The Coronavirus is a very challenging time for everyone and can bring people in (early) recovery back to the place of isolation and disconnection. Very similar to when you are in the grips of your addiction. Health professionals have already seen relapses or near-relapses as people experience more urges and cravings to use drugs and alcohol.
The corona crisis can also have major consequences for a hidden group of people: the silent addicts. People who have a job, a family and a social life, but who have an addiction behind their front door. Because of the tension and perhaps unemployment in a while, they can become further entangled in a world of alcohol, drugs, gambling or another addiction.
They may sooner fall over the edge and end up in the danger zone.
1. How to stay sober during the Corona lockdown?
The key thing to maintain your recovery is connection. Addicts rely heavily on their community and routine for support when they decide to get sober. But now, there’s no gym, no coffees with friends or sponsors. This is difficult with the current situation and restrictions but for example, the recovery network has addressed this issue with the online Zoom recovery meetings. All over the world recovery support and building a solid positive connection. Sharing your feelings, thoughts and tips can not only be helpful for yourself but also for others. Communicate your fears to your family members and/ or friends so they can support you during this difficult time. Despite the restrictions to isolate, it’s important not to lock yourself inside.
Do you know what Shakespeare did when he was quarantined because of the plague? He wrote King Lear! He took advantage of this time off. So take this time to improve your skills in the kitchen, follow an online course what you always wanted to do but never had the time for, learn a new language or just spend the time with your family and children. Working on being a productive member of your family, support them with their own insecurities and giving your experiences and coping tools to support them in this difficult time.
2. What does Corona do to people suffering from addictions?
The uncertainty about how the company is doing, being able to pay salaries, what life is going to be like after this, keeping your job, all the uncertainties that put extra pressure on you. Working at home but not being able to concentrate because the children don’t go to school and therefore need attention all day long. Precisely then there may be an extra need for a remedy that helps to relax or escape from reality for a while. Drug use is never without risk, but in this situation, the risks are even bigger.
Many are ‘silent addicts’, who still manage to keep up appearances to the outside world that they are living a normal life. But because of the corona crisis, they can get to the point where they get stuck sooner. That they reach for the bottle more often, the tensions at home increase dramatically. Their families/relatives are the first to notice the consequences. “But loved ones can also sustain the problems for a very long time because they don’t want to abandon people. They find it difficult to keep confronting someone with it or to draw a line,” says a spokeswoman for Addictionology Netherlands. While that is exactly what is sometimes needed. “Without a boundary, a person with an addiction can think that he or she doesn’t have to worry. If someone is in danger of losing a family life, that can be a push towards help”.
On the flip side, mental health professionals feared that people would be forced into abstinence because of supply chain disruptions, potentially suffering lethal withdrawals or overdosing when they use again.
3. How does this affect the immune system?
Because people are often tenser and less comfortable in their own skin, the risk of complaints after use is bigger. The use of drugs lowers resistance, which makes people more susceptible to disease, and therefore also the Coronavirus. Doctors say some people with a history of drug and alcohol use may be more susceptible to COVID-19 because they are more likely to have weak immune systems and have existing infections such as hepatitis C or HIV or liver problems.
4. 9 Tips for people (recently) in recovery
- Stay connected. Stay in contact with family, friends, fellowship and your sponsor. Or find professional help that can help you online or by phone.
- Attend online meetings. You are not alone in this situation and this is new to everyone. All over the world, you can attend online meetings for any kind of addiction.
- Structure. Keep a daily structure. Set your alarm every day during the week and start your day like a ‘normal’ day. Even if you can’t work or go to the gym it is really important to have a structure.
- Workout. As a lot of countries are in lockdown the only way to workout is from home. If you have a home gym or not, you don’t need a lot of equipment to maintain your workouts. On Youtube, you will find many videos of workouts from home.
- Meditation. To stay sane and focused is important. Start your day with a ten-minute meditation video and you will feel stronger and connected with yourself.
- Eat healthy. Eat daily fruits, vegetables and good nutrition. You will feel better if you eat healthy then daily junk food.
- Prepare a shopping list. To run errands it can be tempting to buy alcohol in this time of social distancing and isolation. Stick to your list so you don’t get seduced.
- Read. Reading books can help to switch your mind off can be a good distraction.
- Steps. Practising your step work and maintain your recovery.
5. How to stay clean after the Coronavirus?
When the restrictions are over, many will celebrate this with going out for dinner or family and friends gatherings or parties where alcohol and drugs are consumed. That’s a difficult one as a lot of things will change but one thing that doesn’t is your alcohol or substance misuse problem. After corona, we need to remember how disconnected we felt and how much the most important thing in our lives was working our program to support, our recovery and support everyone at this difficult time.
6. A final word from Villa Paradiso
“What we learnt from these times of isolation is that no matter what we don’t need to go back to the dark place of addiction. Stay strong you all are survivors and remember another day clean and free from the bondage of self. Together we can achieve anything, our recovery doesn’t stop for anything, we proved that, so get connected and enjoy the freedom to live your life no matter what life throws at us we stay clean.’’