For people struggling with addiction, virtually all of the services and treatments available to them have been disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic. As a counselor and case manager here at Beit T’Shuvah, where treatment hasn’t stopped, Bradley Elkins has a unique perspective on the effects of the crisis on those trying to get sober.
How are your clients faring?
It’s tough; we’re seeing people who have multiple years sober or people who are not even addicts struggling right now. So with people who are only a couple weeks sober, you’re seeing high anxiety and a lot of doubt. It might be tempting for those in early recovery to read all of this chaos as a sign that it’s not the time to get sober. If there were ever an excuse to go out and get loaded, a worldwide pandemic is a good one.
I’ve seen a lot of relapses, more so than normal. The addict community is getting hit really hard with relapse and death right now.
There’s also the accountability piece. Before, when I was only going into work once a week, who knew what I was doing those other six days? Sobriety is built on connection, and that’s been taken away from us.
I’ve found that the residents still at BTS are holding up remarkably well. Some days are horrific and high anxiety, but some days are great. The fact that they’ve stuck it out is a testament to their abilities to stay sober long term.
Are virtual AA meetings a decent substitute for in-person meetings?
I find them pretty enjoyable and interesting. You have this ability to go to meetings you weren’t previously able to go to, internationally or whatnot. They’re a viable substitute for me, but not for someone in early recovery who’s just building their twelve-step fellowship
Do you think the crisis will result in an uptick of addiction rates?
Yeah, I think even in the microcosm that is Beit T’Shuvah, I’ve seen a fair amount of people who’ve left, and kind went and did their own things. I don’t really know too many of them who are thriving right now.
I’ve talked to friends at other treatment programs, and relapse numbers are at a higher rate.
What keeps you coming into work—what’s motivating you right now?
There are two sides to the coin. On one, there’s a sort of selfish factor in that it keeps me occupied and fulfilled. I’m grateful that I still have a job and I’m grateful that I get to do something I enjoy and don’t have to be cooped up in the house all day. I get to interact with people.
And then on the other side, there are the guys I work with who’ve stuck it out. I get to be in the trenches with them and help build their lives up.
And then there’s my team: the counselors and friends I stand side by side with to keep the place afloat and keep people recovering from addiction. Unfortunately, addiction doesn’t stop during a pandemic—if anything, it gets worse.