In the midst of chaotic times, catastrophe, pandemics, and natural disasters can happen unexpectedly. However, on a national and global level, they have the power to turn our lives upside down. They can throw us off guard, and if we’re not careful lead to relapse.
Staying Sober Through A Global Catastrophe
Across the country, the recent COVID-19 crisis, 35 million school children are forced to stay home. Parents are struggling to find childcare, and there is an ongoing struggle for those who fear they have been exposed and are awaiting results.
During these next few months, it’s clear that a shift in our normalcy will take place. Waking up and walking into our home office just feet away may become everyday routine. Work meetings, therapy, and 12-step meetings may take place via teleconference. We’ll leave our houses only for essential items like food and medicine and if we’re lucky, get to take a walk or exercise outside.
Not only infection, as the virus moves forward, echoes of devastation may follow closely behind. Many who are unable to work from home may lose their jobs; businesses may shut down. As many of us have seen, with the lengths that those around us go to get basic necessities for themselves, we may continue to see isolation dominate and addiction continue to thrive.
As panic ensues, the spirit of connection for many go out the window. However, in the midst of a dystopian normalcy and looming devastation, isn’t it ironic that as we’re being told to isolate, it’s times like this we need to come together the most?
The Irony of It All
For those of us who are sober, we’ve also lived two lives. From the darkest times of our own lives, we’ve been able to find the silver lining and make peace with ourselves, learning and acting our way to a state of hope. In the midst of these trying times, we must not forget where we came from and what we’ve been through. These times are going to be tough and probably get tougher. If we can’t feel united holding hands during prayer or giving hugs while we’re gathered together, we can begin to feel united in helping out the rest of the world by staying sober and leading others by example by doing what became the basic cornerstone of our recovery: connecting with each other.
However, a pandemic crisis has creates unanticipated situations including unexpected job loss, a loved one becoming ill, a student being forced to stay home from school, or the disruption in a routine. For those in recovery, whatever structures used to maintain sobriety may fall away during a pandemic or global catastrophe.
For those in recovery, the loss of a job not only means the loss of a structured life, support network, health insurance and an income, but it could also mean the loss of an emotional foundation that one has began to build in sobriety including help boost self-esteem, self-confidence and the feeling of value. For those who have lost a job amidst the crisis, it doesn’t mean you don’t have any options. If unemployment benefits are not an option, companies like grocery stores, delivery services, and shipping companies such as Amazon are currently hiring widespread. While the loss of employment can cause a massive disruption in most lives, it’s important to remember that options are available. Just because you’ve lost employment doesn’t mean that you have to lose what you’ve gained in recovery.
Illness In The Family
During a widespread catastrophe, people often fall ill. In the case of COVID-19, with the higher frequency of individuals getting sick, the lack of testing sites, and the abundance of fear, it can oftentimes lead to higher stress rates resulting in higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The possibility of the hospitalization of a loved one and the lack of ability to visit due to emergency measures can gravely affect someone in recovery. All coping skills learned can disappear when crisis is in tow. During this time, it’s important to remember that a relapse or lapse of substance abuse can result in strained relationships with family members that may have just been rebuilt from the work that one has been done in recovery. Remembering to keep recovery a priority is essential during external catastrophes.
Recovering students who have lost both their housing, work-study, and camaraderie of classmates may feel like they have been cut off from the world. As college and university closures have been more frequent, graduations have been suspended and students are now living from home attending virtual classes. During this time, students in recovery may be at a higher risk for relapse, as most of their support structure and routine has come to a halt. It’s important to remember that if schools begin virtual classes, taking time to adjust and cater to your own needs are equally as important. Reaching out to friends, family members, therapists, sponsors, and recovery coaches will be important during this time.
Loss of Routine
Especially in early recovery, the development of new behaviors and creating a structured routine can be paramount in building a solid foundation in sobriety. When individuals are forced to cancel all structured routine, it could potentially destabilize a person’s newfound sobriety – however, it doesn’t have to. Learning to develop routines in other areas and hone basic skills can help mitigate some of the stressors of the pandemic can help ease discomfort in the process. Some of these skills to practice can include:
- Gratitude lists
- Practicing proper nutrition
- Practicing proper sleep hygiene
During times like these, no matter what type of loss you’ve felt, it’s important to stay connected to those around you. According to Dr. Lawrence Brown Jr., CEO of a facility in New York, feeling stressed and isolated can cause those in recovery to turn back to substance abuse. “People who have lost proximity to support systems, programs and relationships that help them stay sober may be tempted to self-medicate in order to deal with stress, anxiety and isolation,” he explained.
If you’re involved in a drug and alcohol treatment program, continuing to engage in the same therapy groups and sessions can help safeguard against relapse during this vulnerable time. For those that have a prior history of substance abuse disorder or mental health issues, taking advantage of any prior resources that have helped you through troubling times would be ideal. In addition, many therapists and treatment facilities are now offering online sessions such as tele-health or distance counseling to help those struggling handle the current situation.
There have been a number of platforms that have announced they are providing online meetings for those to continue to attend support groups from their home. If you have any other resources, please add them to the comments below. We will continue to add to this list as more online meetings are announced. See below for descriptions and meetings:
Sobriety Engine offers virtual meetings and support groups for those who cannot leave their homes or want to attend from their phone. They are currently looking for speakers and volunteers to help fill slots. This group also provides guest Q&A sessions with guests, online courses, and a newsfeed and messaging section to connect with other members of the community. Join Sobriety Engine, here.
In The Rooms
In The Rooms is an online meeting platform that provides over 100 virtual meetings everyday. With over 30 fellowships and meeting formats available, the possibilities and camaraderie that one can find are endless and there’s always wisdom to be gained on this platform. Join In The Rooms, here.
AA Zoom Meetings
Alcoholics Anonymous has created Zoom meetings available in replacement of the meetings that may have been canceled in certain areas. You can check out the meeting times and schedule by joining the Facebook group, here.