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How the Pandemic Affects People in Recovery

How the Pandemic Affects People in Recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in numerous inconveniences, closures and hassles for just about everyone. But people struggling with alcohol or drug addiction have been hit extremely hard.

People in recovery have had unique challenges throughout the pandemic. Addiction is already considered a disease of isolation – and lockdowns and social distancing have isolated people even more. Lack of social interaction, concerns about getting sick, job loss and other stressors increase the risk of depression and anxiety. This can make it harder to remain sober or stay off drugs.

Here are some other issues caused by the pandemic affecting people in recovery:

  • Many 12-step meetings shifted to an online format, making it harder to feel connected to others going through the same thing. Even when in-person meetings have been available, attendance has been down.
  • People who lost their jobs (and their health insurance) as a result of the pandemic may no longer be able to afford treatment and/or medication.
  • Some treatment centers and detox facilities stopped admitting new patients, began limiting capacity or were forced to close.
  • Patients of opioid treatment centers, who may already be at an increased risk of contracting the virus because of pre-existing conditions caused by drug use, have been hesitant to go to clinics for medication because it requires standing in line, in close proximity to others.
  • Treatment centers have been suffering from a lack of qualified staff. They weren’t eligible for federal aid like hospitals, so some staff members left in favor of higher-paying hospital jobs.

How to stay committed to your recovery during the “new normal”

If you’re struggling with your recovery during the pandemic, or you know someone who is, here are some suggestions for navigating this unfamiliar new territory:

  • Establish a routine – and stick to it. When you have excess free time, it’s easy to fall back into old habits. Although you don’t need to plan something for every single minute, a basic structure for your day will keep you from getting bored. If your recovery program includes readings or other activities that you do daily, make room for those in the schedule.
  • Call your sponsor. Check in with your sponsor daily (or more than once a day) and try to do it at a consistent time each day. If you don’t have a sponsor, ask others in your program for advice on finding one.
  • Try something new. If you feel up to it and have time, finding a new hobby will help keep you focused. Some community programs and private instructors are offering in-person classes and others have moved online. Check with your local rec center or community college.
  • Practice self-care. To maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit, take good care of yourself. Eat a balanced diet, get the right amount of sleep, try yoga or meditation and exercise regularly. Working out releases endorphins, which are “feel-good” chemicals.
  • Forgive yourself. If you do relapse, don’t be too hard on yourself. Talk with your sponsor, your friends and your family, and take it one day at a time.
  • Remember how far you’ve come. Be proud of yourself for the progress you’ve already made towards your recovery goals. Keep yourself on the right track by constantly reminding yourself why you’re in recovery in the first place – your health, your relationships, your job or all of these factors.

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