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Coping with addiction

The isolation brought on by social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic can be hard on anyone. But it may be especially tough for people in recovery from a substance use disorder.

 Face-to-face support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) may be canceled to prevent the spread of the virus. And the isolation you may feel from social distancing can stoke feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety. All these things can make it harder to stay away from alcohol and drugs.

 “First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you’re not in this alone,” said Kirk Klemme, MD, a pain and addiction medicine provider at Aspirus. “Addiction can take many forms. With treatment and available recovery resources, individuals can thrive and live their best life.”

 If you’re in recovery and worried about a relapse, groups like AA and Narcotics Anonymous have virtual meetings. Simply search online for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. An up-to-date directory of local, in-person AA meetings can be found at coppercountryaa.org.

 During National Recovery Month, Dr. Klemme offers some tips to help continue with a successful recovery:

  • Call your health care provider's office. Find out if they offer telemedicine appointments. You might be able to stay in touch with your doctor online using an app like Skype or FaceTime.
  • Work with your provider to be sure you have any medications you need.
  • Are you in recovery for opioid use? Find out if your treatment program can be more flexible about take-home medicine during the pandemic.
  • Stay connected to family, friends or your sponsor by phone, email or social media.
  • Be open with loved ones about how you're feeling and what you need to stay on track. Would it be helpful if they brought you books? Movies? Newspapers?
  • Use healthy coping tactics. Practice deep breathing. Meditate. Do things you enjoy. Keep a journal and write down things you're grateful for.
  • If you do relapse during this stressful time, it doesn't mean you've failed. Work with your doctor to find out why you relapsed. You may need to revise your treatment program.

Get help

“Recovery is possible,” Dr. Klemme said. “With strength and support from family, friends and loved ones, we are all resilient.”

If you or a loved one are suffering from substance abuse or have concerns about staying on the path of recovery, you should contact your doctor right away.

Dr. Klemme provides addiction medicine services at the Aspirus Houghton Clinic. Call 906-487-1710 to make an appointment. If you need urgent services, please ask to speak to Dr. Klemme’s staff to see if an earlier appointment can be made. If you are experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

For more information, visit aspirus.org.