Trauma/Disasters Often Present Challenges for those who Suffer from Addiction or Tend to use Substances to Deal with Negative Emotions
Hurricane Sandy inflicted tremendous damage to those in the metropolitan area. In the hardest hit areas, there has been tragic loss of life, leaving many grasping for answers.
For those in recovery or suffering from addiction, such trauma can be a trigger for renewed or increased use of alcohol or drugs to deal with fear, anxiety, sadness and/or anger.
"Our societal norms and the media messages often support the notion that alcohol or other mood altering substances are just the thing to soothe those negative feelings," said Kathleen Riddle, president of Outreach, the noted drug and alcohol treatment program. "We see it quite differently. With the holidays approaching, now is a good time to take proactive measures."
"Increased use of alcohol or drugs almost always makes the situation worse, and does nothing to address the underlying problems. Worse, those under the influence have little ability to deal with the events around them, making it more difficult to balance daily needs like working and caring for children while also attempting to find shelter, get the heat back or apply for assistance," said Riddle.
Substance abuse professionals advise the following:
- If you are in recovery, use your support system. Seek out supportive friends or find a professional counselor with whom you can talk out your experience as soon as possible.
- Go over the experience in detail. Discuss what you felt while the events were happening.
- Make a plan to avoid situations in which alcohol or drugs will be present or offered. Attending self help meetings, church services and social/leisure activities are all good alternatives.
- The parks and other recreational areas are open again after being closed immediately after the storm. Exercise (such as walking and jogging) is a great way to reduce stress and spend time in a healthy way. Yoga, meditation and other relaxation activities can be extremely helpful in times of stress and trauma.
- If you are already in a substance abuse program, you may not have had access to the program because of the storm. Most programs are back in operation and you should prioritize making arrangements to see your counselor. Call and see how they might be able to assist you, especially if you have ongoing disruption or displacement in your life.
- Seek professional help if your emotions and/or substance use become overwhelming. Post-traumatic stress is normal after disasters and tragic events, such as Sandy. There is no shame in seeking help in these circumstances.
- Volunteer or contribute to the relief efforts. Those who suffered loss in the storm may well find comfort in helping others. Many counselors in programs are able to give back in this way, even if they themselves suffered trauma in the storm.
- For those fighting addiction during this post-Sandy recovery time, Outreach has offices in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island with programs for teenagers and adults, including some specialized programs for women and women with children. Many programs are multi-lingual.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call Outreach at 718-847-9233 or visit www.opiny.org.
Outreach is a nonprofit organization committed to addressing the issues stemming from drug and alcohol abuse by providing the highest quality of life-changing drug and alcohol treatment and training services.