SALT LAKE CITY — The pandemic has made it even harder for people recovering from substance abuse to stay healthy.
Recently, there’s been an increase in drug overdoses in Utah that has experts concerned. Here’s how to help friends and loved ones stay sober.
A life of partying led to an addiction to drugs and alcohol for LT Weaver, who lives in Pleasant View. Now 10 months sober, he talks about it nightly with his wife, Feliz Weaver, on their YouTube channel “Recovering Addict.”
“He just jumped right in,” she said. “He was like, ‘There’s a pandemic, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this.’ And I was like, ‘Yes.’ We’re still on the path.”
But not that long ago, his addiction was so bad that Feliz Weaver worried she’d lose him.
“Real close to alcohol poisoning, for sure,” she said.
“I’d built up a tolerance that most people would have been in the hospital for how much I was drinking,” LT Weaver said.
He is not alone. In May, preliminary data from the Utah Department of Health showed drug overdoses seemingly increased in Utah.
“We did see a slight increase in counts at the end of April starting into mid-May. It started to plateau in mid-May,” said Megan Broekemeier, drug overdose epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health.
But it seems we may now be on a downward trend. Experts are monitoring these numbers closely because social isolation is hard on people in recovery.
If you have a loved one who is experiencing addiction, experts suggest taking the following steps:
1. Reach Out
Helping people stay clean starts with reaching out.
“It could sound something like, ‘I see that you’re hurting right now, how can I help you?” said Lauren Radcliffe, overdose prevention coordinator at the Violence and Injury Prevention Program, Utah Department of Health.
2. Avoid anger
Next, avoid anger; it only heightens the situation.
3. Use ‘I statements’
Use “I statements” when discussing their addiction.
“I’m really worried about what I notice going on. I would like to help you,” Radcliffe said. “Do not say, ‘You’re doing this. You’re doing this, you’re doing this.’”
4. See their potential
Try to see the person’s potential, not just their addiction.
5. Direct them to resources
Direct them to the many substance abuse resources available online, by phone, or in person.
6. Stay open-minded about recovery
Finally, stay open-minded about recovery.
“There are so many different avenues that someone can choose for recovery, and what’s right for them, might be and usually is totally different from what the family thinks,” Radcliffe said.
“If the loved ones can remember that person for who they were, and hope that they will once again be that person,” said Weaver’s sponsor, Dale Covington.
Dale almost died from an opioid overdose but today is 14 years sober.
“Love can do a lot of things,” Feliz Weaver said. “I think we’re going to do great things.”
“The future’s never looked so bright, honestly,” LT Weaver said.
Feliz and LT Weaver remain optimistic, and they’re using their past to help others see a brighter future.
Having the drug that counters the effects of opioid overdose, Naloxone, on hand is key and makes recovery possible. For more information, visit naloxone.utah.gov or utahnaloxone.org. There are many resources to help people stay clean. You can find them by calling 211. Opidemic.org is another great resource for families.