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July 2020 Behavioral Health Q&A Column

By: Lisa Desai 

Welcome to the newest edition of the Behavioral Health Q&A Column! VPPPA has partnered with experts at MindWise Innovations to present a monthly Q&A article addressing questions that members might be hesitant to ask about. These columns will address your questions about mental health, substance abuse, brain injuries, family issues and more. We will be posting a new column on the third Thursday of each month. To submit your own question for the experts click here. 

Substance and alcohol misuse have been longstanding problems – especially in construction and related industries. A 2009 Rand corporation review found that workers who drink alcohol at least three times per week are more likely to experience onsite accidents. We know that during COVID19, the rates of overdose have increased on a monthly basis since March (Washington Post, July 2020). But it’s important to remember that we can take steps to make choices to maintain one’s own sobriety and support co-workers, friends and family.  We turned to experts in the field at Riverside Community Care,Recovery Coach Mike Leslie and Kimberly Fisher, LICSW Assistant Vice Presidentof Addictions who provided the following guidance to maintain sobriety during times of crisis.  Thank you Mike and Kim for your valuable input!

What risk factors have led to increased drug and alcohol use during quarantine?Social distancing, while providing safety from infection, has created prolonged isolation for many people.  Additionally, financial stressors from job losses or decrease in pay, along with the stress of living with family members who may also be struggling contribute to risk of abuse and relapse with substances.  One alarming trend is that illegal drug supplies lessen, people may turn to less known and synthetic drugs which carry unknown effects.

How can you manage risk for substance misuse and prevent relapse during COVID?Here are a set of tips we’ve put together to remind people what they can do in their daily lives to support themselves and loved ones.

  • STAY CONNECTED – With most in-person supports needing to close their doors, it’s easy to fall out of touch with other people in recovery. Do your best to talk to someone in recovery at least once a day.
  • GO TO ONLINE MEETINGS – There are many online recovery meetings – both by phone and video. 12-step fellowships like AA and NA have groups, but there are also general recovery-based meetings.
  • EXERCISE/STAY ACTIVE – Get outside for fresh air daily. If you normally go to the gym, plan workout routines you can do from home.
  • LEARN SOMETHING NEW – If there’s something you have always wanted to do or learn, but haven’t had the time, now you do! Pick up a new hobby.
  • CONNECT WITH A RECOVERY COACH – If you have a recovery coach or sponsor stay in close contact.
  • EAT HEALTHFULLY- If you’re stuck at home, it’s easy to fall into the routine of eating junk. Try to eat fresh, healthy foods. What we eat certainly affects our mood and physical well-being.
  • JOURNAL – Writing is a helpful coping tool. If you haven’t journaled before, give it a shot! Write down how you’re feeling, your thoughts, and what you’re doing. When this is over, it’s a tool you can continue to use.
  • MEDITATE- Meditation is so helpful in calming unhelpful thoughts. If you haven’t meditated before but are interested, give it a try. Look for tips online or use YouTube videos to learn more about meditation.
  • HELP OTHERS – Helping others simply makes you feel better! If you have an elderly neighbor living alone, see if they need help with anything. Check in with your parents or grandparents by telephone to make sure they’re well. This is a great opportunity to strengthen those relationships.
  • STRENGTHEN YOUR SPIRITUALITY – spirituality has different meaning for all of us. If you consider yourself to be spiritual, this is a great opportunity to draw upon that. Read spiritual/recovery-based literature and spend time connecting to something larger than yourself.

About the author: 
Lisa Desai is a licensed psychologist and behavioral health professional with 20 years of clinical, management, and consulting experience. Through her work at MindWise Innovations, she helps companies prioritize effective and sustainable behavioral health strategies through the business development, design and implementation, and evaluation of mental health and substance misuse programs. Lisa lives in the Boston area with her husband, two daughters, and beloved black lab. She is of South Asian descent, speaks Gujarati, and enjoys all things social.