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Addiction and COVID-19

The number of overdoses and alcohol-related deaths has had a massive increase during the COVID19 pandemic. Over 40 states have reported increases in opiate overdoses and other drug-related deaths during the last year. Delaware is no different, rising to second in the nation per capita since 2019 (CDC, 2019). We have more treatment facilities and government funding now than ever before, but it does not seem to be slowing the growth of the opioid epidemic. You may be wondering why the quarantine has hit the recovery community so hard. Although, there is no simple medical explanation, those of us who have struggled with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) understand.

They say “we are only as sick as our secrets” and addicts have a lot of them. I have heard Substance Use Disorder (SUD) referred to as “a disease of the darkness.” The only way to overcome darkness is to bring it into the light. Members familiar with the Twelve Steps know that Step Four is one of the most important steps because it involves the sharing of your secrets with another recovering alcoholic or addict. This step involves a rigorous inventory of one’s actions, fears, and resentments. Unless someone has endured enough pain, the thought of looking inside themselves seems unnecessary and pointless. Not surprisingly, this is where many stop working in their process, potentially setting them on a path toward a relapse. This is an act of redemption that has spanned thousands of years and reached almost every major religion in history, including the Christians and Buddhists. Once our secrets are out in the open, they can no longer cause the shame and guilt that comes from holding them in.

Walking up to our first meeting, tense and afraid, we see smiles and hear laughter. Instantly, we want to be a part of that infectious happiness. Someone says they are going out for coffee after the meeting and we tag along. Most of us spent years isolated in our addiction, with our doors locked and the shades drawn, and the connection with others is the first thing that lights our hearts in recovery. The fellowship is what makes this thing attractive to those seeking a better life. Finding a group of people who understand our feelings can be like the first breath of fresh air we have ever taken. The longer we keep coming, the more friends we make. At some point, someone mentions working the Twelve Steps to us and we are more than willing to continue this process.

The quarantine changed our way of life in an instant. Suddenly, there were no coffee shops or meetings to attend. Both the recovery community and people coming out of rehabs or detoxes looking to attend their first meeting could not. That same connection that brought us back to life is what we lost during COVID-19. The effects of isolation can cause severe depression in someone that is also suffering from SUD. The lack of interaction and recreation has been tough on us all, especially those who need it to keep a healthy mindset and emotional stability. You can see the results of this in newspaper headlines all over the nation, however, there is hope.

We are seeing Zoom meetings springing up and the communication has resumed. It seems Twelve Step fellowships are learning to adapt to the changing times. Zoom has been a wonderful tool that can keep isolation at bay. People are also using it to continue their step work. Websites and service boards that post online meeting codes from all over the world are available. In many ways, we are more connected than ever. We are also seeing small meetings held outdoors while practicing social distancing. The dedicated members of the Twelve Step fellowships are determined to make sure there will always be a place for the newcomer to find us. We will continue to fight this disease the only way we know how, and that is together.

Michael Duffy
Executive Director
Limen Recovery + Wellness Inc

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