Dr. Robi Ludwig: Coronavirus – The challenges facing those in recovery during COVID-19 pandemic

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Many of us are grappling with the rapidly changing events in our world. The current COVID-19 pandemic has swiftly altered all of our lives.

Sheltering in place and self-distancing practices can make even the most mentally fit among us feel frustrated and isolated. But this seismic lifestyle shift has been especially challenging for recovering addicts, an already fragile population.

Those who battle with addiction are currently vulnerable in a myriad of ways. Many also have underlying health conditions and compromised immune systems, placing them particularly at risk for contracting the coronavirus.

DR. ROBI LUDWIG: CORONAVIRUS – HOW TO BOOST YOUR INNER RESILIENCE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

For others, trying to remain abstinent during this unprecedented time in history has turned their recovery process upside down.

Canceling the in-person 12-step meetings, the cornerstone for successful sobriety, have left too many addicted individuals feeling temporarily lost and abandoned.

Not only do a lot of recovering addicts currently feel nervous and isolated, but many are without jobs and in some cases without the technology they need to keep them connected. The self-isolation and boredom that accompanies self-distancing is also a common trigger to relapse into drug or alcohol abuse.

It's  important to see how this current crisis can present opportunities, especially opportunities to stay sober in the face of so much uncertainty.

The AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] and NA [Narcotics Anonymous] population is one that thrives on face-to-face support. There is an even stronger thirst for maintaining a healthy connection in these communities. With a mostly countrywide shut down and strong quarantine rules, too many are facing an indefinite timeline of their much-needed group meetings, which is considered to be life-saving for treatment and recovery.

Many addiction specialists understandably worry that this new isolated America will compromise an already tenuous healing process for the addicted population.

Studies show that people in recovery are more likely to relapse following crises like a terrorist attack or natural disaster, and this pandemic is both disruptive and frightening.

Virtual 12-step meetings have been implemented to offer support during this time. AA and NA now have web pages devoted to offering on-line options including Google Hangouts and Zoom.

During this time, talking to people and just hearing their voices can be of great help, but there are those who simply respond better to in-person support.

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Experts who work in this field say this gap in treatment for an already susceptible population is something that really needs to be planned for as we move towards the future.

Ideally, the government can use this time to study the impact this pandemic has caused those in treatment and in recovery.

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While there have clearly been challenges, it’s equally important to see how this current crisis can present opportunities, opportunities to stay sober in the face of so much uncertainty.

It is a chance for those recovering to tap into the reasons behind why they want to be sober.

It is a time to focus on what they believe in and their goals for the future.

This is the time to connect and reconnect with loved ones.

It is a time to use technology to have meaningful and thoughtful conversations.

It is the time to be kind to one’s self and others.

Be self-reflective and self-forgiving.

Offer support and to be a supportive member of the community.

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Having and maintaining a healthy routine is vital for everyone right now, especially for those trying to maintain their sobriety and a healthy lifestyle.

While we are all trying to move forward and adjust to this new normal, it is essential to consider the populations who are struggling. To embrace an especially caring and compassionate approach both interpersonally and on a societal level and to consider how to provide support for those who are particularly fragile during these unparalleled times.

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