Community and Connection are critical in early recovery from addictions of all kinds. Getting clean and staying clean can be difficult for several reasons; it can also feel lonely when the people that are closest to us – in the environment and in our hearts – may not completely understand what we’re going through. Worse, sometimes those in our closest circles are not supportive of our decision or our efforts. We need to find the people who get it, and we need to be around people who aren’t afraid to talk about it.
Normally, the largest and most successful communities of alcoholics and addicts, Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, have meetings going almost around the clock in big cities and at least a weekly meeting or 2 in smaller towns. These are not normal times, Friends.
COVID-19 is here, and it is changing the way things work in our country and in the world – at least temporarily. Most recently, gatherings larger than 50 people are being cancelled, and there is a strong recommendation to avoid social gatherings with more than 10 people. Public spaces are closing, churches are cancelling services, and 12-step and other recovery support groups are also shutting the doors. We are being called to keep 6 feet of distance between us, and many people are choosing, when they can at least, to stay home. It is an equation for isolation, and isolation is not a good idea for humans generally and for folks struggling to stay sober specifically.
The current state-of-affairs may seem to be pushing us to close the doors, shut the windows and disconnect from humanity, but I have a different idea. I believe that COVID-19 is an invitation for us to get more connected; we just have to get creative about it. Fortunately, we have the tools to do it if we’re willing to stretch a little outside of our comfort zones.
Here are some ideas for staying connected during the pandemic:
Take a walk outside with a friend or two. Sunshine and fresh air are always good ideas. Walks are a great way to get exercise, catch up, vent, share coping skills, and discuss recovery topics. You could even do a walking meeting if you liked. *
Create smaller communities out of the larger communities that you belong to. If you are a member of a 12-step or other recovery group, work together to create small nests. Nests of under 10 people can meet outside or in larger living room spaces with good ventilation. Also, individuals within these nests can find ways to be of service – grocery delivery and other errands for older or immunocompromised members comes to mind.
Take even more advantage of nature: bike rides, hikes, outdoor skating, running, and dog walking are all things that folks can do together. *
- Create Facebook interest and activity groups. Since lots of folks are staying home, you could have groups related to creativity, cooking, books, writing…anything. Make it positive, and ask for active, supportive participation.
- Host a small meeting, meditation or prayer session, or just a social get together over the internet. Here’s a list of the top 5 free video conferencing sites that might be just what you need. Zoom isn’t listed, but it’s an easy addition.
- Just talk to 1 friend at a time using apps like Facetime, Facebook Messenger, What’s App or Google Hangouts. If you’re a little old fashioned, just text.
- Pick up the phone – more often than you normally do. Call folks to see how they’re doing. Call folks just to say, “hello.” Let people know when you’re thinking of them and reach out when you need a friendly voice.
- Hit a meeting on your own or with your friends at 12 Steps Online.
- Connect with the already existing sober communities on Instagram and Facebook. To do that, search #hashtags on Instagram like #sober #teetotalling #alcoholfree, and #drugfree. Check out this list of 10 Awesome Sobriety Communities on Facebook.
- Create a virtual book-club using social media or video conferencing. Check out this list of 14 great books about addiction and recovery. Recent books by Holly Whitacker and Laura McKowen are worth checking out too. Or look at some books on personal growth and development. Books by Byron Katie, Brene’ Brown and Michael Singer are wonderful and should promote some great discussions.
COVID-19 is here, and it’s shaking things up. Things are up in the air in a way that they haven’t been in decades, and that means stress is high. Financial, family, and health – everything hits close to home. This is NOT the time to hide and disconnect. We can’t do this alone. Connection is more necessary than ever. Try some of these ideas, and if you have nifty ways of staying connected to others in this time, be sure to comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
*If you have friends who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, please invite them along. Maybe the walk is shorter (or maybe it’s longer because they can outdistance you!), maybe you push sometimes… whatever needs to happen can happen. Get creative.
Dr. Allaire received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, as Valedictorian of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and his Medical Doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as Chief Resident. He is the medical monitor for the Physician Counseling Committee of the Harris County Medical Society and the Medical Director of Serenity House Detox. Dr. Allaire specializes in medically assisted detox cases, treating patients in recovery from addiction or other mental health disorders, the medical assessment and monitoring of patients with addictive disorders, medical care related to eating disorders and the medical treatment of patients with mental health conditions.