Working a program of recovery during this COVID-19 pandemic may be tricky but it is important however you choose to go about it. This is an opportune moment to double down on existing and new recovery tools, a time to recalibrate and focus on what you have been meaning to dive into. If, like me, you were privy to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) before the pandemic struck, you may feel those anxieties soften upon self-quarantining. With less options for outdoor activity and social gatherings, I’ve experienced more space and time around recovery work I have been putting off, like reading program literature and completing stepwork. There is no singular way to navigate a pandemic and no fixed set of tools, but read on for some practical ones that will guide you towards a sane and sober journey while in lockdown.
Online Recovery Meetings
It is often said that addiction is the opposite of connection, whether it’s a bond to others or even to yourself. Although online recovery meetings are not the same as in-person meetings, and oftentimes can get awkward with lagging Wi-Fi connections and the impossibility of reading body language, they are a close second and what is available to us at this time. There is a kind of acceptance I’ve been growing into around the limitations of virtual recovery while embracing the benefits as well.
12-Step Zoom Meetings
Check to see if your regular 12-Step recovery meetings are meeting on Zoom, a video conferencing platform, and if so, whether they are password-protected. Some meetings require participants to e-mail the leader ahead of time for the password, while others list them on their respective websites. Some meetings are cancelled until further notice, which may require you to shift your meeting attendance and the ways in which you stay connected to other recovering fellows.
For a few weeks, I was on a pink cloud of attending Zoom meetings for various 12-Step programs, yet I found myself wildly distracted on them–muting and taking myself off video to do dishes, eat, clean, or just keep myself compulsively busy in other ways. I try not to be hard on myself when this happens, as it’s been an adjustment. However, it’s been freeing to be able to attend in my pajamas and not force myself to share or even use the video option. One boundary I’d like to practice refraining from private messaging other participants (who are also good friends) during the meetings, as that can also be a distraction.
Additional Online Communities and Media
If the 12 Steps aren’t for you, SMART (Self-Management And Recovery Training) meetings in New York City are also meeting online. The virtual recovery community In the Rooms hosts online meetings for a wide array of 12-Step programs, including a Coronavirus support group on Monday nights that is definitely worth checking out. Other great resources to turn to at this time include checking out online events from BIGVISION, a sober community for young adults ages 18-35 in NYC. Some recent events include, yoga classes, game night, noon hangouts, and writing workshops.
Recent podcast episodes from spiritual teacher Tara Brach and Sam Harris address managing anxiety and mindfulness during these times and can be soothing. Listening to non-pandemic related comedy, astrology, and poetry podcasts have been helpful for me as well.
“Zoom fatigue” is a very real possibility, so turning to in-person meetups (at a socially sanctioned distance, of course) are great alternatives to give your eyes a rest and not only have connection, but some light exercise as well. A friend remarked today that he now has “friend walk fatigue,” which seems likely as well. Though your options are limited in the ways of connection, you can always take a break from certain forms of connection if you find yourself growing weary of them. In solitude, turn to books, movies, and hobbies that are comforting, that don’t necessarily amount to anything “productive.” Again, there is no right way to go about a pandemic.
Service Helps Keep You Sober
Doing service might seem difficult from within the confines from your home, but it is not impossible. Volunteer to chair a Zoom meeting, keep time while others are sharing, or read from the script. If you need a break from recovery, check in on your neighbors, especially if they’re elderly, and see if you can assist with groceries or other tasks. Though service may look different, it is just as valuable, if not more so than ever before. I have to remind myself it’s OK to practice “healthy selfishness,” but I can get stir-crazy and feel awfully lonely when I’m not checking in with others. Listening to others’ experiences of this pandemic can bring helpful perspective.
Other Coping Mechanisms
When in pain, feeling lonely, or any assortment of other uncomfortable feelings, reach out. Fear and change can be two major triggers for those in recovery. If you’re not craving a drink or drug, you may find other addictions and compulsions cropping up. If you’re curious about support, now’s the perfect chance to hop on a Zoom meeting for that substance or behavior, anywhere in the world. Coping mechanisms and symptoms are substitutes for self-nurturing care and support. As self-negating as they may feel, they are self-protecting. Not only might you feel powerless over this pandemic, but you are also powerless over that feeling of powerlessness. The least painful route is one in which you extend radical compassion towards any and everything that is coming up.
Your experience during this unprecedented time can be rooted in a solution no matter how hard, unpredictable, and unending it may seem. Some days might feel like a slog, feeling like the day before, and others may bring with them a sense of hope and levity. With the practical tools of sobriety outlined above, you don’t have to feel aimless or helpless. You’re only as alone as you wish to be. Physical isolation doesn’t have to mean spiritual isolation. Reach out, look inward, and trust that we will come out of this stronger than ever, with greater clarity around what really matters in order to maintain a strong recovery.