For some people struggling with addiction, the spring coronavirus lockdowns brought despair. For Anna, 42, the order to “shelter at home” — and the closure of her kids’ school — saved her life.
A stay-at-home mom with girls ages 8 and 10, Anna had become addicted to prescription pills after shoulder surgery. Prior to the pandemic, she spent her days high on the couch, taking 10 to 15 prescribed Percocet pills a day.
“I was a functioning addict,” she says. “I could get my kids out the door in the morning, and my house was always clean.”
But she had isolated herself from her girlfriends, canceling every dinner plan she made. “I hid at home so nobody would see me,” she recalls. “I was nodding out on the couch 3 hours a day, but nobody really knew it.”
She hid her addiction from her children, who were just young enough not to catch on. But she knew her behavior was affecting them. “On the days I was super sick, I’d have to call their dad and ask, ‘Can you keep them tonight?’ The girls hated that. I would tell them my belly was acting up, which they believed because I had a history of stomach problems.”
Anna’s addiction also strained her relationship with her partner, who knew the truth but couldn’t penetrate her denial. “He watched me spiral downward but didn’t know how to help me. I’d get vicious and say, ‘The pills were prescribed by a doctor. Go talk to the doctor.’ He didn’t have a prayer.’”
In retrospect, Anna says, the Percocet warped her sense of reality. “It’s a drug that plays with your mind. It makes you feel like you’re doing all these wonderful things, but you’re just sitting on your couch doing nothing.”
Gradually, she came to accept that she was addicted to the pills — that she was no longer taking them for shoulder pain but to hide from anxiety and depression. Still, she wasn’t ready to seek treatment.
“I was so ashamed,” she said. “I just kept it to myself.”
Then the pandemic struck.
“They started talking about closing the schools, and I thought: I cannot be sick on the bathroom floor while my kids are trying to go to school online.”
This time, Anna was ready to get help. She’d already been to the emergency room four times due to nausea and vomiting. No longer chasing a high, she just wanted to feel normal again.
“Coronavirus was the last straw,” she says. “I knew I didn’t have the luxury of being able to be sick.”
She told her partner: “I’m done. I’m ending this nightmare for all of us.” The next day, he went with her to Ideal Option.
She started on Suboxone immediately. Since then, she says “I haven’t even had the urge to get pills. I’ve never looked back, and I’ve never felt better.”
Recovery from addiction is always a challenge, but in the midst of a pandemic, the climb is steeper in some respects. We celebrate those who are thriving in recovery despite the extra challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.