COVID-19 presents new challenges to those struggling with addiction

NEW ORLEANS ?Kevin Gardere remembers the day he knew it was time to get clean like it was yesterday. In fact, it was some 20 years ago today, his birthday.

?March 31st, which was going to be my golden birthday in 2001 and I spent that day in the detox unit at Charity Hospital,? said Gardere, who battled with an addiction to opioids and alcohol before getting sober.

With a health crisis forcing people across the nation to stay home, Gardere worries not necessarily for him but for others like him when he was first trying to get sober.

?It?s extremely difficult right now,? said Gardere. ?Isolation is a big thing, something that we ask people to stay away from when you are early on in recovery, (now) you know there is just not a place you can just walk into and say help me.?

At Bridge House and Grace House, where Gardere is now the executive director, the clients can stay but they?ve stopped accepting anyone new. It?s not the only recovery facility in New Orleans making changes amid the COVID-19 crisis. Because of safety guidelines, the Responsibility House on the Westbank has had to change up the way they offer certain programs and they?ve had to get creative in their approach.

?Virtually all of the alcoholics anonymous, narcotics anonymous, and cocaine anonymous meetings around town are not happening,? said Mike Martyn with Responsibility House.

Many in recovery are now relying on virtual meetings but the message behind the meeting remains the same.

?I think the core of what we do remains pretty much the same in terms of philosophy and methods and so forth,? said ?Martyn. ?The service delivery is really different.?

For those struggling with addiction, relapse during times of uncertainty is more likely but Gardere says there is still help available albeit in a different form.

?The saying is a day at a time and really we just have today,? said Gardere. ?If people are struggling, reach out to someone you know that is in recovery and go online and look for those programs.?