Don’t Forget About Us
What if I told you there is a disease out there that was killing over 180 Americans daily? Like clockwork, day after day, year after year – with no end in sight. You read that correctly and no, I’m not talking about COVID-19. I’m talking about the disease of addiction. The addiction epidemic has resulted in the loss of over 65,000 annually and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, with all the media attention and national focus currently on COVID-19, things are likely going to get worse before they get better.
I fully understand the severity of COVID-19 and am not taking things lightly. I wore a bandana wrapped around my face to go bike riding the other day. Is that necessary? Is that helping? Is that too much? I do not know. What I do know is I cannot escape the hysteria that is being created around me. Presently, I’m witnessing those I love most lose their jobs, focusing on adherence to social distancing requirements and am frankly unsure about where my next roll of toilet paper is coming from. This is my new normal.
Another large part of my reality is going through this experience and identifying as an alcoholic who works in the treatment field. I am not trying to over qualify myself, but these are the things I have noticed in the last few weeks:
- People who desperately need addiction treatment are not seeking help due to fears around the present moment as well as the future. It feels as though people are losing hope for a better future.
- People everywhere are terrified. Terrified of going outside, of contracting the virus and of losing their jobs.
- Those who do seek treatment are subject to rigorous screening protocols designed to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19.
- A critical component of the recovery journey: meetings & community, have shifted from warm social gatherings to virtual meetings over the internet. Spoiler alert: These meetings are great, but it’s not the same.
- Family members concerned about their loved ones: Moms, Dads, Brothers, Sisters & Spouses who would normally reach out to seek help for their loved one’s addiction are now terrified to do so for fear of what will happen if their loved one leaves the house.
- outpatient treatment has shifted exclusively to telehealth services
- Hospitals and their teams are working tirelessly to attend to the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients struggling with drug & alcohol addiction are all but off the radar of the healthcare system entirely.
Meanwhile, the disease does not care about any of the aforementioned and continues to kill hundreds daily. The entire foundation of how to get clean and stay clean has changed dramatically. A successful foundation built on spirituality, community and human connection has been replaced with #stayhome and a Zoom meeting ID number. We’re officially in unchartered territory and continue to seemingly make it up as we go along. We’re all trying to make it through this the quarantine together with our lives, our sobriety and some shred of our hope, intact.
The coronavirus is a scary new phenomenon like nothing we’ve seen before, no doubt. But again, there has been a silent, deadly epidemic killing our nation for years – an epidemic we’ve all gotten a little too familiar and dare I say, complacent with.
Those of us in active addiction or in recovery still need help.
We still need hope. It still exists.
Don’t Forget About Us.
Michael Bernardo, Treatment Advocate
Bill Koroncai, Treatment Advocate