Earlier this week I recorded a video talking about a strategy that individuals could use as a self-assessment during their active recovery or early recovery from substance use. The acronym was a frequently time-tested one that comes out of the 12 steps of recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s called halt, hungry, angry, lonely, tired, so if you haven’t checked out that video I encourage you to do so, if not for yourself, perhaps you could share it with someone else. During that time, we offered to do a Q&A and so we have had a couple of questions come in and I wanted to respond to them now.
The first question that was asked was “how can I support my husband, child, and/or a friend who is battling addiction and feeling more temptation due to COVID-19?” First, I want to acknowledge the fact that this is a really difficult time. And, even if you have a normal or healthy relationship with drinking, you might notice that you have been using that more frequently as a coping strategy. I’m going to talk about that in a few minutes. But certainly, whether you are in early recovery, or you’ve been in recovery for a long time, this is certainly a very difficult time. Why? Because we have so many emotions coming up. There’s so much that feels out of our control. And so, if you are a spouse, or partner, or a family member, or the parent of someone who’s struggling right now I’d advise you first to validate their feelings. Let them know that you see their struggle, that you hear their struggle, and you’re willing to listen. The other thing I would encourage you to do is prompt them to maybe reach out. If they have a sponsor it’s a good time to ramp up the time in connection with them. More frequent calls or text messages. This is also a good time to encourage them to connect with a therapist if they haven’t already, or a mutual peer support community. There’s a lot more of visibility and accessibility for online platforms, whether on an app, or a virtual meeting where you can be supported by others in recovery. And, the third thing I would tell you to do is get help for yourself. You may need your own support, because we know that addiction impacts the entire family system. So, don’t forget to take care of yourself too.
The second question was “how do I know if people are drinking too much? Especially during this time.” That’s a really great question! So, whether you’re trying to self-assess if your relationship with alcohol has increased or other substances has increased, or whether you’re monitoring the use of somebody else, you want to use a couple of different strategies. First look at the frequency. How frequently is that person drinking? Has it gone from once or twice a week to three or more times per week, and what about the duration? How long during those periods of time are they drinking? Is it expanding to a number of hours through the day? And then the other thing you want to look for is volume, right? Is the amount of what they’re drinking increasing? And, monitor their mood and behavior.
The third question is “how can I combat feelings of isolation from my recovery community?” One, acknowledge that you’re feeling disconnected from them. The whole part of hungry angry lonely tired goes back to this piece about hunger in two parts. First, we think of hunger as a physical sensation or a need to nourish ourselves, but the second part of that is an emotional need. A hunger for an emotional need that maybe is not being met, and so that could be your connection which leads to that sense of loneliness. So, pick up the phone, connect with the sponsor, connect with members or peers from a support community, reconnect with old healthy sober friends. It’s important that we reach out. Whether you do that through virtual platforms, or on the telephone, or text message, or perhaps you could even arrange to see multiple people in a platform like zoom, or Google meets, or something where you could all connect together. There is a lot of opportunity, though, right now for online platforms, so I encourage you to check them out. There is a way to connect, we just have to look for them. That’s what you can control. You can’t control social distancing, but you can control reaching out and asking for connection, for scheduling a meeting, or showing up to a meeting virtually.
Another question was “what resources are there for continued recovery even though I’m quarantined and cannot attend meetings?” That’s another great question. At MindPath Care Centers, we’ve moved to a telehealth platform for our addiction recovery. We’re still seeing people in office, but I personally am doing both individual and group therapy online. So, whether you need to reconnect with a therapeutic support community, or for the first time you’re wanting to connect, we’re here for you go ahead and jump on to our virtual waiting room and schedule an appointment. We’re waiting!
And the other question is “I lost my job due to the COVID-19 crisis and my cash flow is affected. I’m not able to afford my copays for continued office visits and I’m worried about my provider, that they may drop me from the program. This stress is really taking its toll.” Well it does sound like it’s stressful. Not knowing if you’re going to be able to see your doctor, not knowing if you can take medication that keeps you well and balanced and may be even life-saving. I would encourage you to reach out to your provider’s offices and see if there is a way to reduce your fee. There are also other programs like GoodRX, so reach out to your pharmacy and your provider’s office to see if they’re willing to help or negotiate that with you. I’m not that provider, but I’d encourage you to ask before discounting that perhaps it’s a hard no or they’re not able to help financially buffer what’s going on right now.
This is a really difficult time and so much has changed, so we need to connect with other people more so than ever. Like I was talking about- hungry, angry, lonely, tired – use that assessment and figure out what is it that you need right now. Can you offer that to yourself? Or can you find that in support with other people? Keep taking good care of yourself, asking great questions, and I will see you on the other side of this. Bye-bye!