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COVID-19 AND ADDICTION – RECOVERY USING ONLINE THERAPY

COVID-19 AND ADDICTION – RECOVERY USING ONLINE THERAPY

Author : Andrew da Roza

COVID-19 has posed a challenge to everyone, and those more physically vulnerable in our community clearly need our care and attention. 

There are also people whose mental vulnerability deserves equal care.

Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and addictions are exacerbated by a pandemic crisis in multiple ways. 

Collective family and community fears are (in themselves) contagious; and the constant bombardment of medical and financial bad news, can leave those with mental illnesses lost in a cascade of negative rumination and catastrophising. 

The mentally ill and people with addictions commonly have compromised immune systems, and suffer stress or substance, tobacco and alcohol abuse related diseases – leaving them wide open to severe pneumonia with acute respiratory distress symptoms – and other complications from COVID-19. 

Isolation, separation and loneliness – caused by working at home and social distancing – are perhaps the worst contributors to: low mood; agitation; irrational fears; moments of panic; self-disgust; resentment; anger; and even rage.

People whose ability to pause, use reason and find practical solutions can be severely compromised. They may find themselves bereft of the motivation, and ability to engage in even the simplest tasks of self-care. 

Added to this, listlessness, boredom and frustration can lead to despair. Then self-harm and suicidal thoughts may arise, take hold, and even overwhelm them.

Those in recovery or active addiction may also turn to their compulsive and impulsive behaviours of choice, to sooth and find momentary respite from the moods and thoughts that have hijacked their mind. Triggers, urges and cravings may become relentless and unbearable. 

The solution may begin with finding a way out of isolation. 

Starting the journey out of this darkness can start with talking to people who can demonstrate unconditional positive regard, show kindness and compassion, and help reframe the situation. Such people can assist those suffering to put a name to and validate their emotions. 

In short – therapy can help!

In times of COVID-19, working with a therapist via teleconsultation can be effective using ZOOM, Skype, WhatsApp video and FaceTime. 

Although the calming and soothing sensation of the physical presence of a therapist is absent, for those in isolation – distraught with shame and despair – Internet enabled therapy can prove a lifeline.   

Isolation can be further broken, using similar Internet methods, by attendance in recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous – all of whom now hold Zoom meetings in Singapore. 

These Zoom opportunities in Singapore are supplemented by Zoom, Skype and telephone conference meetings in Hong Kong and Australia (in Singapore’s time zone) and in the U.K. and the US (during our mornings and evenings).             

Having broken the isolation, the second step therapists can provide is guidance and motivation towards self-care. This would include tapering or abstinence from the addictive substances or behaviour. A well thought through relapse intervention and prevention plan, specifically tailored to a person’s triggers, will also assist.

Triggers may be particular places, situations, people, objects or moods. 

The acronym “HALT” is often used by those in recovery; which stands for the triggers of being: Hungry; Angry; Lonely; or Tired.

When these triggers arise, people are encouraged to 

  • HALT their behaviour; 
  • breathe deeply, with long outward breaths;
  • think through consequences;
  • think about alternatives;
  • consult with others; and
  • use healthy tools to self-soothe.      

Daily mindfulness, meditation, exercise, sleep hygiene, healthy eating and following a medication regime are important aspects of self-care – and for some suffering mental illness – these actions – and time – may be all they need to find their footing again.

Luckily, the Internet gives a vast array of possible self-care options, including things to distract us, soothe us and improve us. 

Everything is available from: calming sounds and music; guided meditations; games; home exercise, yoga and tai chi; self-exploration and improvement videos; video chats with loved ones; to healthy food delivery options. They can all be had with a few keystrokes. 

Today we live at a time when suffering from mental illness and addictions is commonplace. But we also live at a time when the solutions are literally at our fingertips – if we only reach out for them. 

For information on teleconsultation for addiction therapy and addiction recovery meetings, contact:  Andrew da Roza at Promises Healthcare by email to andrew@promises.com.sg or by calling the Promises Healthcare clinic at: (+65) 6397 7309 

 

   

 

ONLINE SEX ADDICTION AND RECOVERY SUPPORT

ONLINE SEX ADDICTION AND RECOVERY SUPPORT

ZOOM –  A CRUCIAL ADDICTION RECOVERY AID

Author : Andrew da Roza

With COVID-19 forcing many of us to practice social distancing and to work from home; isolation and the constant access to Internet devices makes staying in recovery from compulsive sexual behaviour a very tall order. 

There are many reasons why COVID-19 is interrupting recovery from sex addiction. Restless, irritability, and discontent will inevitably arise for all of us, when our routines are disrupted – but there is more to it than that for people in recovery for addictions.  

Some will experience acute urges and cravings to act out because:

    • isolating at home, away from colleagues and friends leaves a recovering person lonely, and without the support of recovering others;
    • if they are now living 24 hrs a day with traumatised partners and disrupted families, tensions may reach flashpoints;
    •  some may already be very anxious and depressed, and the additional worry about health and contracting the virus may prove too much;
    • some may have suffered financial problems from their acting out, and may be  dismayed by their financial future, given the impact of COVID-19 is having on savings, jobs and salaries; 
    • they may now repeatedly look at electronic devices for work, COVID-19 news and distraction – and those may be the very devices that caused or exacerbated the problems in the first place;
    • unstructured time will inevitably lead to both the distress of ruminating about the consequences of the present, and the triggers of fantasising about past acting out.

When people are struggling with an addiction, their mind can play tricks on them. COVID-19 can present a series of excuses to put their recovery “on hold”. 

One person in recovery said

“I started to tell my wife that I was looking out for the family when I decided not to attend recovery meetings and therapy. She then asked whether there were other things I could do, that didn’t involve meeting others. 

I told her, pretty emphatically: “no, recovery requires the support of others”. 

Then she Googled and found recovery meetings online by Zoom, Skype, and telephone conference. I was stumped.  I realised that my mind was once again leading me astray. 

I checked with my therapist and found that I could do therapy by Zoom, and he also gave me lots of online recovery videos to watch, information to read, and exercises I could do. 

My sponsor and I now do our recovery work using WhatsApp video. 

Calling my recovery friends and supporters was what I was doing before COVID-19 anyway.    

I found that some of my recovery work, like meditation, prayer and daily gratitude lists is solitary work any way, and that I now have plenty of time to do that – if I chose to.” 

Many people had to finally admit that they could either work hard on their list of excuses – or they could work hard on their recovery – but not both.

One of the greatest problems that people find preventing them from finding and staying in recovery from sex addiction is shame. Online connectivity platforms like  Zoom, WhatsApp and other online social platforms can help with that. 

People feel safer engaging online – which is one step removed from physical interactions.  They feel greater comfort being at being home, in a familiar and secure space. They can also control whether and when they are seen or heard, and they can leave a meeting at any time.  

Partners and family of those in recovery may also feel more assured. Their loved ones are not outside the home visiting triggering locations. They are also demonstrating their commitment to staying the recovery course – virus or no virus.  

Partners and the whole family may also have more opportunity to join in healthy recovery activities – daily meditation, exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep hygiene.  

Being at home gives people in recovery a unique opportunity to initiate family activities like games, puzzles, movie watching, making meals, arts and crafts, walks and swims. In recovery, this is called: “making living amends”, to the loved ones who have been hurt.     

So at this isolating and stressful time, consider individual therapy and the STAR group therapy delivered by Zoom – and remain on the recovery path.