One fatal overdose in Palm Beach County was reported during Hurricane Irma, and two other people overdosed at emergency shelters that were put in place to provide refuge for Florida residents during the storm. Both of these people were able to be revived through the administration of naloxone.
For people in recovery in Florida, Hurricane Irma has caused a huge disruption. In addition to the disruption to services created – many rehabilitation centers and sober homes had to be evacuated – it also created a sense of instability and fear as people had to grapple with how best to manage the crisis. Many dealt with an increase in cravings as a result, especially those who are used to dealing with stress through drug or alcohol use.
Learning how to deal with stress, grief and loss, fear, anger, and/or anxiety healthfully is one of the biggest lessons of recovery.
Here’s what you need to know to make it easier:
- The support of others is essential. When you have other people around you who know you well and are supportive of your sobriety, you have people who will hold you accountable and tell you the truth when you need it most. Often, when you are caught up in the stress and emotions of life, you may not even recognize when you are getting dangerously close to relapse, but your friends and family can point it out to you when you seem on edge or exhibit other signs of drinking or getting high.
- Staying engaged with recovery will help you stay on track. Long after treatment ends, it is recommended that you continue to stay actively engaged in your recovery. That is, continuing to attend therapy sessions, support group meetings, and take part in complementary therapies (e.g., acupuncture, yoga, animal-assisted therapies, art and movement therapies, etc.) can help you to continually infuse your life with a recovery focus and keep you in touch with substance abuse treatment professionals who can help you continue healing.
- Taking care of yourself improves your ability to manage the unexpected. Little things like getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, and working out regularly are actually not little things at all in recovery. Taking care of yourself and making your overall health and wellness a priority can help you to feel calmer, healthier, more confident, and better equipped to handle whatever life throws your way. Conversely, when you are tired, feeling ill, or in pain, you may be less likely to handle conflict or upsetting emotions without feeling the urge to drink or get high.
- Having an action plan means you always have a way to avoid relapse. It is a good idea to frequently check in with yourself, assess your life situation, and note any potential areas of discord that could trigger cravings for relapse. This can mean identifying difficult situations at work, relationships that are stressful, and/or underlying health and medication issues that may impact your mental health and wellness. When you notice what is going on with your emotional state and your physical health, you empower yourself to make changes for the better and circumvent triggers.
- A therapist or other substance abuse treatment professional can be a great sounding board. If you are trying to brainstorm ways to manage different challenges that you are facing in your life – the kind of significant issues that may be impacting your ability to stay sober – an objective third party opinion from someone who knows you well and is an expert in substance abuse treatment can help. Developing a relationship with a therapist takes time, but once in place, this person can help you to avoid choices that could put your sobriety at risk as well as give you effective options for the management of issues you are currently facing.
When you face an extreme stress event in your life – like a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one, a breakup or divorce, etc. – your first impulse may be to drink or get high but you do not have to follow that impulse. You can, instead, choose to make healthy choices that will improve your life in the moment and strengthen your confidence and ability to manage stressors in the future.
How do you handle in stress in recovery? What do you do when you experience cravings for drugs and alcohol?