Isolation is addiction’s greatest antagonist. Without a stable support system an addicts
chances of maintaining sobriety are near impossible. Unfortunately, many of us in recovery are
learning that the hard way during quarantine; with relapses skyrocketing, and overdoses spiking
18.6% since the pandemic COVID-19 started in February (rollcall.com).
A recovering alcoholic myself, over the years I was told many times that I only had to
change one thing in my life to keep sober. That one thing was “everything’’. We are told to drop
our old ways of thinking, attend treatment, work a 12 step program, and build a strong sober
network. But what happens when those supports all seemingly vanish in one day? When
treatment centers can’t accept new clients, 12 step meetings are terminated indefinitely, and
your sober network is isolating in place?
COVID became the point where I realized sometimes family support is all I have, and it
can be enough.
Like most alcoholics, this was not always the case. My binge drinking tore my family
apart. I created a dynamic of dysfunction, blame, enabling, frustration and anger. As mentioned
earlier, isolation is addiction’s greatest antagonist, and isolation befriended me quickly. The
more my family tried to intervene, the more it hindered my ability to drink, and to stop drinking
was not an option.In their eyes I was driven, successful, focused, and unstoppable. I finished college and
started a career in Public Relations, was engaged in a healthy relationship, and had more
friends than they could remember names. They did not understand why I became a stranger,
losing interest in everything I loved, including them, stumbling into an alcoholic depression that
would last the better half of a year.
It was not until I had absolutely nothing left to lose that I decided to complete treatment. I
engulfed myself in the Alcoholics Anonymous program, a program that I was now ready to have
my family be a part of. Although my parents had attended al-anon meetings in the past, it was
important we worked through our emotions together, as I dismissed theirs and buried mine for
so long. In recovery, we often refer to our physical and emotional existence in active addiction
as “self”. We realize we became so far dissociated, that we have to take a step outside of
ourselves to even comprehend the choices we’ve made. It made me think, if we can not even
recognize ourselves, how do we think our families felt about our decisions?
The groups gave a platform for those discussions. They were guided personal
conversations of experience, strength, and hope, from diverse families with the same core
dysfunction. This did not change when the pandemic hit, but every family was able to go
through the new challenges together, so no addict and no family was alone.
COVID brought many to their knees, but I was able to stand on two feet because of the
support I had built over the years with the one aspect of recovery support that could not be
taken away from me. My family support.