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COVID-induced loneliness can cause increased symptoms of depression

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 dependent on alcohol and drugs.

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.

“I would say the best thing we can do to support those with substance abuse struggles is to check on them more frequently and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions,” said Rick Satterthwaite, a behavioral health counselor at Aspirus Medford Clinic. “Addiction can take many forms. With treatment and recovery resources, individuals can thrive and live their best life starting today.”

If you’re in recovery and worried about a relapse or new addiction, groups like AA and Narcotics Anonymous have virtual meetings. Simply search online for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

During National Recovery Month, Satterthwaite 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 offers alternative methods of treatment.

-- 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 to alcohol or drugs 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.

“Recovery is possible,” Satterthwaite said. “With strength and support from family, friends and loved ones, we are all resilient. Staff at Aspirus are ready to help in any way we can. We all need to remove the shame of recovery and reframe it in strength and victory.”

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.