SOUTHERN COLORADO — Self-isolation can protect us against the coronavirus, but for those struggling with addiction or in recovery, it can be a trigger. News5 learned there are many resources online to help those who really need it right now.
Colorado Public Radio has a podcast called "Back from Broken" which is hosted by Vic Vela. Vela said it's a podcast about hope and recovery, showcasing people who have overcome the biggest challenges of their lives. Vela has had his own journey to recovery, and he shared some of it with News5. "My addiction lasted for the better part of 15 years, and then some... and I found that drugs and alcohol really made all the pain go away, or at least it made it more manageable," said Vela.
Vela said he has now been in recovery for around five years. "I've talked to people who only have a few months of recovery before the COVID-19 outbreak started and that's not much of a foundation to get you by, through something as significant as what we're going through right now," said Vela.
Vela also pointed out that isolation can be a trigger for people struggling with addiction or in recovery. "What did we do often when we were alone? We did drugs, we drank," said Vela.
Vela said it's extremely important to continue communicating with other people in recovery, a sponsor, and even close friends while practicing social isolation.
Judy Solano is the executive director of the Southern Colorado Harm Reduction Association in Pueblo. The SCHRA operates a syringe service program, and does overdose prevention work. The SCHRA is still up and running, utilizing personal protective equipment and limiting the number of people inside of the building. "Most treatment organizations, methadone clinics, suboxone clinics, everybody, all the treatment providers, they're still functioning and that is still considered an essential service. Our services are considered an essential service, because we also have in addition to the clean syringe supplies, overdose prevention in the form of Narcan distribution and fentanyl test strips," said Solano.
Solano said people struggling with addiction are more vulnerable right now. "COVID-19 has isolated them, and addiction is a very isolating disorder... If you don't know where to go and you don't know how to access help, then what are you going to do? It's just logical that people are going to probably have a higher rate of relapse," said Solano.
Still, Solano said the isolation does not mean people have to be alone. She provided several online resources available to Coloradans.
Solano also said the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) meetings are still happening online. CRAFT is a program that gives families and loved ones of those struggling with addiction behavioral and motivational strategies, and teaches them how to communicate effectively. To sign up for those meetings, call (719)289-7149. The classes are held on Mondays from 5:30-7 p.m. People meet using Zoom, and you can get all the information to connect to the Zoom chat by emailing Solano at Judy.Solano@socoharmreduction.org.
AspenPointe is also still conducting their services through online platforms. "In less than 24 hours, we moved to a telehealth model... Therapy is always, probably, the most powerful when you're face to face with someone, because there's that sort of human interaction piece. That is a real critical part of therapy... It isn't necessarily the most ideal way, but certainly it's better than not being able to see them, and to hear from them, and to try to care for them," said AspenPointe's Director of Adult Outpatient Services, Charlton Clarke.
Clarke said the current situation because of COVID-19 can make anxiety difficult to manage, and can exacerbate depression. "We're concerned that a situation like this could lead anybody to their drug of choice... Alcohol is typically readily available, and the thing about alcohol is that's a depressant, so to abuse alcohol in a situation like this is not going to help," said Clarke.
Clarke believes there will be an increase in the need for services like those provided at AspenPointe when the end of the COVID-19 outbreaks are near. "When things sort of level out and you start having those moments to process and think through, that's when things really hit hard," said Clarke.
Clarke said they are trying to give resources to avoid any relapses.
All of the people News5 spoke with on this story said to continue working on your recovery, or journey to recovery, at this time. "It kind of goes back to the Serenity Prayer for me: 'God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.' Well, I cannot change the fact that this COVID-19 crisis is happening. 'The courage to change the things I can.' But, I can look at it differently," said Vela.
Solano also provided News5 with an extensive list of websites with resources related to addiction and recovery. Those will be linked below, by category.
Colorado Crisis Services: https://coloradocrisisservices.org/
Online/virtual meetings & support:
For Parents, Families & Caregivers: