It’s a challenging time for everyone right now. Coronavirus has reached almost every country in the world and the numbers of those affected continue to grow daily. Many thousands have died, many more are sick, and the rest of us are doing our best to stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy.
No matter who you are or where you live, this pandemic is stressful. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but many people find that they are losing sleep due to worry or are having difficulty concentrating on their work or other things. People with chronic health problems may see those conditions worsening, and people with mental health issues are struggling more than usual as well.
Due to stay-at-home orders or personal decisions to remain isolated for physical health, many people are experiencing depression due to loneliness and isolation. Further, some people worry about the future of our nation and our world and wonder when and even if this pandemic will ever come to an end.
These struggles are universal, and even the most positive and mentally balanced among us are feeling the effects of this worldwide interruption of normalcy.
Although this situation isn’t easy for anyone, in most cases, people are able to find ways to cope. Through a variety of methods that are personal to each individual, people are moving forward day by day and are looking ahead to a more positive time in the distant future.
However, if you know someone who struggles with addiction, he or she may be struggling more than most. People in recovery need your love and support now more than ever. Read on to learn why coronavirus and the threat of contracting COVID-19 affects our loved ones with substance use disorders more than most, and the things you can do to help support them during this challenging time.
A Pandemic’s Threat to Addiction Recovery
The entire concept of a worldwide pandemic is a threat to recovery.
There are many reasons that the situation we are all currently experiencing can threaten someone’s recovery journey.
Stress, loneliness, depression, and isolation are all triggers for relapse. Boredom can also play a large part. Reduced access to support groups and health care, fear of illness, and financial insecurity contribute to the instability of recovery at this time as well.
Furthermore, there is some evidence that suggests that people that struggle with addiction or who are recovering from addiction may even be more susceptible to COVID-19. People who smoke or vape currently or who did so in the past may have weaker immune systems and are at greater risk of respiratory infections. People who use or previously used methamphetamines may have lung and respiratory damage and pulmonary hypertension that can also put them at higher risk. Many people in recovery are aware of this increased risk, and it may result in higher levels of stress or depression for them.
All of these things are major factors to consider when thinking of your loved ones who are working on their recovery from addiction. As difficult as this pandemic may be for you, it is, unfortunately, much more difficult for some others.
How to Help
Although you are surely struggling in this pandemic as well, your loved ones need you. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help, even from a distance.
Check In and Reach Out
If you know someone who is in recovery from addiction, there is no time like the present to reach out to them to see how they are doing. They would love to hear from you. Knowing that others care is a wonderful support for recovery. Make a point to check in on a regular basis, and be sure to let your loved one know that you are there for him or her at any time of the day or night.
Checking in is helpful but some people may be hesitant to open up to you at first. Be clear about your desire to assist and support. Ask open-ended questions about feelings and stressors and get your friend or family member talking. At first, he or she may only respond with yes or no answers, but if you give it some time and put in some effort, longer responses may begin to emerge.
Offer Support and Coping Strategies
Most of all, remind your friend or family member that he or she is loved. If his or her recovery is something you have discussed in the past, ask about it directly. Explain that you know about the potential triggers that he or she may experience and suggest healthier alternatives. It’s likely that he or she is familiar with coping strategies to combat triggers and relapse, but you may have some personalized suggestions that can help even more since they are tailor-made for the individual. Reminding him or her of favorite hobbies, other friends who would love a call, or suggestions for fun, new activities to try to fill the hours in isolation might be a big help.
Find and Share Resources
One of the most challenging things for people in recovery during this time is reduced access to support groups and recovery meetings. If your loved one benefits from these types of gatherings on a weekly or even daily basis, their sudden absence from their lives is undoubtedly a threat to their recovery journey. Although online, virtual recovery meetings are not quite the same as in-person meetings, they can be a great help during this time.
There are many different organizations and websites that offer free, online recovery support groups to people nationwide and worldwide. If your loved one has not been able to find one on his or her own, this is another area in which you can offer resources and support. Pointing him or her in the right direction can make a world of difference and your loved one will thank you for it.
You Can Make a Difference
During this pandemic, it’s more important than ever that your loved one stays focused on his or her addiction recovery. Although it is a challenging time for all of us, with proper support, people can remain on a healthy and positive path. As someone who loves someone who is recovering from addiction, you can be a huge help to those that you love. Reach out and be there for the people who need you. In doing so, you can save a life even more than you may ever know.
Dr. Sola is one of the world’s leading experts in medically-based ibogaine treatment; he has more clinical experience with safe and effective ibogaine administration than any other M.D. in the world today.