In the recent weeks, much has changed in our country and in our world due to the Covid19 pandemic. For people in recovery, especially those in early recovery, these changes have been particularly impactful. Most people who struggle with addiction also struggle with isolation. In early recovery, we are taught to reach out to others, to connect both in person and on the phone, and to make sure that we are not spending too much time alone. This has all changed over the course of the last month.
At Turning Point of Tampa, we made the decision to move our IOP program to a virtual platform after the CDC recommended that people not gather in groups of 10 or more. The decision was made on a Saturday and 2 days later virtual IOP was up and running. Some clients had reservations about the effectiveness of this medium…would it be the same? Would they still be able to connect with their peers and feel safe to share vulnerable details about their lives? The answers to these questions are not black and white, similar to most things that we have questions about in recovery. While doing group on a virtual platform is certainly not the same as meeting in person, I have found that the connection between group members remains quite strong and that clients have been able to share openly and intimately with their peers.
Three key factors of recovery at any stage are practicing honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. These principles can be practiced through any medium, whether on the phone, in person, or through Zoom. When Alcoholics Anonymous first formed, newcomers would get sober by reading the Big Book and communicating with other alcoholics through letters. If they could get sober and stay sober that way, we can certainly get through this pandemic using the tools we have at our disposal via modern technology.
Here are a few tips to help you stay sober during a pandemic:
- STAY CONNECTED! Call your sponsor. Call people in your network. Facetime. Go to meetings online. Go to meetings on the phone. Go to meetings! Reaching out to others not only helps you to feel connected with them, it also serves as a way for you to be of service and check on how others are doing during this time.
- LOWER EXPECTATIONS. It is normal to be struggling with what is happening in the world right now. People who are not in recovery and don’t have problems with addiction are struggling as well. You do not have to get through this perfectly, you just have to get through this sober/abstinent/clean.
- Remember that THIS TOO SHALL PASS. We don’t know when it will be over, but this new way of life is not going to last forever. In a month or two, we will all hopefully be able to be out of our houses and getting back to our normal routines. Remembering that this is just a small span of time in the overall bigger picture of life will help you cope with the daily hardships of social distancing.
- PRACTICE SELF-CARE. Go outside for walks. Start a new hobby. Make sure you are eating well and drinking enough water. Stick to a routine by getting up at the same time every day. The basic things we do for our overall wellbeing when we’re not going through a pandemic still apply during this time.
- BE HONEST. If you are having thoughts of using, talk about it! There is nothing to be ashamed about. The disease of addiction is opportunistic and will use any stressful situation, much less a pandemic, to give you a reason to go back to your drug(s) of choice. Let others know what is going on inside of your head and share regularly about your thoughts and feelings; you may or may not be surprised to hear that others are going through the exact same thing too.