The tether to a balanced body, mind and spirit is axed and scattered into a zero gravity atmosphere for people with addiction disorder. Disrupting medical care, shaking psychological stamina, weakening social support structures, vaporizing economic stability and fogging spiritual direction are intersecting dilemmas that cause social isolation for those suffering from addiction disorder as well as for the family and friends who love them.
The global pandemic causes disruptions to these same conditions: medical, psychological, social, economic and spiritual – even for those of us who are in relatively good health and stable economic standing. The coronavirus is multiplying the vulnerability of those with addiction disorder and exacerbating the lethal circumstances of their condition.
We do not have to accept this as a foregone conclusion. We need to re-tether our most vulnerable to the heart of our social fabric to affirm self-determined lives. This is a complex and difficult endeavor, but it is truly a matter of life and death. On July 15, 2020 the New York Times reported that drug-related deaths have risen in 2020 across the country, and that the corona virus pandemic is complicating the response. The article, “In Shadow of Pandemic, U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Resurge to Record,” cites Traci Green, an epidemiologist at Brown University who studies drug abuse and addiction, “Social isolation has always been a huge component of drug overdose risk”… “so much of what we’ve been trying to do has been completely unraveled.”
The pandemic has shattered the fragile social support structures that help many people cope with addiction disorder, while simultaneously interrupting the less than perfect safety nets of treatment facilities, medicine distributions, therapeutic meetings and spiritual gatherings for those who have actually engaged a recovery strategy. The results are dangerously deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2019, and if the trends documented in the first half of 2020 continue, this year’s drug fatalities will be much worse. A Huffington Post story contributed by guest writer, Jennie Burke on July 24, 2020 illustrates the story of such tragedy in “Overdose Deaths Are Skyrocketing During The Pandemic. My Brother Was One of Them.” Burke’s description of her brother’s untethering is painfully familiar to those of us who have lost loved ones to addiction or feel helpless as we see dear family and friends spiraling in a zero gravity space of addiction disorder.
Do not look away. The Remember Love Recovery Project urges all of us to shine a light on these family and friends who remain invisible to most of society. In addition to steering the focus of political leaders, legislators, medical researchers, social scientists, educators and activists, we need to emphasize the essential role each of us plays in reweaving our social fabric to include our most vulnerable. To remember love preserves the humanity of those with addiction disorder. The pandemic has revealed the flaws in our social system, some of which are lethal. But it has simultaneously given us an opportunity to reweave the net as we reconnect each soul and retie each tether. -PB