Dr. Michael Falcone, Program Director at Jackson House San Diego, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist as well as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor specializing in the treatment of patients who suffer from substance use disorders and mental health conditions. Dr. Falcone has contributed this blog to share information about how you can maintain your sobriety amid the current COVID-19 global pandemic, especially if you are in the early stages of recovery.
Staying Connected With Your Addiction Recovery Program During COVID-19
Due to almost all state and local governments issuing a “shelter in place” mandate, social isolation and social distancing have become an expected standard. While we know that these mandates serve an important function in decreasing the spread of COVID-19, we also know that it challenges our need for social and physical connection which is vital to us all. For individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder, these mandates have put a halt to some of the major elements related to sobriety. People in recovery need community as well as social, spiritual, and physical connection. The big book teaches us that restlessness, irritability, and discontent are precursors to relapse. Boredom is also another major trigger that puts you at risk for returning to use. Without the ability to distract and turn the focus away from oneself, many could return to substance use as a coping mechanism.
12-step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous have traditionally been a place where individuals can go and engage in a sober community with a common goal of remaining abstinent from substance use. Such meetings have proven invaluable to people who need support. Meetings provide a social, spiritual and physical connection. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, 12-step meetings are no longer public. As a result, many in recovery feel separated from community, with a larger impact being placed on the more vulnerable who are individuals in early recovery. The absence of pre-meeting banter, in-meeting revelations, the holding of hands for the “Serenity Prayer,” hugs and handshakes that come after one engages in an emotional share are currently not possible amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.
What to do
The question that comes to mind is what should someone do in recovery with the inability to physically meet as a sober community? The answer resides in one’s ability to adjust and adapt to the concept of community while continuing to practice healthy self-care. Many recovery communities, including 12-step programs, are shifting to online platforms such as ZOOM to host online meetings. Social media is being used to reach people in recovery to advertise when and what time online meetings will occur. While an online meeting will certainly feel different, a return to a sober community allows for the social and spiritual connection to help keep you accountable. Other recovery communities such as SMART are also shifting to online platforms for the foreseeable future. If you are reading this and hesitant to join an online meeting, remember that you made a commitment to sobriety and steps toward sobriety all of which can continue.
Remember the AA Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. While we do not have the power to change this global pandemic, we do have the ability to adjust, accept and remain flexible, all of which are required to maintain long lasting sobriety.
In addition to online meetings, we should all be practicing healthy self-care. Here are a few ideas to aid you in adjusting your daily relapse prevention plans:
- Practice meditation: YouTube videos and other apps online can assist you in practice
- Engage in self-inventory work
- Call at least two friends a day and check-in
- If you have a sponsor, call and check-in and continue step work
- Go for a walk daily or exercise at home
- Organize a Netflix party and watch a movie with friends online
Staying sober is hard work and requires commitment, determination, and resolve. During these trying times, it is important to remember that if a relapse were to occur, your path to recovery is not over and you must stay on your path. Asking for help is part of the process. Jackson House currently has several locations throughout San Diego and Riverside Counties. Our team is only a phone call away and ready to help you to begin making changes today!
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If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.