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Substance Abuse, Anxiety, and Staying Emotionally Healthy During COVID-19

substance abuse issues during COVID-19

Episode 4: COVID-19 Pandemic / Healing Discussion for Those With Opioid and Alcohol Dependence, Anxiety, Addiction Issues

In this episode of the podcast Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCCDwight Hurst, LPC, and David Livingston, LMFT talk about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effects it is having on those suffering from substance abuse issues. Family stress, uncontrolled anxiety, and reduced access to treatment are stressors in the best of times, and the reality of quarantine and social distancing certainly amplify these struggles. We are able to discuss these obstacles, and give tips on staying emotionally healthy during this difficult time.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Welcome to Waismann Method® podcast. I’m your co-host, Dwight Hurst. I’m going to be joined today by Claire Waismann, as always, and we are lucky once again to have David Livingston with us. Clare and David are going to try to help me sort out answers about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting opioid dependence, alcoholism or other addiction issues. I’ll be honest with you. For me personally, it was a very healing conversation with all the anxieties that are out there around what’s going on.

I felt like talking to Clare and David actually helped me personally to feel a lot better about what was going on. So I think you’re going to also find it to be healing and helpful. So why waste time? We’ll bounce right into the call as David answered the phone and was ready to crisis counsel myself and Clare. David, Claire and I decided that you’re just going to do therapy on both of us for this call with all of our issues with all this.

David Bricker Livingston, LMFT: I think we are in trouble.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: We’re talking, David. You know, it’s. We feel so weird of doing anything, being anywhere, breathing anything. It’s just like, Dwight had asked me, “How are you doing?” And I was telling him I asked Jade this morning, because I speak to her a million times a day, but not in the way of, “How are you doing, Mom, anymore?” And I won’t ask her, because we really don’t know what to respond.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yes, it’s all relative. Is it compared to the before times, so to speak? For the last couple of weeks or. Yeah, yeah.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Because it’s been talking to a lot of people with anxiety being activated and it’s like we all have kind of a low key panic attack all the time right now is I mean, it really is. There’s a lot of things out there to be legitimately anxious about. And then just the the the way that some of our minds play with that, too. I know for me, I get really worried.

David Bricker Livingston, LMFT: Yeah, it’s true. I heard someone say on TV, I stole it from that. You’re as healthy as you feel. Not as healthy as you fear. I try to remind people of that because I actually feel very healthy, you know, I feel good. But. Right. It’s a strange time. And you look around and there’s cause for anxiety and fear. So it’s it’s a hard thing to sort of separate.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah, that’s good. I like that. I like that phrase, too. You’re healthy as you feel, not as you fear. I like that. That’s quite good. I’m going to steal that from from you. You said you got it from somewhere else. So that’s I hope that’s OK.

Clare Waismann, CATC: I think anything that is helpful right now. Right?

David Bricker Livingston, LMFT: Exactly.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: That’s one of the one of the things that we wanted to talk about today as we are talking about is about the effect that this is having upon people who are struggling with dependence or addiction issues, and it’s funny. Right? When we were planning on having this conversation, I think it was later that day I have a friend of mine who works in the mental health field back east who he tweeted something about it where somebody had tweeted out, why are the liquor stores open? And he tweeted back and said, do you want people going into like, you know, DTs or do you want people having, you know, health problems all of a sudden who who might have a drinking problem? And then we’re going to have more people at the hospital. And I thought, you know, someone working in our field thinks that way. Right. We think about, well, well, what about this part of the population? How are they getting affected? I mean, because you got people on all sides of the spectrum. Right, who have started treatment and then their treatments now interrupted or people who are not in treatment and perhaps they’re functioning is interrupted with how they get by with their with their habit.

Clare Waismann, CATC: You know, Dwight, I was actually responding to exactly the same comment on Twitter because I think it’s not the right time to have decisions made based on panic. I think it’s not the right time to make extreme decisions that might harm so many. Alcohol withdrawal is an extremely dangerous event, that has to be, you know, medically assisted. And we can’t just suddenly throw all these people out there into a full withdrawal when hospitals don’t even have the capabilities of taking the people with the issues they have right now really is not just the coronavirus.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: We start another crisis in the midst of our health crisis.

Clare Waismann, CATC: Correct. So obviously, you know, there there is things we can do to limit, you know, what people buy, how much they buy, but we can’t just make extreme decisions that is going to put so many at risk at this point. We as opioids, medically assisted opioid treatment have been asked by our hospital to limit for the next two weeks, admissions, because it is our hospital. It’s a hospital where they are trying to keep the atmosphere that is virus free. They do own another three hospitals where they have patients with the corona. So they’re trying to keep this hospital that we work from without any, you know, infected patients. They are saying, “Please, emergency cases only!” Let’s not bring anybody that is not an emergency health situation because obviously, especially younger people that can be asymptomatic can actually infect everybody in the hospital because we wouldn’t know that they have it.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And that’s a big thing just from a general sharing, sharing the disease standpoint that people don’t think about that of being asymptomatic. Yeah, kind of. So you’re you’re going through the same thing as a lot of clinics and hospitals, which is everything that you can push down the road safely is right. I mean, basically.

Clare Waismann, CATC: Correct. So we did admit, you know two patients today were using heroin, so they are at risk. But for the next two weeks, we are going to push back. And if patients are taking other things, you know, that are prescribed or asking them, you know, to hold on for a few more weeks, you know, because they are safe. We just have to work everybody together, you know, to get through this without any additional risks or, you know, the patients, our staff and everybody else is a very difficult place to be. You know?

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It’s a difficult balance because I think in terms of substance use, there’s the chemical aspect, that medical aspect. Then there’s the emotional wellbeing aspect, too, of saying when is someone at that risk going to guess? That’s a hard criteria to strike. I mean, I wonder if that’s a that that might be a good thing, too, for us to share a little with people is the idea of how do you know, if you’re in a crisis-crisis, you know, as far as, oh, I’m in a situation in which I really need to getting in right away, because some people to try to avoid going, going to get help.

Clare Waismann, CATC: Regardless, at this point, if that’s the case, I’ll let them speak to Dr. Lowenstein. That could medically evaluate them and talk to them about options. Worst case scenario, if it’s an emergency crisis the hospital would take them. But that’s where we are right now.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: What what are some of the risks that you think about people out in the community, people who don’t have access to treatment right now might be going through?

Clare Waismann, CATC: You know, again, there’s so much risk out there. I think if they are out there buying drugs in the street, obviously they are at risk. They’re more at risk than the still normal risky life.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about is the drive. And, you know, we talked a lot the last recording. We talked about the opiate withdrawal starting to be triggered and how people are chasing not only chasing a high, at some point, they’re just trying to not go into withdrawal. And so that’s a pretty strong drive to get out there on the street and and try to find, which obviously there’s just from a very basic level, the risk of an increased risk of exposure. If I’m out, particularly if I’m out in some of the areas, you know, and consorting with people that I have to find and maybe do I even go to my regular dealer? Not that that’s necessarily safe, but it’s definitely safer than trying to find someone new in the midst of a crisis.

Clare Waismann, CATC: You know, I have spoken to some patients that at this point, with everything that is going on, makes you think maybe it’s time, maybe. Maybe it’s time to do something about it. I don’t want to be a slave of this anymore.

David Bricker Livingston, LMFT: Well, I think that’s OK. I think that, you know, from a psychological perspective, what’s happened is as a society, as we’ve all panic to some degree. So, you know, and if you think of panic as a moment of pausing, right? And evaluating right? Which is really a healthy function of a panic, it’s to stop and to assess danger. You know, so that’s what everybody’s doing. That’s why everyone’s kind of reading their, you know, all the information that’s coming out and watching television, because there’s an ongoing sort of sense of of anxiety and a healthy function of anxiety and panic is that it makes everybody pay attention. You know, that’s also when actually people often get into treatment. And when people talk about hitting rock bottom, really what they’re talking about is a moment of psychological panic. So the purpose of the panic is to say, oh, this isn’t good. I really there is a danger. What do I need to do now? And I think that’s that’s that process itself is can be really healthy for people to move them towards something better. It’s it’s complicated right now because of the medical system being, you know what? Because of the COVID virus and all that’s going on with that. And in terms of where to reach out and what to do. But I think at least to begin to understand that as part of the process of moving forward and if you are in real danger, you know, then do it sooner than later.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah, it is interesting how these things amplify situations that are already ongoing and a lot of times that can be the outcome that can be healthy is saying, oh, well, let me learn from this for next time to be a little more prepared or to be in a little bit better situation. I think so often we just go into survivor mode that maybe we don’t stop to think about, okay, this too will pass. And at that point, I I might find that they’ll come something else down the road where I would like to be free.

David Bricker Livingston, LMFT: Definitely. Definitely. Right. Because it’s a balance between, you know, you don’t want to do something that’s dangerous. You don’t want to become erratic in your behavior. And, you know, worse than anything, but you do want to take notice of what it is that’s dangerous. And, you know, so it’s it’s complicated, I think, right now because of what limited options in reaching out, at least for maybe the moment. But I think there still are options. You know, if you’re ready to do something and get into treatment and so forth, you can still reach out and contact people and set things up. And usually when people usually as soon as there’s something set out and there’s a way forward, people immediately begin to feel better anyway.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: So so really laying the groundwork. It’s interesting, as you say, that this is a good time, particularly for those that might actually be quarantined or not able to work or whatever to start looking at, “How would I lay the groundwork for that in the future when I’m able to access treatment?” That’s a good that’s a good point. That’s a good idea.

David Bricker Livingston, LMFT: Exactly right. So so let’s say you’re you know, you’re in a situation where whatever you know, if you if you’re using opioids or in some way and you realize it’s, you know, you’ve got to make a change, you can reach out, begin to create a, you know, a dialogue and you can certainly reach out to us and we can create a dialogue and begin to put a process together, you know, to move things in a different direction. So that’s an idea. No one’s exactly sure or I’m not exactly sure when that is or I guess there’s there’s factors Clare maybe could speak to this better. But, you know, because of some of the limitations medically right now with hospitals.

Clare Waismann, CATC: Yeah. You know, again, Domus. You know, again, we are still open. We are trying to keep you, you know, instead of six patients, that is a very small amount of people in a six thousand square foot house. We are actually keeping a three at the most to keep to give patients that extra space. Domus, we’re very lucky because I had created an environment where privacy was, you know, respected. So every room has their own veranda and it’s a private room. And because the house is six thousand square feet, it allows patients to have enough space between them and respecting, you know, even more than 10 feet of distance.

Clare Waismann, CATC: Dr. Lowenstein still can see them, obviously, through the Internet. So there are things that we have been able to keep in order to help people. We’re all going to have to do a lot, a lot of adapting in our lives from here on. I don’t think for a long, long time we are going to be very relaxed, especially on, you know, human contact.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Someone actually said, well, this is, I guess, as good a time as any for this to happen with the benefits we have now is we can still have some medical appointments, we can have some online services that we can still watch Disney Plus, as a way of something to do even during that time. But looking at that redefinition of human contact, I think that’s also something that’s going to be in the longer term. It’ll be very interesting to see how that shapes not only the treatment and sobriety path that people are going on, but also to see how that changes the expression of dependence also and that the way that that’s going to affect that of how that is going to play out. I’m not even sure if we know very much of what all that’s going to be.

Clare Waismann, CATC: Obviously, other than life itself, that’s going to be our biggest loss in this virus throughout humanity is going to be a lack of human touch. It’s going to be to ease of, you know, hugging somebody, kissing somebody, holding somebodies hand. It’s so incredibly important when we feel somebody’s energy, you know, when we are at need. So I think not just in the addiction world, but as families, as parents, you know, siblings. My daughter said to me yesterday, “You know what? When this is all over, I just want to hug you and I don’t want to ever let go.” So I think that will be… Because as much as we are going to do it, there’s not gonna be an ease about it. There is not going to be a total “let go of your emotions”. And that’s what hugging somebody is all about is, you know, becoming vulnerable, allowing somebody to hold you for that second. And they think that easy is going to be gone for at least for a while.

David Bricker Livingston, LMFT: I imagine, although I don’t know what exactly. I mean, hopefully there’s going to be a vaccine or remedies or things that are going to make this, you know, or maybe it will go away. But my guess is we’ll be living with this to some degree for a while while we have to take precautions just how dangerous it is. But but you’re right. But we also have to sort of live and carry on and assess other, you know, other needs as well. And I guess it’s you know, ultimately these are personal decisions, but difficult ones. And, you know, especially as time goes on and you’re both pointing out where, you know, other needs become, you know, been put off for a long time. Like, you know, the need for a contact.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And do you think of the role that self-medication plays in some of the psychological loneliness and distance that already exists for many people for various reasons, mental health than just maybe upbringing and experience and different, different reasons, people feel disenfranchised. Any way from that affection then to say, well, that’s amplified now by a realistic concerns of exposure and whatever long term cultural, you know, things we have to recover from.

Clare Waismann, CATC: I hope to God that if there is any chance, any changes in the amount of resources to the people in this country, it will be directed to mental health. The lack of mental health, the lack of accessible and effective mental health is the cause for homelessness, addiction, so many issues that has plagued the world, but especially this country. So I think if something good can come out of this, it would be changing how mental health is accessible to the public. We need to do something about it and we need to do something about it now, especially after leaving so many people with the levels of depression, anxiety that has been brought to this crisis.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It is interesting to see how people pulled together in. You see a lot of cool things we really doing to try to reach out. And and it leaves me feeling like I’m glad we can pull together as a people. But just imagine if we could pull together when we’re not under a threat of exposure to a pandemic. Right? If we could just kind of keep that keep that pulling the other mentality together all the time. What kind of things we really could accomplish.

Clare Waismann, CATC: I agree with you. A thousand percent.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: One of the opportunities that it does present is that I think applies to the dependence and addiction problem, but also applies just to everyone. Is that’s a good opportunity to look and say now that we’re more hyper-aware of the loneliness and the isolation that people can feel, who in our own family, who in our own system, our friends, family, colleagues, even whatever. Who is it that we’re noticing or thinking about saying, “Boy, I should reach out to that person!”, because it’s harder. it’ll be probably in some ways we can avoid issues and avoid seeing each other. But it will probably be harder to hide struggles in a way as we’re going through this kind of a thing, especially from those that are usually people we’re intimate with. They’ll be more likely to notice. And that is a good thing because maybe people can notice when there’s a need.

Clare Waismann, CATC: I, 100 percent agree. And I think recovery is also available, available in maybe a little different way than it was. If you’re willing to find better health, you know this this is a great opportunity to start. How fast? How intense? Obviously different, but it’s a great time to start.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And that’s a good thing to keep in mind. I know that in my office and other counselors that I know and you’ve mentioned that for you guys as well, the phone lines are working to the extent that we can. And you’d mentioned with Dr. Lowenstein still able to do medical, he vows to whatever extent he can to help people to figure out what the plan should be and what level of crisis they’re at. So something that I think is a recurrent message in this podcast, don’t go it alone. You don’t have to. There are people who are there that are trained to help and people that do care. If if we just put ourselves out there to ask for help.

Clare Waismann, CATC: Absolutely. As human beings, we are all hopefully stepping up to the plate, offering whatever we have, even at our own limited abilities. We are sharing what we have.

David Bricker Livingston, LMFT: Right. And this may be a time when technology really, really can bridge a gap in ways that we haven’t necessarily needed, especially in healthcare, where people who need attention and need advice can reach out and you can get it going and making the effort to figure that out. And it’s usually not that difficult. Know if if someone’s in in a place where they’re concerned about something, reach out.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And if Skype drops your call. Don’t be afraid to call again. It’s a metaphor, our own recording today as a metaphor for life.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Well, we’re going to leave it there and put out a plea to you once again to whatever your needs are. Reach out to those around you. Take a good, hard look for those around you who can help. And also for those who might need your help, no matter how much you need, you have something to give and whatever you have to give. Make sure to look around to see who needs it. As Clare mentioned, Waismann Method is open for answering questions and helping people to start the process. There’s some things we can do to maybe help out to set some of those plans. Look around for others in your area and community as well to be able to get some of that medical help. Don’t let yourself just try to muscle through this period. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself medically, emotionally and psychologically. We’re gonna be with you through this crisis as well. Which means we’ll be back again with you soon.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Talking about questions and answers around opioid dependence and the related issues that you find there. So remember. Until then, keep asking questions, because when you have questions, you have answers. And whenever you have answers, you do have hope. If you want to see more information about Waismann Method, go to www.Opiates.com or follow us on Twitter @opiates. For Clare Waismann and David Livingston. I’ve been Dwight Hurst. We’ll see you again soon.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: This podcast is produced by Poped Collor Productions Company, helping you reach your goals through podcasting applications to learn more visit poppedcolor.net.

Dwight Hurst: And we’re going to leave it there for today. Thank you, all of you, for listening. If you have questions, please e-mail those questions to us at info@opiates.com or @opiates on Twitter.

Dwight Hurst: So until we’re there with you next time, remember to keep asking questions, because whenever you have questions, you get answers. And when you get answers, you get hope. Thanks again for being here.

Dwight Hurst: Waismann Method® podcast is a production of Waismann Method®, offering medical detox and individualized treatment options for opioid dependence, go to opiates.com to learn more. Our music is the song Medical by Clean Mind Sounds. The show is produced by Popped Collar Productions, a company where we find interesting and exciting solutions to your business goals through podcasts. Find out more about us at poppedcollar.net.