Addiction and the COVID-19 Pandemic - The Healing Place Addiction and the COVID-19 Pandemic - The Healing Place

Addiction and the COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Shannon Gray, Program Manager

“Trust the process” is the most commonly used phrase at The Healing Place. The phrase is powerful and not always easy to do. If done daily, one will learn how to face the greatest enemy he or she will ever face, themselves. When the first confirmed case of COVID-19 became known on January 20th, little did we know how our worlds would be turned upside down and our process would take on a whole new meaning. I knew the challenge in the addiction world would be even greater and that new fears would lead to an increased relapses and overdoses.

Fear of the unknown continues to play a huge part in our world. An addict has two choices when dealing with fear: he or she can forget everything and run or face everything and recover. The pandemic has put a strain on how this process can be accomplished. Two of the biggest reasons are loss of financial security and loss of fellowship with each other. Social distancing is essential in the prevention of spread with COVID-19, however the side effects of distancing in the addiction world can be very harmful as well.

Increased financial hardships and decreased recovery support has caused many to choose to escape through alcohol and drugs. Opioid-related overdoses have nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic and alcohol sales are up 27%. To an actively using addict, the easier softer way is to escape reality and use drugs or drink. This makes more sense than dealing with the anxiety, depression, and the chaos presented daily.

I have found in recovery that our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses. Addicts and alcoholics are survivors and very creatively intelligent. Addicts have the ability to rationalize, justify, minimize, and blame situations in order to justify either the use – or return to use – of a substance. An example would be the logic that “I can stop when the pandemic is over.” The consequences of escaping can, of course, lead to overdosing and death.

The shutdowns also continue to impact the criminal justice system. The number of court-ordered clients released to rehabs has declined significantly due to lack of drug testing, court hearings, and overall accountability when it comes to drug use. An addict can easily justify to themselves that they’ll stop when caught and get help then. These are just a couple of examples of rationalizations used by many. However, one never knows when the next drug could be the last.

I have worked in the field of addiction for more than 19 years and I have seen many methods of treating addiction. I can comfortably say that the 12-step recovery method is by far the most successful method of recovery. However, the 12-step success is based on a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of one’s spiritual condition. Many believe that addicts come to The Healing Place, 12-step meetings, or other rehab facilities to stop using drugs. In reality, recovery teaches us how to live without drugs. The decision to stop has to come from the person within. One must learn to fully concede to their inner most self. The core foundations of recovery are a higher power (God of one’s understanding), cognitive change within (12 steps), and fellowship (meetings). The pandemic has certainly affected the fellowship aspect for both the addict and the family. Online meetings are certainly a help but there is no substitute for the therapeutic value of one addict helping and talking to another face to face.

The great news is that there is plenty of hope. I continue to be amazed by the perseverance and dedication of our clients. The desire to learn and achieve balance when so many people struggle to do so. Opinions are everywhere and it’s easy to get distracted by what we should do and continue to do in the future. The guidelines for COVID-19 can be similar to the guidelines in recovery. With COVID, wear a mask, social distance, and we’ll get through this together.

In recovery, there are four things we are taught to do daily that can mirror this concept.

  • Don’t Use: Concede from within that we are powerless over alcohol and drugs and our lives have become unmanageable.
  • Trust God: Follow good orderly direction and show love when the opportunity to show hate is easier to do.
  • Clean House: Take personal inventory, follow directions even when we may not like them, and find balance.
  • Help Others: The greatest gift one can give is to help another. We must give it away in order to keep it.

This is not a time to focus on opinions. This is a time to seek a solution. The Healing Place will continue to stay strong and help those who desire help. This too shall pass!

5 thoughts on “Addiction and the COVID-19 Pandemic”

  1. Margaret Gray says:

    Beautifully written. The pandemic has made life harder for everyone. The ability to adapt THP has shown is lifesaving!

  2. Spencer Swope says:

    Excellent analysis of a hard situation made more difficult by the trying times we’re in. Keep fighting the good fight and never give up!

  3. Tina Simpson says:

    Great article. Thank you for all you do.

  4. Tara Lloyd says:

    Shannon, thank you for posting this update. I couldn’t agree more. The 12 steps recovery plan works and we have to remain diligent in educating our audiences.

  5. Melissa Estep, MS says:

    Very well written and straight to the point that 12 steps is cognitive change, behavior modification, and makes the person more resilient in life. Honored to have you as my friend and a person in my arena.

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