SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Nearly two years ago, Cortland Soulia had his life sorted out and put his 21 years of drug and alcohol addictions behind him, with the help of the Salvation Army Adult Recovery Center program.
“I ended up assistant managing restaurants and stuff like that while I was out here. Making money. Meeting my girlfriend at the time, having a son and doing everything I could to make things work out here,” Soulia said.
Then the pandemic hit, turning the world he built upside down. He lost his job and was left feeling isolated.
“There was no personal contact. There was nobody that I could reach out to and get together with because of COVID. So, I started to smoke and drink again. And then, it escalated. One night I had a blackout and things went south at my house,” Soulia said.
Like Soulia, many individuals struggling with addiction found the pandemic to be a trying time. For some, it even pushed them over the edge.
According to the CDC, about 93,000 people died from an overdose during the pandemic, nearly a 30% increase nationwide and a new record. Capt. Timothy Pemberton, with the Salvation Army’s Adult Recovery Center in Santa Monica, shared that the government’s financial assistance during the pandemic is part of the reason why recovering addicts in isolation were led to relapse.
“Having the extra cash is problematic. We’ve had individuals who have come into our program and realized after a certain amount of time, back in the beginning of the pandemic, that they qualified for the unemployment insurance. And because they qualified after three to four months and they also qualified for the pandemic insurance, they were getting checks of close to $10,000,” Pemberton said.
That extra cash is what funded Soulia’s relapse, as well. But today, he’s more than 120 days sober and finding recovery, once again, with the Salvation Army.
“Just a new life. A new beginning to a long journey of sobriety. You know, extended sobriety. Having my family back which is already starting to happen because of this program,” Soulia said.
Now, he’s rebuilding his life and he hopes sobriety will lead him to a brighter future.