Columbus' Jeffrey Anastasia started experimenting with drugs as a teenager and spent the better part of the next two decades of his life addicted to opioids. Now 38, Jeffrey speaks from experience when he shares his concerns about people recovering from drug addiction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"One of the biggest triggers for us is boredom, and I'm worried about a lot of people out there because there's a lot of boredom right now," Jeffrey said. "I have 56 misdemeanors, seven DUIs, 16 driver's license suspensions, and six felonies to my name. My drug use knocked off 20 years of my life."
In 2014, Jeffrey found himself at rock-bottom. He was homeless, with his only belongings stored in a trash bag that he carried with him on the street. But it was later that year when he finally checked himself into Maryhaven to get sober. He hasn't used since. While Jeffrey still attends out-patient meetings at Maryhaven to maintain his sobriety, he now has taken it upon himself to assist others who are walking along his same path.
The doors to Maryhaven, Central Ohio's largest and most comprehensive behavioral health services provider, remain open for individuals seeking in-patient and out-patient care during the coronavirus outbreak. Many of those in recovery also spend their days attending various anonymous association meetings at Maryhaven facilities. Those meetings are currently postponed, following state orders on social distancing.
Suddenly, many of those in recovery have a lot more free time on their hands.
"Some people in recovery don't have jobs, so right now they have nothing else to do, so it's important to be sure they are spending their time the right way. This is why it is so important to pick up the phone and call and check on somebody to make sure they're okay," Jeffrey said.
That's what Jeffrey does on a regular basis: checking on those within his Maryhaven network who might need support to stay on track. Like so many in the business world during the coronavirus pandemic, Jeffrey and his peers have set up daily virtual meetings with a group of peers to maintain regular collaboration.
"We talk about a lot of things, but I tell them you just have to stay busy. On the calls, we read our 12-step book to recovery. We share personal stories. I suggest, if they live with their parents, they should find out what they can do to help around the house. The key is you have to stay busy," Jeffrey said.
In his years of recovery, Jeffrey has pulled his life back together. He's now married and has regained custody of his children. Jeffrey also owns a landscaping business, which he says has always been a dream of his. Now, with Ohioans under a stay-at-home order, Jeffrey's business has slowed, but he has still found a way to occupy his time by helping others.
"I live for sobriety. I fight this on a daily basis. It helps me stay sober, having these phone calls, and talking to others. I'm just like anybody else and we're all in this together," Jeffrey said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and would like to seek treatment, you can call Maryhaven at (614) 445-8131. For those looking to connect with others who are in recovery, Maryhaven suggests you send them a message on its Facebook page.
Maryhaven is one of more than 90 members of the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance. Through the Denial, Ohio campaign, the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance is working to shift the "Not my kid" mindset and prevent the misuse of prescription opioids. To learn more about the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance, visit DontLiveinDenial.org.