Substance abuse support during social distancing

Last Modified: 4/23/2020

Substance Abuse

This post was written by Nicole Gaedtke, MSED, LMFT, employee assistance specialist, Parkview Employee Assistance Program, Parkview Health.  

With the global COVID-19 pandemic upon us, most of us have been forced to find a new “normal” for our daily lives. We’re being ordered to stay at home and distance ourselves socially from others. This has left many people feeling isolated and alone. Because of this, we may find ourselves feeling increasingly stressed, anxious and depressed due to the uncertainty. Our previous avenues for coping may not be as accessible as before. We may find ourselves left feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and helpless. For those who struggle with substance abuse and dependence, this can be a very scary time. Now more than ever, it is important to access the supports needed in order to combat triggers, abuse or relapse.

Connecting with virtual support

How do we stay connected and engaged while being distant? Not being able to meet with sponsors, visit family and friends, or go to meetings, church and work, has distanced us from our social supports. Many of us are no longer able to engage in recreational and leisure activities that had offered a safety net from substance abuse and declining mental health. Unfortunately, with the loss of these supports during this global crisis, the door is cracked open for drugs and alcohol to creep back into our lives.

Luckily, there’s been a drastic increase in telehealth and virtual supports during this time. Many substance abuse support groups and mental health agencies have transitioned to a virtual platform to continue to provide assistance. Many of these platforms, such as Zoom, are user-friendly and allow us to still connect with others. A large number of churches are putting their services online for religious support. Similarly, finding ways to still call, text or video chat with co-workers, friends and family allows us to feel less isolated and alone. Maintaining these connections and supports during this pandemic is critical, especially when feeling triggered or on the verge of relapse.

Other strategies to avoid relapse

In addition to the virtual supports available, there are things we can do while sheltering in place to avoid substance use and declining mental health. Finding ways to distract ourselves can help provide short term relief and give our mind a break during the crisis. This could include reading a book, finding a movie to watch, cleaning a room in the house or playing a game.

Finding ways to get in touch with our bodies can help us get out of our heads and reduce anxiety. This could include meditating, exercising, doing yoga, smelling an enjoyable fragrance, or savoring the taste of a favorite food. It may also be helpful to find ways to release the pressure of overwhelming emotions of anger or fear. This could include going for a run, dancing to a favorite song or allowing time to cry. And let us not forget about the importance of self-love. Finding ways to be our own support can help us combat triggers from creeping in. This could include taking a long shower or bath or cooking a favorite meal.

If you find that you need additional help to combat drug and alcohol use, Parkview offers inpatient detox, medication assisted treatment and intensive outpatient programming. Parkview Behavioral Health Institute is currently doing all chemical dependency groups through Zoom. Individuals interested in these forms of support can call 260-373-7500 to get connected.

Substance abuse resources

Below is a list of national and state-wide virtual substance abuse resources, including those specific to Allen County and surrounding counties.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

AA Fort Wayne

Northeastern Indiana Area Narcotics Anonymous

SMART Recovery

daily strength

Addiction Survivors


You can call the Parkview Behavioral Health Helpline at 260-373-7500 or 800-284-8439, anytime 24 hours a day, to talk to a healthcare professional about how and where to find support.

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