Maintaining your recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic

These are stressful times, and individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD) may find they need additional support.

We asked Teodoro Anderson Diaz, LCSW, LADC, Vice President of Family Health and Wellness Center Outpatient Services at Wheeler, for his thoughts.

What are the unique challenges someone with a substance use disorder might be experiencing during this time?

We’re all struggling to live with this ‘new normal’, but people with substance use disorders may feel the impact more than most. The social isolation we all have right now may take you away from groups, family, or other supports that have been important in your recovery, and you may have a sense of feeling trapped in a setting with few options.

In addition, some may also have chronic co-occurring medical conditions like diabetes, respiratory problems, and high blood pressure, all risk factors for your health. Particularly if they are part of a marginalized or medically underserved community, people with SUD very well could experience a lack of access to care and telemedicine options. Some people don’t have access to their own electronic device, and some people, particularly the homeless, may not even have a phone for telephone services.

How can you continue to treat your addiction and maintain your recovery today?

It’s more important than ever. The first thing I’d say is to continue to seek or maintain treatment, hopefully with a provider like Wheeler that offers telehealth or telemedicine options, as well as the ability to be treated by an on-site provider if need be. Follow your treatment and recovery plan, including any medication-assisted treatment you are using. Telehealth from your home is so important right now, if you can do it.

If you can, regularly call or video chat with your personal supports, friends, and sponsors for stability and comfort. Since we are all cooped up, maybe around some of the same things that trigger us, knowing your triggers and replacing them with other positive activities is very important.

Lastly, engage in virtual recovery support groups. Some examples can be found at the websites of AA and NA, to name a few. Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery has also posted online meeting schedules as well. Wheeler patients can access the MyStrength app as well, which provides support.

What if you relapse?

First, know that you have the strength and resilience, with the right support, to get through this. But if you do relapse or are at risk of relapsing, I think the biggest piece of advice I can offer is to reach out. Reach out to treatment providers like Wheeler, who have the ability to provide you treatment and recovery supports in-person or remotely. Reach out to your personal supports, friends, and sponsors. You are not alone.

This is an incredibly stressful time, and relapse is sometimes part of the process in one’s journey to recovery. Repeat the earlier steps that I mentioned that you are confident will work. Also, it is very important that you share that you have relapsed with your treatment providers.

What resources are available?

Call Wheeler’s Navigation Center at 888.793.3500. We are providing telehealth and telemedicine, and have on-site options if needed. SMART Recovery can be useful, and CCAR can offer information as well. There are virtual 12-step groups mentioned earlier that may be a great help, and certainly the SAMHSA National Helpline, the State of Connecticut’s Access Line at 1-800-563-4086, the DMHAS website and United Way 211 of Connecticut can connect you to resources.

You are not alone in your journey; your Wheeler team is here for you. That’s so important to know.

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