Virus outbreak creates new challenges for addiction recovery ~ Originally shared by the ASSOCIATED PRESS APRIL 1, 2020
Patients line up to pick up medication at a clinic in Olympia, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
SEATTLE — Charlie Campbell has been sober for nearly 13 years. These days, it’s harder than ever for him to stay that way. His dad is recovering from COVID-19 in a suburban Seattle hospital. His mom, who has dementia, lives in a facility that now bars visitors because of the coronavirus. A good friend recently killed himself.
“I’m a face-to-face kind of person,” Campbell said. Still, he hasn’t relapsed.
The coronavirus pandemic is challenging the millions who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction and threatening America’s progress against the opioid crisis, said Dr. Caleb Alexander of Johns Hopkins’ school of public health.
People in recovery rely on human contact, Alexander said, so the longer social distancing is needed, “the more strained people may feel.”
Therapists and doctors are finding ways to work with patients in person or by phone and trying to keep them in treatment. And many are finding new reservoirs of strength to stay in recovery.
In Olympia, Wash., a clinic for opioid addiction now meets patients outdoors and offers longer prescriptions of the treatment drug buprenorphine — four weeks, up from two — to reduce visits and the risk of infection, said medical director Dr. Lucinda Grande.
Elsewhere, federal health officials are allowing patients to take home methadone, another treatment drug. And they issued emergency guidance to make it easier for addiction professionals to offer help by phone without first obtaining the written consent required to share patient records.
With cities and states locked down, online support groups are forming, among them a global group started by a San Francisco-area tech worker that’s called One Corona Too Many. In the New York City metro area, with more than 6,000 meetings weekly, organizers offer guidelines on best practices and tutorials on how to set up video conference calls.
Reagan Reed, who leads the Inter-Group Association of AA of New York, said there had been snags. Some groups did not know how to change settings to private; others have gone over capacity, revealing phone numbers.
In suburban Boston, Catherine Collins, a 56-year-old recovering alcoholic, said it had been an adjustment to attend AA meetings via the online platform Zoom.
Collins, who has been sober since 1998 and works for Spectrum Health Systems, the state’s largest addiction treatment provider, says preserving some social interaction is critical for those in recovery.
“People need to be talking about what’s happening in the world because if they’re not, they’re at risk of picking up a drink,” she said. “It’s more important than ever now to have hope, and that’s what these meetings give.”
Job loss is a gut punch to some, just as they begin to rebuild their lives after addiction.
Courtney Keith, a waitress and the mother of a 13-year-old girl in Toledo, Ohio, said she spent the last four years paying off fines because of her past trouble when she was addicted to drugs and alcohol. She lost her job when the state banned sit-down dining.
“I was living paycheck to paycheck. I have no savings,” the 33-year-old said. She’s applied for a job at a grocery store and dug through her loose-change stashes, scraping together a few hundred dollars.
She keeps in close touch with her recovery sponsor.
“I haven’t had any thoughts about using, but everybody is different. What if this does lead to a mass relapse?” she said.
Richie Webber, 28, who survived a 2014 fentanyl overdose and now works as an addiction counselor in Clyde, Ohio, said he’d heard people during online meetings say they’d already slipped.
“They’re really trying to keep it from falling back into full-blown addiction,” Webber said.
“Isolation is really worrying for me,” he said. “If you’re shut up in your house, your windows are closed, you’re going to get depressed.”
Campbell, a retired nurse, is driving from his home in New Mexico to Washington state to check in on his parents again. He got some good news last week: His dad’s latest COVID-19 test was negative.
He says he’ll try online meetings again but plans, mostly, to lean on phone calls with a longtime buddy and the emotional support of his wife.
“In the short term, you’ve just got to walk the middle line and try to find the good in all this,” Campbell said, “and know it’s not going to last forever.”
ED: Notes: As news of coronavirus dominates headlines worldwide, Americans have begun to stock up on necessities in anticipation of long periods of social distancing. Everyone is at risk, especially those who are immunocompromised, the elderly, and gathering in groups has been discouraged.
But what about those who attend regular 12-Step meetings or other types of meetings and support groups while maintaining recovery?
Remember, any group can be a support group, if it’s the right people. If you can’t find a digital meeting of your own support group, try and schedule a meeting with at least a few members, using the likes of Skype, Google Meet, or Zoom. The New York branch of Alcoholics Anonymous has a page with instructions on how to start your own meeting using Google and Zoom, for example. For Online Gambling Meetings, Support, and resources? Visit Safe Harbor Gambling Recovery Hub!
Luckily, there are still many options in place for those who enjoy AA, NA, and GA meetings. Go to their online meeting schedule and do them virtually. Also, “Celebrate Recovery” can be done online so check it out here: Celebrate Recovery & Crisis Response!
- Updating contact phone lists
- Keeping in touch by phone, email, skype, and social media
- Meetings by phone or online, rather than in person and check in more often with your sponsor. Consider listening to recovery speakers online.
Websites like recoveryspeakers.com offer libraries of recordings of guests and recovery blogs like mine here in covering all aspects of Addictions, Support, and Maintaining Recovery. ANY and ALL content can provide inspiration and insight into your own journey. Reading too gives us power…
We are all in this together, even if you don’t have an addiction problem? Our families and friends of those who are recovering NEED the support of everyone to make this uncertain time we are living in while maintaining our recovery and the Coronavirus pandemic with limited meetings and contact with others be OK.
~Advocate, Catherine Lyon