(Photo courtesy of The Magdalen House.)

Overcoming alcoholism is tough under any circumstances. Add triggers, such as isolation and boredom, and recovery just got a lot harder. Experts say that lockdowns because of the coronavirus pose serious relapse risks to recovering alcoholics and addicts, not to mention their families. At The Magdalen House, a nonprofit that helps women recover from alcoholism, Executive Director Lisa Kroencke said the organization has experienced a 25 percent increase in calls for help, as well as participation growth in virtual family support groups. “We usually see alcoholic women reaching out, not family members,” Kroencke said. “This has opened our doors.” In addition to local women, The Magdalen House has served women from across the United States, St. Croix and London who found the organization online and dialed in for help. We talked with Kroencke about how The Magdalen House is helping recovering women and families seek help during lockdown.

Have you seen an uptick in calls for help since the stay-at-home order was issued?

Because of the isolation that comes with what we’re mandated to do, we have seen an incredible amount of intake calls and people reaching out for help. Women are relapsing. They don’t know what to do because they’re locked in the house. If an alcoholic person is living with you, everything becomes more difficult.

What advice would you give to women struggling with alcoholism during lockdown?

This is the perfect excuse to start drinking again. You’re going to tell yourself you’re alone, but you’re really not. Don’t believe the story your brain is telling you. There is a lot of help right now. Virtually reach out for social connection as much as possible. When you focus on just not drinking, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. This is about recovery. If you grow yourself with your family, you’re going to have a much better foundation of success getting through this time.

How are women staying strong in recovery?

They’re walking their dog, meditating, creating family themed cooking nights, doing pajama parties and starting small groups on Zoom with the women they graduated with.

What advice do you have for families who are sheltering in place with an alcoholic or recovering alcoholic? 

They’ve got to reach out to someone who has been in their situation. They’re going to get advice from parents, friends and people who think they know what to do. There are a lot of peers whom they can ask, “What did you do in this situation?” Yelling and fighting could be deadly. Those solutions don’t work.

What adjustments have you made because of the coronavirus?

I had a dad call me, begging for his daughter to get in. He said, “I’m not worried about her dying from COVID. I’m worried about her dying of alcoholism.” We reduced our limit to nine — usually it’s 14 — but we opened the doors and let her in. We can’t send these women to hospitals right now. We’re trying to balance social distancing and what we’re doing for families. We had a woman who was here for 14 days, and we kept her for extra days because her family was exposed to COVID. We’ve been helping them shelter in our place so they’re not getting exposed. Our protocols have been keeping these women healthier.

What resources does The Magdalen House offer right now?

We have a resource hub on our website. We have job listings. They’re for everyone, not just the women who have lost their jobs. We have five to six virtual meetings a day. During our happy hours, we play games and have kids on. We don’t even have to talk about recovery.

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