We are all stressed by the great uncertainty related to COVID-19, but for our patients with addiction, it is much greater. Check in with your patients and support them in finding healthy ways to cope.
Isolate and keep a good distance from others. This is the exact opposite of what I would usually say to my patients with addiction. We all feel stressed with fear and uncertainty, but for patients with addiction, coping with life is an active and stressful state every day without COVID-19.
Now, everything is worse. 12-step support group meetings are all canceled. Bars are closed, but liquor stores are considered essential (?), and drug dealers are of course open for business. There are virtual support meetings online, but it’s not quite the same.
Converting in-person clinic visits to telemedicine visits for all patients in recovery is essential. Staying in contact is crucial for letting patients know you’re there for them. It also helps clinicians feel connected to their patients.
So what to say to patients? Here are 10 ideas, including suggestions from my patients last week:
1. FaceTime with family, friends, and other people in recovery. It takes two people to have a support group meeting.
2. Listen to the birds singing at dawn.
One of my patients told me that he never heard birds in the morning until he was in recovery. He never paused to listen, but rather rushed out to buy drugs so he would no longer feel sick.
3. Go for a walk and enjoy the daffodil, hyacinth, tulip, and apple blossoms.
4. Listen to music (not the blues).
5. Don’t overdose on the news.
6. Try a new food or cook a new dish.
7. Watch comedies on TV or Netflix.
8. Escape to a good book.
9. Create art.
10. Work on an ongoing huge jigsaw puzzle.
We can all benefit from these suggestions as uncertainty reigns and our mental health is tested. Recovery for patients with addiction means creating hope. We need to stay hopeful for our patients and ourselves.