People in recovery from addiction struggle to stay connected during pandemic

Posted at 4:10 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 23:08:23-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The Coronavirus has not only taken a toll on the economy, but the isolation could also be putting people struggling with addiction at risk of relapse.

Florida is reporting an increase in substance abuse throughout the sunshine state.

For Matthew, his path to recovery from his opioid-addiction began last December.

“I have a little over 9-months clean; I have been in recovery a little longer,” said Matthew D.

Matthew moved from New Jersey to Florida seeking treatment.

But, just a few months into an outpatient program at Nextep, the pandemic caused all in-person group meetings to be held virtually.

“When we started to do everything on our phones and weren’t meeting in-person, I started to question why I was here,” said Matthew.

While difficult to cope with at first, Matthew says his determination kept him on the right path to recovery.

“We were in unprecedented times, but me getting clean was unprecedented for me, so it wasn’t that hard to kind of rolled with the punches,” said Matthew.

Karriann Now, a counselor at Nextep, says not all clients at the outpatient treatment center were as successful.

"It’s really important for addicts, alcoholics, to be around people," said Now.

Because of the Coronavirus, she says the isolation caused several people in their program to relapse.

“We had somebody that overdosed, and was in the hospital in a coma during it, it was a very stressful time,” said Now, "Thankfully he made it, he pulled through."

Now says adapting to telehealth wasn't easy, but they made it work.

The center has since reinstated its in-person meetings, hoping to bring back some normalcy and help with addiction for those who need it.

“If you think about it, for example when people go to a meeting, they’re used to hugging, being around people," said Now.

According to Governor Ron Desantis, overdoses are up 62% in the state compared to last year.

The governor making the startling announcement during a roundtable discussion last month.

“I don’t have a number on how many people are seeking treatment, but anecdotally I can tell you that we’re seeing a lot more demand for treatment that we did before,” said Ahmed Eid, Site Director for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Naples.

Eid says that the increase is a reflection of the difficult times so many people are having.

“The uncertainty about covid-19, the uncertainty of unemployment, the social and social-economic issues that are happening right now,” said Eid.

The addiction treatment and advocacy organization also adapted by transitioning to virtual services.

"That provided a level of support and accountability and connection that otherwise would have been missing," said Eid.

Through their "Recovery Go" platform, Eid says they've been able to provide help to more people.

"When you think about it, when we were in-person we could only really work with people who were in Naples or Fort Myers, but right now we have patients that are in Sarasota, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach," said Eid.

"When you think about it, if someone had transportation issues, or young children at home and was unable to attend meetings, now they are able to do so."

Both Now and Eid say the most important step anyone struggling with addiction should take is to seek help.

"I’m in recovery myself, 7-years, and I know it seems hard but isolation, active addiction is not the way," said Now.

And for those who are not dealing with addiction, keeping an eye on loved ones and letting them know that is okay to cry out for help.

"We know that shame and stigma are one of the biggest blocks to people seeking treatment, there's no shame in doing that," said Eid, "This is about you and the life of your loved ones."

For more information on Nextep, click here.

For more information on the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation site in Naples, click here.

For additional resources, click here.