This is an opinion piece.

It’s said that idle hands are the devil’s workshop, which is an old saying dating at least as far back as Geoffrey Chaucer in the 12th century, who called “idle hands the devil’s tools.” 

I thought of that idiom while researching the impact the novel coronavirus pandemic has had on those dealing with substance use disorders and living with mental health issues in addition to the stress of the stay-at-home order. 

Also, I came across an article by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), “The Loneliness Epidemic” and this quote, “Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Doesn’t that seem unreal? 

As someone who battles anxiety on a daily basis, I believe it’s critical that we, as a community, reach out to those who face obstacles and additional trials of the new way of life COVID-19 has thrust upon us.

The American Addiction Center (AAC) website stated although the coronavirus is a severe public health concern, the disease of addiction is also a serious and challenging one to battle. Couple this with a mental health disorder, and it can feel terribly overwhelming. Yet, it can be beaten with a positive support system. A support system can be family members, friends or community outreach programs.

I read a Facebook post which accurately summed up how the community could change the perception of other people. The post stated, “I’ve seen a lot of nasty posts in regard to people making ‘non-essential’ trips. Do you ever think maybe that guy buying a gallon of paint knows he must keep busy because idle hands in the past have caused him to relapse and pick up that case of beer? So, he’s using this time to do home improvements, something that keeps his mind busy while feeling a sense of accomplishment, trying to avoid painful triggers while possibly alone? Or, maybe, that lady buying bags of soil and seeds, has struggled with depression and suicide? How do you know that planting and watching something beautiful grow during this time of darkness isn’t essential to her and holding on to what little hope she might still have? We need to remember that it is impossible to know just by looking at a situation from ‘our’ small lens what someone is truly going through or where their mental health is at. Everyone handles chaos and healing through different means and I know we are all on edge but please stop being so judgmental of others.”

Even with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, confronting an addiction is paramount to the health of individuals struggling with compulsive substance use. It is important not to let the fear of COVID-19 stop you from starting a treatment program that can not only help you achieve long-term sobriety but may ultimately save your life. Like other progressive and chronic conditions, addiction doesn’t always align with life events, such as the coronavirus. Nevertheless, in many instances, postponing treatment isn’t always an option, and could even be detrimental, according to AAC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lawrence Weinstein.

Weinstein warns isolation and loneliness could trigger a surge in relapses for those in recovery. Moreover, for people who regularly drink alcohol or partake in drug use as a social activity, being unable to do so may also bring to light underlying substance addiction problems, he stated.

“As our social lives have come to a standstill in terms of physical interactions, some people might discover they have an underlying substance dependency during self-isolation, which may have previously been camouflaged by an external social life,” Weinstein said. “For example, in the past these people may have partaken in regular excessive drinking or drug consumption in the company of their social group. Because social gatherings are now prohibited during this time, they may discover that when they are alone, their dependency on alcohol or drugs might become more apparent.”

But, Weinstein said help is at hand, whether you’re new to the path of recovery, or have had your route temporarily disrupted. 

“Thankfully, there is online technology available today, such as support chatrooms, forums and hotlines you can access if you are feeling vulnerable or afraid of relapsing,” Weinstein said. 

To keep any idle hands from being the devil’s tools and learn how to help yourself or someone you know who may be suffering withdrawal symptoms, concerned about relapse or living with any mental health illnesses, visit the AAC website for more information. 

Nickie Simpson is a staff writer for The Reporter. She can be reached at


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