Recovering addicts face particularly challenging circumstances during COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Apr. 8, 2020 at 4:53 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Substance abuse was an epidemic long before COVID-19, and it will likely be with us long after. While the challenges of staying healthy for alcoholics and drug addicts during this pandemic are the same, the consequences could be more serious.

The sharing circle has long been a staple of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

“We share about our struggles. We share about our successes,” one recovering alcoholic said.

In any given week, there are more than 300 AA meetings in the capital area. The coronavirus has made those meetings more difficult.

Alcoholics Anonymous has moved its meetings online amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Alcoholics Anonymous has moved its meetings online amid the coronavirus pandemic.(WAFB)

“That’s our paradox right now,” that same recovering alcoholic said. “We have a disease that wants to kill us and our treatment is to meet with other people, and now there is a virus that wants to kill us too and the treatment is to isolate and stay by yourself.”

Like almost everyone else, AA has taken its meetings online, but listening to someone speak over the computer is not the same as sitting next to them and feeling their struggles.

“Your AAs are looking different,” said Emily Simcoe, executive director of St. Christopher’s Addiction and Wellness Center. “Your appointments are looking different. Your ability to be around people in your support system... there’s not that human interaction.”

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Simcoe says the substance abuse epidemic was here long before COVID-19 and will likely be here long after. For the recovering alcoholic or drug addict, she says problems created by the disruptions of everyday life by the virus, the isolation, uncertainty, the lack of routine, can become very real very quickly.

In her facility, and facilities around the country, Simcoe says they’re seeing more relapses. She says the key for everyone suffering with an addiction problem is communicating however they can.

“Reach out to your sponsors. Reach out to your sober community. Reach out to your friends that have been supportive of you," she said.

In other words, share, even if you are not seated in a small circle of friends, because we’re all struggling with something right now, and we can only get through it together.

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