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Pandemic adds challenges to recovery process

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    During the Southern Kenai Peninsula Opioid Task Force July meeting, attendees heard a talk from Dr. Reverend Ted Wiard, a New Mexico clinician, on the parallels between loss and grief, and addiction and recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The meeting was held over Zoom video conferencing.

“Usually in grief, you move from what's known towards the future and what the past has been right now, we're moving from an unknown to an unknown in the COVID world,” Wiard said. “And we're all in a grief process. Hopefully most of us are moving out of a trauma process. So we'll see if this changes over the next couple of years, but right now this is how we do grief.”

    Wiard also drew parallels between those dealing with addiction and those concerned about Covid.

“In the entire world right now, there's this denial of this thing called COVID and then different levels and how different people are working through these phases,” he said. “Somewhere in there, there's anger, and anger I call protest. I might not be angry at anybody or a certain thing, but it's just the protest. It's the protest. This isn't what I wanted. This isn't where I wanted to be.”

    He said that the change in how treatment for opioid users is conducted has caused setbacks for many in recovery.

“I know suicide rates are up. They were already high in the field we have to be working in. Relapses are really high right now. I know the Taos area, we're having to be about a suicide a week right now,” Wiard said. “And we're also having people that would have been thought of as high functioning, running into the same thing, plus high levels of burnout with different types of providers in these fields, as we're not connecting in the same way. So that's really why I got ahold of Stephanie and said, hey, let's make sure we're connecting however we can.”

    Stephanie is Stephanie Stillwell, the coordinator of the Southern Kenai Peninsula Opioid Task Force.

      “I personally resonated when he started talking about coming down from transition from the trauma to the grief, and then finally accepting, where we're at right now,” Stillwell said. “And I love that he said 'acceptance is an acknowledgement of a fact and nothing more.' And I think that's like something big that I took away from that whole piece. Just accepting that this is the reality for right now. And that's just a fact. And so from that is my, I can go on my foundation to grow from there.”

    Wiard said the Covid pandemic have created new challenges for both patients and care-givers.

“I know I'm very frustrated because our drug court can't do UAs as easily. We're not celebrating victories as well 'cause we can't have big old barbecues and have sober fun. And so it's very difficult to feel we're holding as well. And that's a whole other grief process,” Wiard said. “So I'm finding the most important piece is acknowledging these different losses. Realizing there is a grief process, if I'm caught in trauma, which means I'm hypervigilant and I'm just going back and forth. Where do I get the help? Where am I getting the supports to make sure I'm in my frontal lobe as well. Also, so I'm not taking it home to my family.”

    The Southern Kenai Peninsula Opioid Task Force holds meetings monthly, every fourth Wednesday of the month from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Look for them on Facebook for more information.

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