Posted May 18, 2020 at 12:01 AM
A friend of Jessika Easterling, executive director of Open United Recovery Place, told her before he died the lack of access to in-person Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings was killing him.
“He had relapsed and he was pretty ashamed about that, but he said ‘I just need my meetings.’ He literally said this is killing me,” Easterling said.
The stress caused by the pandemic and the lack of contact has several recovery and mental health experts worried about everyone in recovery. Multiple people within the recovery community have relapsed, several directors said, though exact numbers aren’t available yet.
Exactly how bad the pandemic was for those in recovery might not be apparent for a long time, said Ted St. John, the co-owner of Hope Recovery Village, but he said there is evidence for more relapses in the recovery community.
Rob Young, the clinical director of Townhall II, an addiction services provider, said many people who are new to addiction recovery often don’t have many healthy coping skills, so it can be harder for them to deal with the stress of the pandemic without reverting to drugs and alcohol.
“In general, not across the board, when an individual’s use of alcohol or drugs has resulted in addiction, that is their primary coping mechanism to drink or get high,” Young said. “So whether it’s stress management skills or anger management skills, they haven’t fully developed those skills because they’ve been relying on alcohol or drugs.”
Young said almost all relapses happen when someone isn’t able to deal with a large amount of stress put on them and return to the addiction behavior.
John Garrity, director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County, said recovery, especially early recovery, can be fragile.
“People say the relapse is the services aren’t working or the person doesn’t care,” Garrity said. “It takes repeated efforts to form long-term recovery.”
Darnell Howard, executive director of Free Agents 4 Recovery, another recovery addiction nonprofit, said he has continued to see people one-on-one wearing a mask. He’s worried, though, because many of his clients seem to be relapsing. He says he reminds the addicts he works with that everyone is stressed right now.
“We have to be patient because everyone is going through it,” he said.
There are resources available to people in recovery. While social distancing has made 12-step meetings more difficult, many of the meetings are now being done online and can be found at any time of day.
Easterling said her organization is trying to set up more of these meetings in other spaces, though she didn’t have any details yet. Details will be available on their website, https://www.openunitedrecovery.org/, and their Facebook page, Open United Recovery Place (@ourplaceportage).
Townhall II’s clients are able to participate in counseling groups or individual sessions through telehealth, which Young said many clients seem to like and some even prefer.
He said that many people, though, are missing the hugs and in-person human connection that come with in-person meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
Townhall II also has an Opioid Recovery Clinic, which offers medication-assisted treatment to people with an opioid use disorder. There are also free Project DAWN kits available, which contain the overdose reversal drug Naloxone along with some resources.
Hope Village, an outpatient recovery center in Portage County, is offering all its services, including groups, online and through telephone. The center is still working with the jail to provide services. You can find more information about their services on their Facebook page and at hopevillagerecovery.com. Their office number is 330-850-5141.
Free Agents 4 Recovery is another recovery support group in Kent. You can reach them at 330-548-9006 or at www.freeagents4recovery.com
Townhall II’s Helpline is available 24/7 for information or if you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, or are thinking about suicide: 330-678-HELP (4357).
For more information and appointments, call Townhall II at 330-678-3006.
This article orginally appeared in the Record-Courier ~ 1050 West Main Street, Kent, OH 44240. https://www.record-courier.com/news/20200518/covid-19-pandemic-impacts-addiction-epidemic