Even as we continue to live through the Covid-19 pandemic, life slowly seems to be returning to some version of normal. However, the days of face-to-face 12-step meetings, in-person counseling sessions, and coffee shop recovery conversations are still a distant hope.
How in the world does a program of addiction recovery reliant on community thrive under these conditions? How do we offer each other support and encouragement from six feet (or more) apart? How do we avoid isolation when we’re asked to self-isolate?
Navigating addiction recovery with potentially months of social distancing ahead seems daunting. Let’s take a look at what’s working in some recovery communities and what help is available for those struggling.
Turns out, where there’s a Higher Power, there’s a way.
When this started, recovering folks across the world quickly made adjustments to meetings, outreach support, and treatment center protocol to accommodate this new world.
Traditional face-to-face 12-step meetings set up Zoom accounts. Al-Anon’s phone bridge, long a staple for 12-step recovery, broke record attendance numbers of loved ones dealing with in-house active alcoholics. Some treatment centers and addiction recovery professionals began seeing clients through video chats.
If you find yourself quarantined with someone in active addiction, support is still available. This is especially true if you find yourself in a dangerous situation. Local resources for domestic violence are still open. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is still open 24 hours per day/7 days a week: 1-800-799-7233/1-800-787-3224 (TTY) en Español.
How to Maintain Your Recovery While Social Distancing
Into Action has put together five simple ways to maintain your recovery even while social distancing.
- Phone meetings/video meetings.
Call the regional offices for your local 12-step meetings to get information about area online meetings. For example, Narcotics Anonymous has a 24-hour hotline at 1-888-253-1934. Ask for regional office phone numbers to learn about online meetings.
If a video meeting feels too overwhelming, try a phone meeting. You can find Alcoholics Anonymous phone meeting listings and Al-Anon meetings. Remember, you don’t have to talk, it’s okay to just listen.
- Go heavy on the outreach calls.
With your normal meeting schedule altered, make more outreach phone calls to avoid isolation. A good rule of thumb for addiction recovery is committing to one phone conversation per day with another person in recovery. If you can’t get in touch with anyone, make three attempts and leave three voicemail messages asking for a call back. An outreach call can last as little as five minutes. Just give yourself enough time to check in with another recovery person.
- Schedule outreach meetings.
If you’re struggling or just need more human interaction, schedule a 15-minute call with a friend in recovery. Start the call with the Serenity Prayer, then allow yourself a timed, five-minute share. When you finish sharing, allow the other person to give two minutes of feedback. Then, have the other person share. This is a simple way to stay connected and keep daily resentments from growing.
- Use the extra time at home to work through your steps.
Set a timer and write on each step for 30 minutes daily. Many 12-step writing guides are online. Ask your sponsor or others in recovery for suggestions on helpful writing guides.
- Meet outside (at a safe distance).
Do you have two or three good friends in recovery living near you? If so, consider meeting in a backyard or a park each week for a meeting with folks, making sure to sit at least six feet apart. Keep the format simple. Take topics from approved program literature and take turns sharing.
Don’t allow yourself to get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Yes, this is a tall order during a worldwide health crisis. However, the addiction recovery community still exists. Recovery may look a little different right now, but it’s available if you make the effort.
Most importantly, stay safe. If your home situation is a detriment to your recovery, call us for help. Addiction recovery professionals are still ready and waiting to help anyone struggling.
Work to connect daily with someone in recovery, make a meeting either by phone or online, and treat yourself gently. No one is handling this situation perfectly, focus on what you can do, just for today, to stay healthy, one day at a time.