Pandemic created a ‘tipping point’

Pandemic created a ‘tipping point’

Pandemic created a ‘tipping point’ for some in addiction recovery, says mental health expert


The economic instability and stressors of changed ways of life have served as a tipping point for some of those in addiction recovery, said a counselor and addiction treatment center owner.

“We know for sure that the pandemic has made things worse, and I think the reason for that is that COVID has caused is a tipping point for a lot of individuals,” said Dr. Scott Tracy, owner of Tracy Counseling Center in Lemont Furnace and Wellness Recovery in Uniontown. “You have your normal life stressors, and then on top of that this enormous stress of a pandemic. The coping mechanisms break down, and so you use. You need to use in order to cope, to sedate your emotions.”

He noted most of the stress is caused by economic factors, not necessarily a fear of contracting the virus. In addition, there are basic changes to daily life, such as wearing masks and social distancing. There are also fewer social outlets, with canceled sporting events and school routines upended. Overdoses among teens have increased, he said, attributing that to changes in school schedules.

Statewide, there has been a 30% increase in overdoses, he said. However, he has not seen an influx in patients at his practice. Melissa Ferris, assistant executive director of the Fayette County Drug & Alcohol Commission, also said their number of clients has remained steady.

“We have not seen a dramatic increase, or anything like that,” she said.

She noted overdose deaths have been decreasing for several years. Overdose Free PA, which compiles data from county coroners across the state, indicated 77 fatal overdoses were reported in Fayette County in 2017, but the number has dropped steadily since then. There were 41 overdose deaths in the county in 2018, 37 in 2019, and 21 so far in 2020.

She said none of her agency’s clients have specifically said stressors due to the pandemic have caused them to relapse or get services, while Tracy said clients at Wellness Recovery have voiced concerns reflective of struggles caused by the pandemic.

“Addiction has been a pandemic for a long time, so we haven’t necessarily seen an increase in numbers, but the context of the type of patients that we’re seeing more matches COVID,” he said.

Many of the recent clients are older and under-insured. He said many of them lost health insurance because they lost their jobs or their hours were reduced. Many worked in service industries, and either lost their businesses or faced layoffs.

“All of those stressors led them to use or turn to alcohol,” he said Read more….

Pause for Sanity

Pause for Sanity

Anyone else ever get the back to school blues?  Having kids means you get a schedule…not your schedule but THEIR schedule which means finding time for yourself is very difficult.  I have had to really learn myself all over again, even after 6 years of recovery I feel I have needed to grasp onto new things in recovery that would help me when I am dealing with my kids going back to school.  It really doesn’t seem like much for some people because they figure it is great because you get the whole day to yourself but that isn’t how it works.  You spend most of the time at work (I’m a nurse so it is crazy hours) and the rest trying to plan meals, get your child to said next event, wash the clothes, make sure this child does their homework, make sure your other child practices whatever instrument they are “trying” to play this upcoming year, and trying to make sure I don’t lose my sanity.  It is a daily constant reminder that I am always behind taking care of myself.

My sponsor started to see a decline in my coming to meetings, calls to her phone, and texts asking for advice.  I got a call from her one day (which is out of the ordinary because I always call her) and she asked when the last time I sat down and did an inventory of my day and was I emotionally taking care of myself…bahahaha uh, 4 years ago?  It was there that she slapped me in the face with the “you are no good for anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first”…she was right but I felt like I was on autopilot and could not get off the train, if I got off I was afraid it would crash.

Long story short…I was going to be doing more recovery work in the next coming months which stressed me out even more while staring at my calendar thinking…how do I fit 10 min to myself?  Throwing my phone on the bed and then my body I woke up an hour later…realizing I hadn’t packed lunches yet, I still had laundry to do and my bedroom was a disaster.  I pulled myself up started doing all the “things” and one thing after another they all got done. I had a clear picture that evening that you have to make time, my body finally made time for me to catch up on sleep I was so crazy tired that my body just shut down.  I realized if my body will shut itself down because it needs rest I can carve out time for myself to grow in my recovery.  Slowly I started calling my sponsor again, started going to meetings, made coffee dates with those I knew in recovery, and boom I started to feel whole again.  I was feeling more off balance when my recovery was pushed to the side and I was doing everything for everyone else.  I stopped, I dropped and I rolled…I did a simple pause to change the direction I was headed. I am so grateful for this program and all it has offered, I now get to do online meetings when I can’t get to my regular home group, I have friends to call in recovery when I need it, and most of all a sponsor that will cold call me when I’m headed down a path that is a dead end.  If you can’t make time for your recovery… pause and call someone, ask how you can get back to your recovery balance to stay mentally fit for life!

Written By: butterfly1

The Claw

The Claw

If you are in recovery and you have been on a beach, in a boat, at a sport event or in any type of restaurant this summer you have seen the “White Claw”…the thing took over the drinking scene this summer and it was the talk of most of my friends.  Every year when summer rolls around I get a bit anxious because all the “fun” drinks come out and they are everywhere you go.  This summer I would have to say has been the hardest yet, all my friends had a White Claw in their hands everywhere we went! There wasn’t an event that didn’t have those drinks laying out in plain sight.

This was the first summer where I had to have constant contact with my sponsor and my meetings.  For some reason I had the urge to constantly want to join in on the “fun” my friends were having.  Until one night late July…I got a call from one of my girlfriends saying she can’t stop and drinking isn’t fun for her anymore.  I asked her what she had been drinking and how I could be of help.  Low and behold she was on her 3rd pack of White Claw.  She had been drinking since noon and just kept drinking because the drink had lost its fun and she was chasing that good time she had the weekend prior while drinking with her friends on the beach.  It was right then and there that I knew why I stayed sober, because the fun ends when you can’t stop…it becomes a prison.  We talked for hours about how her drinking started and how she felt she needed to stop.

I learned so many great things from that conversation…the first and most important thing was that I was open and honest about being in recovery so I was someone she could come to for help.  The second, I kept thinking all my friends were having so much fun drinking these drinks when in reality some of them were stuck in hell trying to stop drinking these new “fun” drinks.  I realized how much the program of recovery had saved me from picking up the drink that was so much fun, or so I thought.  I came to a deeper understanding that while people may look like they are all smiles and happy they could be fighting a battle on the inside.  I learned…temptation is hard to fight but the battle fighting it has a better outcome than giving in.  I look back at my summer and think wow, I did have a fun summer and I did it without drinking or giving into the urge of “the claw”.  Things aren’t always as they seem, stay on the path and stay close to those in recovery to help build you up!

Written By: Joypeacelove12

Denial to Recovery

Denial to Recovery

Loss is a hard pill to swallow…being lied to, someone dragging your name in the mud, family turning their back on you…all hard pills to swallow.  The hardest pill I had to swallow was knowing I had to stop drugging in order to live again. I was in denial to the fact that I was slowly dying and needed to change what I was doing. The more I thought about it the more I dove back into my addiction. I didn’t want to deal with all the trash and destruction my disease had caused.  I lived in denial for the better part of 4 years, fighting with every breath to not face my fears and make the change.

One crazy night I woke up drenched in sweat and knew I needed drugs fast…I ran to my bathroom and was looking into all my hiding spots.  While I was searching I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I stopped in my tracks.  I stared for a long hot minute and what was looking back at me…a shell of a human.  I looked empty, my skin grey, eyes blood shot and distant, my hair looked 7 years overdue for a cut, and tears running down my bloated face.  It was at that moment denial met reality, this wasn’t my rock bottom but at this point I started to beg for one.  I got down on my knees and started praying, something I hadn’t done in years!  I knew something needed to changed and I begged that a path was presented to me for help because I was too scared to ask for it.

The next day my prayer was answered…my husband found all my drugs while I was at work and called me crying because he didn’t know what was going on.  I took his call and when I heard his voice I collapsed on the floor knowing this was it, this was what I was waiting for!  My husband up to this point had no clue what was going on with me as I was a really high functioning drug addict.  I did not want him to know because of fear, fear of what he might think of me, fear of what he may do, and fear of what he would want me to do.  Now he knew, the sad, twisted, life-sucking disease was caught red-handed and it was time to face what needed to happen… to walk into the light and out of the dark.

I remember my long car ride to treatment, the dead silence, the tears, the shaking, anger, frustration, denial, anxiety and uncertainty.  I was so far addicted that if I didn’t get drugs in my system at a certain time I would shake, sweat, and move uncontrollably…the list went on and on.  My husband was so scared at certain points that he barely said anything the whole drive.

When we got to treatment and I was met by the nurse…she could see, she could see a glimmer of light in my eyes that no one could see, not even me.  She put her arms around me and said, girl we got you and this is the place where you are going to walk into the light and out of the dark…we got you.  I almost collapsed in her arms, I cried so hard all night and the next day but she did not leave my side.  The story inside treatment will have to come later as this was just about my denial and how it drove me deeper into my addiction.  Once I finally hit my rock bottom…I climbed out and started my recovery journey!  If you are in denial…that is okay, I was there too, it doesn’t mean that has to be the end of your story. Fight hard for yourself because you are worth it!

Blogger: Butterfly365

The Opposite of Addiction – Connection

The Opposite of Addiction – Connection

I’ve often heard it said in AA meetings that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” A phrase popularised in recent years by the writer and journalist Johann Hari. Thinking about my own experience of addiction and recovery I wholeheartedly agree with Hari’s assertion – connection is certainly an key antidote to the underlying isolation that often accompanies addiction.

I felt very disconnected and unloved as a teenager and started using alcohol and other drugs to try and connect with others and feel better about myself. In the long run I was just compounding my inner shame and low self-esteem. My behaviour while drinking was often anti-social and would cause others to reject me, instead of the acceptance that I desperately craved. My feelings of isolation and disconnection grew along with an increasingly poor self-concept. By the time I sought out recovery I was riddled with anxiety and depression. Suicidal thinking was a constant companion and my life felt meaningless.

The Principles of Authentic Connection – An Ideal for Recovery

The theme of isolation and disconnection has been around the ‘rooms’ of Alcoholics Anonymous for as long as I’ve been attending AA meetings, which is nearly 30 years. The ‘loneliness of alcoholism’ is very familiar to suffers and Johann Hari isn’t the first commentator to realise this characteristic. 12 Step meetings place great emphasis on ‘fellowship’ as an important means of connection and also strongly suggest that the principles contained within the ‘program’ facilitate a healthy relationship with self, others and ‘life’ – or, ‘that which is greater’.

For me, the principles inherent within 12-Step philosophy are about turning away or ‘practising the opposite’ of my self-centred sickness. The principles of honesty, humility, self-acceptance, love and service are the antidotes to my inner shame and its accompanying fear – they connect me in a healthy way to myself and others. My ego’s toxic shame and fear learned to defend itself in various unhelpful ways that disconnect me – addiction, anger, aggression, dishonesty, denial, false pride, inauthenticity and social withdrawal where my primary defense mechanisms.

My recovery process is about letting go of these unhealthy defenses and connecting with my underlying vulnerability. I need to honestly connect with and face my inner shame and fear. Truthful sharing, mutual identification, reaching out for support, and self-acceptance is the way to go I‘ve discovered.

The ‘core-conditions’ of empathynon-judgemental acceptance and authenticity are vital to the sharing and recovery process. If I am going to heal from inner toxic shame and fear I need to find an environment that offers love, support and acceptance. When suffering from shame based feelings and a poor self-concept, which prevent self-love and compassion, I require love, support, and empathy from others in my efforts to love, support and accept myself, according to the Person-Centred theory.  Read more

When Getting Sober Reveals an Underlying Illness

When Getting Sober Reveals an Underlying Illness

People who have had multiple traumatic events (adverse childhood experiences) in their youth are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses, alcohol use disorder, and more in adulthood.

Getting sober is often considered the ultimate solution to our problems. In many ways, it is: we stop the behaviors that led to the self-destruction to our bodies, our relationships, and how we live our lives. We wake up without feeling hungover or in withdrawal from drugs we’d taken the night before. By dealing with the issues that led to using, we begin to experience healing and generally feel better.

But for some of us, that isn’t enough. Physically, we can actually feel worse after we stop using or drinking. We may discover that drugs and alcohol were masking the symptoms of a serious and deeply rooted illness.

Discovering My Autoimmune Condition

When you get sober, it usually isn’t all pink fluffy clouds and going about your day with a spring in your step. For me, in addition to the struggles of early sobriety, I’ve had to deal with something much greater: I’ve spent the last seven years with chronic fatigue so bad that many mornings I struggle to get out of bed — sometimes every day for three months at a time — and, at times, I have so much pain in my body that it hurts to even move my toes.

I have an autoimmune disease — a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. Some of the more commonly known autoimmune conditions include Type 1 diabetes, lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.

And I, along with many others in recovery, suffer with a chronic and sometimes life-threatening condition that has a strong link to our childhoods.

For years my autoimmune condition went undetected. I was told that its recurrence each year — with symptoms including chronic fatigue, aches and pains, low energy, lack of motivation to do anything apart from sleep and lie on the sofa — was simply an episode of depression. My doctor would sign me off work for a month. Doctors ordered rest and gave me a prescription for increasing doses of antidepressants. Invariably, after a month off, I’d get better. I had no reason to question the doctor’s advice because I was improving with their prescribed course of action.  Read more

When Love Is Not Enough: How We All Failed My Sister

When Love Is Not Enough: How We All Failed My Sister

These are the ugly, dark parts of mental illness and drug addiction that no one talks about, and by not talking about it, it stays hidden, and shameful, and powerful, and deadly.

My sister had 765 “friends” on Facebook. I don’t think I even know that many people. But I can count on one hand how many of those friends came to visit my sister during her four-month hospital stay. So apparently they were friends, but not quite that close.

I believe that if regret had a smell, it would be the smell of something burnt and visceral, and sharp in your nostrils. I think of that every time I listen to the last voicemail that my sister left me. It was so normal, absolutely nothing special about it, like the countless other messages we had left each other.

“Hi baby girl, it’s me. Call me back. Love you.”

Sometimes I listen to it just so that I can hear her voice, but often I find myself straining to hear something that I must have missed. Did she know that she was dying? Was there some sort of resolve in her voice? Or was that loneliness? But mostly what I hear is regret. Mine, of course, not hers. Because no matter how much I loved her, I couldn’t save her. I am painfully aware that I failed my sister. Sometimes I think that we all did.

Malika and I were two years and 10 months apart, and about as different as two people carved from the same parents can be. She was always the pretty one, the free spirit, and she had the goofiest sense of humor. The boys simply didn’t see me when we were together—she shone that brightly—and we could fight like nobody’s business. But above all, she was amazing to me.

My sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in high school, which apparently is a common age for that to rear its ugly head. We both shared a sort of rebellious streak borne out of a sometimes-tumultuous home life and an ugly divorce between our parents, but she never really grew out of hers. She had a self-destructive side but it was always directed inwards—she never set out to hurt anyone but herself. I can see clearly now that for years, she was self-medicating. Read more @the fix

Take Inventory of Your Year in Recovery

Take Inventory of Your Year in Recovery

This is the perfect week to reflect on your past recovery and look forward to the year ahead.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a time of transition. We’ve left most of the hustle and bustle of the holidays behind, but have not quite started the new year and the new routines it will bring. This makes it a perfect time to reflect on your past year in recovery, and make goals for how to sustain and enhance your recovery in the year ahead. Read more @thefix

Learning to Have Fun in Sobriety

Learning to Have Fun in Sobriety

After a while many people in recovery actually discover that the fun they thought they were having was really just an attempt to run away from their feelings of guilt, inadequacy and shame.

People who have substance use disorders often have a million excuses for not wanting to get clean. They may worry about disappearing friendships once they get sober, fear other people’s judgement, or they may not be able to face the truth about their addiction—just to name a few. Another top reason for why they don’t want to give up drinking and drugging, even if it’s making their life completely unmanageable? They’re worried they’ll never have fun again. Because the idea of being sober seems boring, mundane and somehow even more unbearable than the pain of continuing to self-destruct with substance abuse. Read more @ thefix

The “Crazy Years”

The “Crazy Years”

I thought my crazy years were when I was trying hard to get sober and keeping on the straight and narrow.  Well, I wish…my crazy years actually ended up being the years I was raising my teenage daughter that thought she knew more than I!  These years were so hard as my daughter knew I was in recovery and she did watch me when I was not so sober and used that to her advantage.  She was always able to throw the guilt and shame card on the table and get away with what she wanted to because I felt so awful.  She was able to get away with it until she arrived into her last year of high school and I had enough of being what I like to call “child bullied”.

I had been doing living amends for the better part of 8 years and I wasn’t about to let my child keep throwing things in my face when I was showing up, going the extra mile, providing, and giving her anything she needed! I felt like I had finally reached a point in my life where if I didn’t put my foot down and say enough is enough that I would start to believe everything she was telling me.  With the direction of my sponsor and everything I learned in the program of AA I had a sit down chat with her about all the things that had gone down in the last 4 years…and if any of you know what it is like to talk to a teenager about things that are serious it is NOT easy.  She took everything as I had anticipated, she went to live with her father….because hey, the grass is always greener.  RIGHT!!! She lived there for a year and then begged to come back after hours of apologizing.  I knew this would happen but I needed her to see the work I was doing and how I was actually being her parent not her best friend.

I don’t know what I would have done without the program of recovery, having to deal with this took so much patience and courage.  This program gave me a sounding board to talk raw about what I was going through as a parent and the emotions I was dealing with.  Most of the moms around me(normies) all said, oh I just drink a glass of wine and check out…well, that’s great, I can’t do that! I have to deal with the emotions and learn how to process them without liquor to help.  I can’t say there weren’t times that I wasn’t tempted to run down and grab some because man it would have been nice to check out.  That was the problem though…I would check out with no end in sight.  I worked so hard on the 12 steps during my daughters high school years to keep me sane.  At the end of the high school years I had moms come up to me and ask me how I did it.  I said AA, while they all gave me an odd look at first some called me years later because they then needed help themselves and I was there to do a step 12 with them!  If I had not been open and honest with these moms some may be still out there living in their closets with a bottle of wine clutched in their hands praying for the emotional pain to stop!

The teen years were hard in recovery but staying close to the program and being able to share this program with others had really helped me get through those years.  Stay strong, be open, be raw, and stay strong…nothing is worth that drink!

Written By: mom00soul