Houston Matters

Recovering Addicts In The Pandemic Face Another Hurdle — Isolation

Three Houston experts on addiction and recovery talk about the pitfalls of social distancing and the ways they’ve helped each other heal from home.

The Council on Recovery has reported a spike of people seeking help amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the many difficult things about addiction is that it’s an isolating condition. And that was worsened once people had to remain in their homes for an extended period of time and maintain social distancing during the height of COVID-19.

In the audio above, Houston Matters producer Joshua Zinn talks about the challenges of navigating addiction recovery during this unusual time with three guests familiar with this struggle:

While the pandemic and current national mood is a struggle for most people, those struggling with addiction can often find themselves further isolated as their support networks might be suffering from compassion fatigue, a post-traumatic response to repeated high-stress events.

Social isolation was also a problem for many addicts before the pandemic worsened it. That’s because recovering addicts have to distance themselves from friends or loved ones who also drink or do drugs.

And even those who are long recovered might find themselves not being invited to parties or other social situations if their hosts worry about causing them to relapse or making their guests uncomfortable, Feister says.

“The bane of addiction — all addictions — is isolation,” she said. “And when we isolate with addiction we become into ourselves, and we only see what’s around us. And even that is very skewed by what our brain is doing as we continue to use our drug of choice.”

Drug recovery centers are seeing a spike in patients as the pandemic caused a spike in alcohol sales and dismantled “blue laws” as people could buy carryout drinks.

As people work from home, the lack of socializing, boredom, and stress, has led some to relapse or even begin a new abusive drug habit, such as daily or excessive drinking.

Some former addicts in long-term recovery have also struggled with renewed feelings of isolation or feeling like they’re an impostor, Sunday said.

“One of my major challenges has been as a person in long-term recovery right now is being forced to look at myself in these meetings and really deciding if I really even [have] done enough work around liking the person that’s staring back at me when I’m sitting in four or five Zoom meetings a day,” he said. “There’s all these feelings of just unworthiness as I have to look at myself all day.”

Renaudin’s advice for handling these challenges amid such unusual circumstances is simple.

“You’ve taken the first step realizing that you need help and reach out to the council,” he said. “And you’re going to have your anonymity, and it’s going to be confidential. The first step is taking that first step and making the call.”

If you need help, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for confidential free information from public health agencies, to find substance use treatment and information.

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