Don’t let COVID-19 slow addiction recovery, treatment

Kentuckians in recovery have an abundance of options for help
Navigating life amid a global pandemic is difficult enough on its own, let alone while battling drug or alcohol addiction.
Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 5:12 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Navigating life amid a global pandemic is difficult enough on its own, let alone while battling drug or alcohol addiction.

Paul Brethen, co-founder of SoberBuddy, and a certified addiction specialist for more than 20 years, said it is something a community cannot overlook.

“There was some research that was done this year that the No. 1 emotional trigger that people would relapse over was a sense of loss,” he said.

For most, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a loss of personal connections because of the stay-at-home requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Some have lost jobs, others are worried they may lose theirs. Even worse, some have lost loved ones.

“It’s hard enough to recover from drugs and alcohol,” Brethen said. “So, when you add all this overwhelming change, it’s really difficult.”

While many are sheltering in place, for some, there is too much free time and there are too many issues to juggle. That can lead an addict right back down an unhealthy road.

“When it comes to alcohol sales, it is gone up 75 percent since this crisis," Brethen said. “People are drinking and using more than normal.”

Brethen said he believes as borders close because of the coronavirus, the supply and distribution of most drugs is being altered.

“When you change something on one end, it effects everything else on the other end,” he said. “Drug dealers to keep business going are cutting the heroin and cocaine with fentanyl," which could lead to more overdoses.

Those in recovery or those with loved ones who are recovering are reminded often about the resources that are available.

“There’s help out there,” Brethen said. “There’s a lot of support out there that you can reconnect with in order to find that stability.”

Self-medicating must be replaced with self-care. Addiction is an illness, but it is often portrayed as a choice, a misunderstanding that can further stigmatize people who struggle with substance use and addiction.

“We have a saying in recovery to be smart and not strong,” Brethen said.

Support-group meetings may be canceled, and treatment centers may be under restrictions, but Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have boosted their online presence. Meetings are on Zoom instead of in person. There is telecare and talking to a sponsor or friend on the phone. There are even apps like “In the Room” and online services like SoberBuddy with new sober buddy app services coming next month.

“You don’t want to have the attitude I’m just gonna hang on until this clears up because you can only hang on so long before you go back,” Brethen said. “Stay busy scheduling your day. The idea is to create hope for yourself and not dwell on fear and hopelessness. There’s a lot of resources available.”

Brethen also suggested indulging in a new project, journaling, helping neighbors, exercising, or checking in with your counselor or doctor through telehealth. Connection is the key, he said. To find virtual ways to join others who understand and can help you in your journey of recovery click on the links below:

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