For the past several weeks, Rich Jones’ phone has been ringing off the hook most days between 6 in the morning and 9 at night.
Jones, the executive director of FAVOR Greenville (favorgreenville.org), a nonprofit that focuses on helping people recover from substance use disorders, says that people have been calling with all sorts of issues. Besides his own phone ringing constantly, he says, “calls to our crisis line have increased exponentially.”
With no clear end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones says that the isolation and stress is affecting everybody, but people with addiction have an added layer of vulnerability. “The length and uncertainty of this crisis is making everybody a little more desperate. We are definitely seeing that,” he says.
“The folks that maybe were marginal in their recovery, maybe they weren’t completely invested or maybe they weren’t sure they wanted to stop yet, everything has gotten very, very bleak for that crowd,” Jones explains. The pandemic’s continued toll is prime for “escapist behavior.”
Jessica Owens, director of adult services at the Phoenix Center (phoenixcenter.org), an addiction treatment and rehabilitation center in Greenville, has also seen an increase in people undergoing recovery who may now have a higher risk of relapse due to the pandemic’s emotional and mental strain.
“You look all over social media — there are a ton of memes and TikTok videos where families are actually joking about their alcohol use,” says Owens. While many haven’t crossed the line to a substance use disorder, she says, these online images and jokes may be distressing for some people.
Owens also urges people who may be having difficulty with a substance or with their recovery to reach out.
“For folks who haven’t ever reached out, this might be a good time for them to reach out because maybe they aren’t working, they have less going on, and it can provide some structure and routine for them,” says Owens.
Both FAVOR and the Phoenix Center have continued to provide services to those recovering and who are in need of addiction treatment. FAVOR has shifted to holding all meetings online. The Phoenix Center now has a mix of online and in-person meetings. Owens and Jones note that people have been receptive to online meetings.
“We don’t know when [the pandemic] is going to be done,” says Jones. “You don’t have to wait until it’s done to reach for help.”
“It’s okay to not be okay,” he says. “It’s certainly okay to not be okay right now.”
If you want to speak with someone about addiction, you can call FAVOR’s 24/7 helpline at 864-430-1802 or the Phoenix Center at 864-467-3790.