Return to “Normal” – Adjusting to Post-Pandemic Life in Recovery

Vaccinations are widely available, pandemic restrictions are lifting, and signs are hopeful that we may all be able to enjoy a “normal” summer. For people in recovery this may mean yet another challenging transition – from in-person treatment to virtual and back again. What should you be prepared for in the months to come?

Post-Pandemic Anxiety

It seems strange that after more than a year of pandemic life anyone would be anxious about returning to normal, yet that is precisely what experts are reporting. After months of prolonged isolation, we’re now abruptly expected to jump back into things as if nothing has changed.

Just as it wasn’t easy for us all to adapt to pandemic life in the first place, it won’t be an easy transition back to pre-pandemic routines – especially when many have been traumatized by the events of this past year. A number of studies(1) show that people are exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a disorder with a strong link (2) to substance misuse. They may have experienced the loss of loved ones, struggled with mental health as a result of the isolation, or are battling with severe anxiety from the fear and uncertainty of the previous year.

For people who were actively struggling with a substance use disorder or in recovery, COVID-19 was a challenging time. For some, it was a trigger, resulting in a wave of relapses thanks to lack of standard access to typical support systems, both clinical and personal. For others, it was the impetus for increased substance use. We saw a huge spike in alcohol use in general throughout this period as many turned to substances to cope. We can’t know the full extent of the issue yet – how many more people may have developed an addiction during the pandemic – but we do know that the experience of the last 14 months can’t simply be wiped away in an instant. People will be bringing these struggles with them into post-pandemic life.

New Normal

Though virtual and telehealth options are not going away entirely, as things continue to open back up, those in recovery or struggling with addiction can expect a steady return to in-person counseling sessions, group meetings and more. In many ways this will be an extremely welcome return; an important part of recovery is community and support, and it has been difficult for some to find that virtually. Others, though, might feel anxious about returning to these options partially or in full, which is unsurprising given all the change and tumult they have been enduring.

The important thing to remember is that, whether you’re fully embracing all things in-person or more tentatively leaving your COVID-19 bubble, neither way of moving forward is the “right” option. At Spectrum Health Systems and the New England Recovery Center, we have always stressed individualized recovery plans, and that means taking the time to figure out what’s right for you. As long as you have the right support system behind you – virtually, face-to-face, or somewhere in-between – you have what you need for a successful recovery journey.


If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab and speak to our admissions team.

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