction can sustain during these trying times, and eventually be that much stronger once we come out the other side. As all those advertisements and commercials told us so eloquently in the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, “we are all in this together.”
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.