You know one day we hear “masks are good,” then we hear “masks don’t make much of a difference.” Then we hear “don’t use a cotton mask,” and now they are recommending anything except maybe plastic bags. Stay six feet away for social distancing, then it’s 10 feet. I even heard a supersonic sneeze could project up to 23 feet. Don’t take Aleve, Ibuprofen, or any Acetaminophen for that matter. Well that was last week. There are no worries with taking those medications as of today’s 3:00pm news briefing. We hear the Malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine used with a Z-Pack is showing promise. No, that was last week, now Hydroxychloroquine with Zinc is the miracle for the day. Unfortunately, we really just don’t know and only time will tell what works.
One thing I do know is that this is a perfect time for relapsing from alcohol and drugs. Why not? The setting is perfect – isolation, boredom, lack of human contact, too much time to think, stress, loss of hope, loss of daily structure, poor self-care, fear, and the big one – masking pain and overwhelming emotions. So like I said “hey, why not?” I recently heard of a prominent business owner who has been free from alcohol for 26 years that fell to the beast of addiction once again. I also heard of a doctor who fell victim to the Oxycodone sweep and unable to get an Oxy script during the virus situation began using other narcotics such as Heroin.
With a little research you will see how relapse elevates during a crisis such as a pandemic. “‘Feeling stressed, isolated and scared may drive them back to substance abuse’, said Dr. Lawrence Brown Jr., CEO of the nonprofit START Treatment & Recovery Centers, New York’s largest independent drug treatment agency.” ” ‘Whatever structures used to maintain sobriety by people with substance-use issues tend to fall away in a pandemic,’ Brown said in a START news release April 1, 2020 in www.webmd.com.”
The act of relapsing occurs not at the time of drinking or abusing a drug, it happens way before the actual act of abuse. I know I have mentioned drugs and alcohol, but let’s not forget there are many other addictions that can rear their ugly heads during a crisis such as anger, control issues, pornography, sexual abuse, and a long list of others. There are many triggers for relapse even among those who have been sober for many years, who are busy living life, socially well, and stick to a great thought out program from day to day. But we find ourselves in unknown territory due to the recent pandemic. We are living under different guidelines defining how we must exist. One day we had everything we had worked so hard for, something that worked for us, then a complete flipside to everything we’ve known. Something as simple as getting gas, a haircut, even buying toilet paper is suddenly not so simple anymore. Well that’s just the tip of the iceberg which we can see.
This is a twofold problem, one being the recovering addict and second being you as a friend, wife, coworker, partner, son, daughter, neighbor, family member or an associate of a recovering addict. As a recovering addict no matter how many years you have been sober you know the problem never goes away and yes, what you have been doing up until now has worked, but today there are variables involved which are anything but normal (pandemic). As I noted previously the relapse happens way before the act of using, so you have a responsibility to set roadblocks up for yourself to pay close attention to the mind games which you know so well, like starting to negotiate or even lie to yourself. We know how very easy that is. Review where you are today and remember the traveled path it took to get where you are. With honest effort remember the dark days as they really were. Don’t be fooled. Your mind as an addict will try to remind you of the high, the rush, the exaggeration, the excitement, and the over-inflated superiority that’s right within your reach. You have to ensure you are scheduling your days, even weeks. You must see the roadblocks as they present themselves. Set up those tools you have been taught to use to dig and crawl out of the darkness previously. Ensure you have a communication path set up with not only your friends, loved ones, coworkers but also have that one person who maybe doesn’t know you as well, but will be honest, nonjudgmental and strong in calling you out on any slippery behavior. Find someone that you can help, because it’s hard to be negative when you are that beacon of light that shines on others.
If you know someone who has struggled with an addiction, there are many simple things you can do to make a difference in that person’s outcome as we all return from this crisis that was just dropped at everyone’s doorstep. Make that call and remember you are not calling to fix anyone, you are calling to care, to love, to listen, to just let that person know the value they bring to your life. Continue to check in from time to time just to say “hey someone’s out here and I care.” We all need help along whatever path it is we are traveling and we all have an obligation to help, especially in the times we are living.
I will leave you with this. Just yesterday I heard how pet adoptions have risen to the point where there are no more animals available at numerous pet shelters. Think about that. It just goes to show how much we really do need relationships, even with a pet. So, remember, there is someone depending on you.