This has been a rough year for everyone in America and around the world regardless of your standing in the society but for those who suffer from addiction and mental illness it has been even more trying for those who are addicts, alcoholics, or suffer from a mental health diagnosis. This year and the pandemic has made life much more difficult for the people who are in these communities and struggle with these issues.
There is a saying in the recovery community that being clean and sober is living “life on life’s terms” and that is exactly what people who are in recovery from addiction and mental issues have had to do over these last several months. The reason that this pandemic has been so difficult for these people is that stress, isolation, fear, and everything else associated with this COVID-19 pandemic are triggers for people with these issues, so coping with life as it is now is a challenge.
The loneliness of the pandemic has been especially hard for people with drug and alcohol problems as they usually isolate in their addictions and with many of their support groups and meetings closed because of the virus, they are once again isolated and alone. The way these folks have always coped during hard times was to drink or use drugs, so when this whole thing came upon the world, those thoughts once again resurfaced and they in many cases have relapsed.
There was a report just yesterday that came out stating that 621 people died from drug overdoses in San Francisco alone this year. This is on top of the some 1,200 that have overdosed and died in Los Angeles over the same time period and this has been a trend across the country. People with decades of sobriety are going back out and losing their lives because they cannot handle the fear of the virus, the isolation, and the hopelessness of it all and this is one way it is more difficult for them.
Then we have the people with mental health conditions who feel very similar and are locked down and feel overwhelmed by it all. Many who lost their jobs because of pandemic shutdowns also lost their health insurance and then all of the sudden they cannot get the therapy and medications that they need to manage their mental health issues. This makes a bad situation worse and when you have mental issues and addiction it can make it all just too much to live life on life’s terms.
Of course, the pandemic is hard for everyone but for those who struggle with these issues have had a more challenging time over the course of the last several months. Trying to navigate life during a pandemic is no easy feat for anyone but for those who have anxiety, depression, addiction, and other issues it is even more so. The key to navigate these issues while dealing with the virus and the isolation is to stay connected but that is not so easy for people during this time.
Those in recovery thankfully have the Zoom meetings to make things easier and stay connected. These video meetings offer support while staying safe and secure away from the devastation of the virus. These are helpful but even then people struggle with being quarantined away from their fellows and the same can be said for people who have mental health issues. These groups are used to having places to go to get support but with the COVID-19 pandemic those options have become limited.
Life on life’s terms is no easy task at any time but during a public health crisis like this one it becomes even more difficult. The entire world has changed for all of us and during this year and for people with the issues discussed here it has become uncertain and scary to say the least. The best way that I think these people who are staying sober and mentally/emotionally well is that they have learned to adapt to their circumstances and go with the flow.
This is something that those in recovery learn early on in their journey. They learn to adapt and change and be willing to do what it takes to get to the next day and this is certainly useful during a time like this. They learn to take life as it comes and things day by day during normal times and with a year like this has been this is especially useful. Finding new ways to deal with pain and fear and everything else that 2020 has been is essential in making it through this situation and chaotic time.
The recovery world has a simple method for dealing with these challenges and this is called the 12-steps. These simple actions are effective in coping with unacceptable things and let me tell you, 2020 has had a lot of things that are simply hard to accept, if not impossible. These steps teach people things like acceptance and tolerance and taking action as well as other types of coping mechanisms that help during difficult times. The 12-steps are set of tools that would help the non addicts and alcoholics in our society during times like these too.
The pandemic is a situation hard to accept or make sense of but the tools of recovery are helpful to get through it. However, even with these methods of self help things can be difficult and the pain can become overbearing during all of this. To make matters worse, there are many who attack the Zoom recovery meetings with profanity and inappropriate images and this makes these groups an unsafe place in many aspects. These “Zoom bombers” go into meetings and attack the people in there because they too are lonely and have issues, but they are causing harm and damage to recovering people.
We all deal with this pandemic in our own way but for those in recovery from substances and mental health we have to work extra hard to get through these hard times and manage life on life’s terms. It seems as the pandemic rages on and gets worse with more dying and getting sick that it is getting to people more so than it did in the beginning. Many relapse and struggle with mental breakdowns and a declining mental state of mind as the days, weeks, and months go on.
The good news is that those who make it and stay on the right path are in the home stretch of the most challenging time in our lifetimes. The vaccine is here and soon it will be readily available for all and finally we can all get back to the normal way of life that we were used to. Those who survive and stay in recovery and keep their mental health in check during all of this become stronger and show that they can overcome anything. This is not to say that those who fall are not strong, they are, it is just saying that to get through something like this is a miracle.
The end is close, we are almost through this. I would say that if I had one message for people struggling in the last days of the COVID-19 pandemic it would be to hold on, things get dark and we can go through stuff but don’t pick up that drink or drug or let yourself get too isolated and down as we can get through this — we almost have.