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Going Back to 'Normal' When You Struggle With Addiction

This past year has been one for the history books. A year and a half ago the first reported cases of COVID-19 were reported in China. But at that point, we neither knew about it or really cared, as it was on the other side of the world.

In January 2020, the first case outside of China was reported. But it was still on the other side of the world.

Just two short months later, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and it changed the way we interact with others, perhaps for the rest of our lives.

What does this mean for addicts?

I’m not discounting all of the stress and anxiety that non-addicts have faced throughout the pandemic. I’m not saying that all addicts have had it worse than “normies.” But according to the National Institute of Mental Health, one-third of American adults have symptoms have anxiety or depression and 13 percent reported having started or increased substance abuse during this past year. These rates are nearly double of what was experienced before the pandemic.

According to research done in 2009, “the greater the number of stressors an individual is exposed to, the higher the risk of developing addiction.” It also showed that there was a link between stress and relapse.

Though this research was done with drug use as the addictive agent, we know that all addictions share many common factors, with underlying issues triggering them being one. Stress affects recovery for those with sex addiction the same way it does for other addictions.

VeryWellMind reports that “Addiction often appears to be an attempt to deal with stress in a way that doesn’t quite work out for the individual,” and “It is clear that some people are more vulnerable to addictions than others, simply by the amount of stress in their lives.”

Though stress doesn’t cause addiction, it’s obvious to those of us that deal with addiction that stress is a factor, both in becoming addicted and in recovery.

So as we transition out of the stress of stay-at-home orders, wearing masks everywhere we go and not being able to get close to others, here are some reminders of ways to reduce stress and to help with your recovery:

  • Manage how you consume information.
  • Follow healthy daily routines as much as possible.
  • Take care of yourself through exercise and movement.
  • Practice relaxing in the present moment.
  • Do meaningful things with your free time.
  • Stay connected with others and maintain your social networks.
  • Find mental health resources.

Read more about each tip in the COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash

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