For a person suffering from Substance Use Disorder, the journey to recovery is fraught with pitfalls and challenges. Throw a global pandemic into the mix, and the prospect of recovery is nothing short of terrifying.
Megan Strain and her mother Kathy Strain, who are navigating Megan’s recovery while quarantined together, share hopeful insights.
It was December of 2019, and I was heading home. It had been almost a year since I walked out my front door. I was excited, but my anxiety was growing. I was 11.5 months sober and more determined than ever to get it right this time. My 4-year-old daughter and I had lost a lot of time, but I was thankful my parents could care for her while I was gone.
As an adult in early recovery, I was returning to the small town where I grew up; to the home where my parents raised me. At first, my recovery continued with success. I took my daughter to pre-K in the mornings, signed up for outpatient counseling, and attended support groups.
Within a week I found a job. My first! I worked while my daughter was in school, which allowed us to spend evenings and weekends together. And I was saving for my first car.
The following week, COVID-19 hit!
My daughter’s school closed down, and then, like so many others, I lost my job. The first week was almost like spring break. We slept late and filled our days with playtime. But the same routine that guided me through early recovery had disappeared. By week two, I was anxious and stressed, but I held onto the hope that the coming weeks would bring a new normal. That hope ended when work closed permanently due to hardships brought on by the pandemic.
Work was gone. Routine was gone. My counseling came to a halt, and I would no longer be able to save money for my future. I had to find a way to ensure I wouldn’t slip back into self-medicating.
Thousands like me are dealing with Substance Use Disorder and trying to find a place of health and safety, a journey made harder in the midst of a pandemic. This is how I have been maintaining my early recovery and sanity as a young mom while staying in place with my parents:
1. Attending online support groups.
3. Healthy eating and exercise.
4. Creating and maintaining a daily routine.
5. Asking for help when I feel overwhelmed.
These steps are simple, but routine brings structure and a sense of purpose each day. You’re not alone, and we will come through this together!
Kathy Strain is no stranger to the tragic damage of opioids and Substance Use Disorder. She has thrust her entire being into making sure no other mother endures the pain of losing a child to opioid overdose, after experiencing it with the loss of her beloved son Tom. Kathy spends her days crisscrossing Pennsylvania on a quest to educate companies, associations, health care systems, and non-profits on how to develop a Drug Free Workplace.
When someone is using a substance, it’s not only affecting them, it’s impacting the entire family. The unit learns to think and behave in a dysfunctional way.
My daughter was not the only one who needed to change before she came home. In order for her to have the best chance at success in her recovery, I also needed to change and stop all of my learned behaviors from the time of her active addiction. For me, this help came from the Center on Addiction + Partnership for Drug-Free Kids parent coaching program.
I learned when and how to have meaningful conversations with Megan, and that everything we talked about didn’t need to be substance related. Most importantly, I learned how to love her, with healthy boundaries, unconditionally through her active addiction.
For more than two years, I have been a volunteer parent coach with the Partnership, sharing the skills I learned with other families and we have incorporated portions of their program into Drug Free Workplace PA’s education to workplaces and communities.
Here are strategies I’m using to create a positive space for me and my family:
1. Don’t give unsolicited advice.
2. Stick to the boundaries and house rules you’ve created.
3. Stay Connected. Free online support groups are available for families at most times of the day, every day.
4. Take care of you.
5. Nurture the family unit through shared meals, game nights, walks, and respecting each other’s space and privacy.
Under ordinary circumstances recovery is hard, but in times of uncertainty and heightened anxiety like a global pandemic, it’s not only important, but life-saving to find a new norm and a new road to continue sobriety.
Kathy Strain, is program supervisor for Drug Free Workplace PA. Her daughter Megan Strain, is a person in recovery