When struggling with addiction, whether it’s alcohol, opioids or prescription drugs, stress is a powerful trigger to start using again.
Naturally, the onset and spread of COVID-19 has a ripple effect on just about every area of daily lives, and as a result, it’s hard to find someone who’s not shouldering extra stress and anxiety. Those who have not been laid off or furloughed may feel uncertain about their employment. The need for social distancing limits opportunities to connect in person with friends and loved ones. Parents may be juggling work-from-home duties while managing their child’s distance learning.
So if you have a friend or loved one who is struggling with addiction, it’s easy to see how the pandemic is a multiplier for their stress.
One of the results of all this extra stress is that in general, more people are turning to substances to cope. Self-reported alcohol consumption is up 14%, according to a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Tragically, more than 40 states reported increases in opioid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Medical Association.
“Family and friends seldom know where to start when someone they love begins to struggle with addiction,” says Brook McKenzie, Director of Clinical Outreach at New Method Wellness. “Seeking council directly from an addiction expert can often lead to a new understanding of how to move the healing process forward productively and positively. My most urgent tip to anyone caught in the crosshairs of addiction is to do something now; don’t wait.”
As a concerned friend or family member, use the following as a guide to help you support a loved one who is struggling to manage their addiction during the pandemic.
Make them feel less alone: Any reminder that you are thinking about them and that you care about their well-being can be a powerful reminder to your loved one that they matter. Something as simple as a check-in text, a funny card in the mail or an old-fashioned phone call can help someone remember what’s going well in their lives, even if we’re all spending more time physically apart. Keep lines of communication open and unconditional.
Practice patience: Remember, no one ever intended to struggle with addiction. And overcoming it will likely be the toughest challenge your loved one will face in life. Any expert will tell you that quitting cold turkey — and sticking to it without a single relapse — is the exception, not the rule. Recovery takes time and practice; overcoming addiction is so much tougher than it sounds. While the disappointments and frustrations on your part are 100% legitimate, always remember to share your feelings humbly, without shaming or making assumptions.
Be consistent: Addiction can create a lot of emotional ups and downs, not only for the person that is addicted but also for loved ones. Confusion, anger, hurt feelings and fear are all common responses to our experience of loving someone with addiction. It is very important that we make a resolute determination to practice a consistent emotional position when engaging our addicted loved one. This helps mitigate the risks of any highly emotional exchanges that typically only lead to more misunderstanding and regret. Our addicted loved one needs a stable, consistent personality to engage with. Determine your course and remain consistent.
Educate yourself about the addiction: Avail yourself of the many resources out there that can help you understand just what your loved one is struggling with. Attending Al-Anon, Families Anonymous, reading the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, or articles with the latest studies are all great places to start. Developing empathy without enabling is an effective way to show support and education is a good path to help get there. The reality is most people suffering from addiction do not know they are grappling with a chronic medical illness. Your willingness to become informed will very likely make all the difference.
Reach out and get help: Sometimes, it helps to pull in outside resources to help your loved one. One step you can take is to reach out to a treatment center. But do your research first! Non-corporate, privately-owned treatment programs are heavily touted as the favored option for initial inquiries. These are generally very intimate, well-staffed programs that focus on quality and excellence. Does the program hold major, national endorsements? Do they belong to a national registry of accredited institutions? Are the staff biographies and photos prominently displayed on their website? Do they offer facility and personnel videos that offer a sense of who they are and what they offer?
Need help supporting a loved one through recovery, especially during the pandemic? Now is the time to reach out to New Method Wellness. Recommended by Dr. Phil, New Method Wellness is the nation’s most highly accredited dual diagnosis addiction treatment program. Featuring a 3-to-1 staff-to-client ratio, New Method Wellness pairs every client with two therapists from our multidisciplinary team of licensed clinicians and addiction professionals. To learn more, visit the website and fill out the contact form today.