“Addiction is a disease of isolation,” said Howard Reznick, senior manager of prevention education at Jewish Community Services.
People use altered states to be more social and gain connections they may lack otherwise. So when a pandemic sweeps through the nation, intensifies loneliness and steals away support systems, sobriety is challenged.
To share methods to support the recovery community, JCS will host “Addiction Under Restriction” Sept. 15. at 7 p.m. at bit.do/SUDCOVID.
JCS started to discuss this issue in May when the organization saw how community members were struggling to adapt to the pandemic.
“It magnified problems,” Naami Resnick said. As family navigator at JCS, she helps families of individuals with substance use disorders find resources. Before the pandemic, she pointed many families to group therapies. But along with those in-person support systems, people lost coping mechanisms such as spas or shopping when everything closed.
Plus, for those with an addiction disease, quarantine locked them down with conflicting family members.
“Anyone with a disease needs support. I felt that isolation was targeting the community,” Naami Resnick said.
She saw some families fall off the radar, while others created new ways to cope such as WhatsApp groups.
“We often consult with each other, but we decided, let’s have this conversation out loud,” said Howard Reznick, who will moderate the talk. He hopes this can be an opportunity to reevaluate coping methods. “What strategies work? How do we make treatment programs virtual? How are they doing?”
JCS and co-host Beth El Congregation chose Sept. 15 to answer those questions in honor of September’s designation as National Recovery Month.
Some other ideas Howard Reznick expects they will discuss are tips to make virtual meetings more personal. For example, he recommends people be sure their face is in front of the camera and not hidden by their hand or something else.
High Holidays are bound to come up in discussion, too, as the season can motivate recovery but often can be a trigger because of the stress.
A positive note of discussion, though, is what can be gained from virtual gatherings. Naami Resnick, who supports around eight rotating people a week, noted one good factor from the increase in virtual opportunities is that she finds newcomers feel more comfortable meeting people behind a screen.
“Accessibility has been a blessing in disguise,” she said, adding that people are not limited by disabilities, distance or common colds anymore.
Looking forward, JCS will offer a follow-up opportunity to learn about diseases of addiction at its Sept. 22 Stoop Storytelling Series show, where people whose lives were changed by drugs and alcohol will share funny, sad and uplifting stories. It will also feature Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, “American Idol” Top 10 contestant.
If there’s one thing Naama Resnick hopes people consider from these events, it’s empathy.
“It’s such a human condition. People who use in pain and trying to cope. This is not just a label, it is someone struggling. If there could then be less stigma, it would be easier to support families who feel alone because of fear of what might be said,” she said.
Howard Reznick suggested the community reflect and ask itself what truly is its gut response when it hears about addiction. “Let’s respond to this struggle with an open mind and heart,” he said.
For case management, education and more, you can contact Naami Resnick and JCS at firstname.lastname@example.org. JCS also offers prevention resources for classrooms, parents and others at JCSBaltimore.org/prevention.