Creating space for connection for people managing addictions

Written by Kalisha Mendonsa and posted here with permission.

For Jason Nesbitt, connection was essential to his initial addictions recovery and is still a critical piece of maintaining that recovery.

Nesbitt works as a Senior Manager with iRecover Alberta, located in Tees. He said right now, they are managing an increased level of calls for support and are trying their best to help people maintain a connection through online and social media means.

“A big thing in 12-step recovery is meetings, and getting into that AA meeting or NA meeting or CA meeting. It’s difficult now with all the restrictions and that’s a big part of a lot of people’s recovery, and what I’m hearing is that people are suffering. There’s a real connection, a bond that we develop and a support system that we develop in those rooms that we aren’t getting anywhere else,” he explained.

He said right now, one of the safest places an addicted person could be is in some kind of treatment because they have access to peer support and other kinds of in-house supports.

However, institutions of recovery are already overwhelmed, and that capacity is going to remain tested as things progress with the current economic climate and public health scenario.

“I’m already seeing an increase in calls and an increase in concerns of family members. Anyone who is in addiction is intensified drastically with all this isolation. A lot of times, when I was in active addiction if I had downtime or was isolated or bored or not able to go do other things, your consumption increases and that’s something I’m seeing a lot of right now,” Nesbitt explained. 

He said for some people, they are getting prescriptions for a month or longer, rather than their usual weekly fills, and this is testing a lot of people’s ability to maintain their health.  As well, he said the addiction community is deeply concerned about “skyrocketing addiction rates – if that hasn’t happened already.”

“By the time this is over, we’re going to have a huge fallout. The issue there is then a backlog in the facilities that are available through the government or through the province – and then what happens? How do we get these people help?,” he said.

Nesbitt said government agencies need to continue to support and build capacity for treatment beds with more intensity and intention.

For people who are interested in the 12-step model of recovery, there are apps such as How It Works and In the Room that can connect people experiencing addictions from all over the world, which can provide immediate local or even international support for people needing help.

A major issue intertwined with addictions is the topic of mental health. Many people who experience addictions are doing so to help them cope with trauma or mental health problems, or they develop an addiction that can raise mental health concerns.

“I think for those who are in active addiction, or if you’re struggling and need help, reach out. You can reach our toll-free number at any time and you will reach a member of our clinical staff. Even if you’re not alumni of our program, reach out. It’s important that we stay connected,” Nesbitt said. 

“If you’re in recovery, and you’re struggling, again reach out. There are lots of supports in place and that we can help steer you in the direction of.”

Nesbitt added that it’s important to remember that things are going to be strained for many months to come, and to keep an eye out for loved ones who seem to be struggling more and more and are feeling disconnected or concerned about their health.

“Moving forward, let’s start gathering information so that if you can see a loved on who is suffering and you know it’s getting worse, then you are on top of it and you have the information.  You can put together a plan so that if that person says, “Okay, I need help” you are ready to respond.”

Nesbitt works as a Senior Manager with iRecover Alberta, located in Tees.

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