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What addiction recovery can teach us about overcoming coronavirus challenges

Posted by Martin Preston
on 02 Apr 2020

“Addiction recovery has taught me to look on the bright side and make the most of whatever happens.

“I’ve had a lot of experience of reframing things into something more palatable and all of that is serving me well now as I recover in a field hospital in Barbados from COVID-19” – says Mike Delaney, one of our Delamere team.

Mike was on leave on the Caribbean island when he became unwell – not with the classic coronavirus symptoms of a cough or fever, but some back pain, headache and abdominal tenderness. 

Mike Delaney in a mask prtecting from covid-19

A trained nurse, Mike did not for a moment think his symptoms were related to the pandemic, which had not taken full hold at that time. However, a doctor noted his low blood oxygen levels and he was diagnosed.

Mike was admitted to a makeshift hospital at a Barbados military base on March 21.

“It’s all very organised and being very well managed here. Things could be so much worse.

“Fortunately my symptoms have been quite manageable. I had quite a bit of discomfort in my abdomen, back and organs for a few days in hospital and that got a bit difficult.

“The anxieties start to build about how bad things could get and whether anything could suddenly deteriorate.

“There was a frightening incident with a young man in the hospital who had seemed quite well then suddenly collapsed unable to breathe. Thankfully, they got him going again but it makes you aware again of the severity of all of this.

Corona Virus banner illustration

“You have to try to stay calm and accept that getting caught up in your own head is a dangerous place to be. I do practice what I preach.

“You’ve got to reel your thoughts back in sometimes. You can become hysterical if you allow yourself to. I’m alive, not that ill and coping quite well. There are no shortages here at the moment. I got sick at a good time.

“This is my 11th day in this strange place. It’s not what I am used to. There’s rigid rules, we’re wearing masks all the time, all the staff are in protective equipment like in a science fiction movie. It’s difficult but I am able to see beyond the difficulty of the moment. In a couple of weeks I’m going to be well and hopefully immune and invaluable.”

Mike is hoping to be discharged in a few days and the Government is working on plans to get him and others home. 

He is looking forward to being able to get back to helping others, both through the work he does with Delamere and by making himself under the NHS scheme that is calling on clinicians to sign up to assist.

Mike’s concerns for people facing addiction during the coronavirus lockdown and crisis

Mike is an experienced addiction therapist as well as being in recovery from alcohol and prescription drug addiction himself. 

He has been in recovery since 1996 when he went into rehab himself and moved from psychiatric nursing into rehab and recovery work. He went on to run the clinical side of many rehab clinics before joining Delamere as clinical director.

He feels people in secure recovery are well positioned to cope with the current crisis but knows it is a dangerous time for many people’s mental health.

It is also an especially worrying time for people who are in early stages recovery and no longer have the ability to attend face-to-face support meetings. Similarly, it’s a concerning time for those with severe addictions, especially to heroin, who may have suppressed immune systems. They are encouraged to seek help from a GP and a substitute to get through this period as safely as possible.

Mike said: “People in recovery have a bit of an advantage. We have taught ourselves to have an acceptance of things – that we can’t change some things. Although some things are difficult you have to try to work through them. 

“Right now for many, many people stress and anxiety are massive issues. People will be drinking more or taking more drugs than they normally would and becoming out of control is a real possibility for a lot of people.

“Because everybody is on lockdown there will be lots of issues with conflict and domestic violence. It’s a scary time for lots of different mental health issues, not just addiction.

“Try to share how you are feeling, pick up the phone, share your fears and anxieties – they lessen when you share them. And if you are in danger or you know someone who is please, please reach out.

“Don’t be ashamed. There are lots of people who are very strong and get on with their lives that at this moment in time are very anxious and finding it difficult.”

Footballer Gary Charles shares fears for those with addiction issues during the pandemic

Ex Premier League and England footballer Gary Charles, our sports ambassador who has fought alcohol dependency issues himself, recently spoke to The Times about his fears that alcoholics could reach crisis point during the COVID-19 outbreak.

His troubles peaked when he was hit by injury and had long periods without being able to play football and he fears this period of lockdown could have similar impacts for others.

He told us: “Alcohol and addiction are coping mechanisms people use to numb pain, their thoughts, troubles and as a distraction from all of that.

“Sadly, addiction issues won’t go away despite the pandemic. If anything they are likely to intensify for athletes and anyone who is struggling and now under new and extra pressures.

“During my career I was in denial of my drinking problem because I could go weeks, months, even years without a drink, but then I’d go on destructive benders for days at a time. I was able to stay away from drink and keep up my fitness when I was needed on the pitch but when injury hit my problems really took hold.

“This difficult period we are all in at the moment with coronavirus is putting people under strain and individuals and families who are living with addiction may well hit a crisis point. I urge anyone who is struggling to reach out for help.”

Delamere remains open offering support to guests with addiction issues. We’re here for anyone who needs to talk to someone – please do get in touch.

What addiction recovery can teach us about overcoming coronavirus challenges
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What addiction recovery can teach us about overcoming coronavirus challenges
Hear from Mike Delaney about what addiction recovery can teach us about overcoming coronavirus challenges at Delamere Health Ltd.
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Delamere Rehab
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About the author: Martin Preston

Martin created Delamere in order to provide exemplary care in first class facilities. Find out more about Martin on our team page.

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