All our lives have been affected by Covid-19. In Wiltshire we’ve had much more freedom than other areas, but that has changed again with the imposition of a second national lockdown. Groundhog Day springs to mind. With no end in sight, news from a friend that her son has just relapsed got me thinking about the impact of social restrictions on addicts and their families.
A recent YouGov National Poll on Addiction Behaviours in Lockdown found 39% of those surveyed, who were in recovery before lockdown, have since started abusing substances again. That’s a lot of people who have gone back to square one. Getting clean and dry takes a huge amount of determination and it doesn’t happen overnight. With another long road ahead for those addicts that try to get back on the wagon, sadly some just won’t have the strength to do it all over again.
As for the families of the 39%, their lives have also been shattered. I’ve witnessed the burden of expectation on parents and siblings whose addicts are in recovery. They so want their loved-ones to stay clean, stay dry, keep on track. The fear of them relapsing can be a massive burden, often as stressful as when their addict was using or drinking. So it probably feels like their worst nightmare has just come true….again.
My son Ryan has never been in recovery so my expectations are very low. But I know he has been mentally affected by lockdown. On the one hand, he leads such a chaotic life that he’s never sure about the rules (hmm who is though!) but even when he is up to speed, he doesn’t stick to them. Throughout, he has slept on numerous sofas and, reading between the lines, group sizes and social distancing are not on his radar. On the other hand, his capacity for socialising has been reduced because some of his peers have been trying to observe the restrictions. Living on a small boat with no electricity or heating, getting out and about is of major importance to Ryan so he has felt lonelier than normal. Whilst I’m not suffering the despair that my friend must be going through, I have felt sadder and more anxious than I normally do about Ryan.
I think it’s safe to say that lockdown might prevent the spread of Covid-19 (though some experts disagree) but it has had a dire impact on the mental health of addicts and their families. For those of us who love an addict, it’s like piling pain on top of agony. It seems we families just can’t win.