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The current coronavirus COVID-19 crisis may be particularly challenging for those recovering from substance use disorders (SUD).
As the virus spreads, communities across the nation are closing businesses and severely limiting access to people and places that are important to the recovery process, such as addiction treatment centers, Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and other similar support groups.
As I personally know, social support and connection are very important in the recovery process, but this will be difficult in the near future because social distancing is a key part of stopping the spread of COVID-19. I want to offer hope and some guidance that can help people in recovery stay on track and achieve long-term success.
First, and perhaps most importantly, don’t panic. While the situation may seem dire, our nation will overcome this crisis, and life will return to normal. If you feel yourself gripped with worry or panic, then it’s important to talk to your sponsor, counselor, pastor or close family and friends about what you’re feeling.
The last thing you want to do is turn to destructive habits, like using drugs and alcohol, to cope.
Any support group you have should be available to you by phone, at the least. Even if you can’t meet these people face-to-face, talking on the phone or virtually online can be a great help. Some AA and NA chapters may still be meeting directly, if groups are small enough. Just make sure you take the necessary health precautions.
This brings up another point. Take advantage of virtual services. Both AA and Narcotics Anonymous offer online resources to help you cope, and many chapters have begun to offer ways for groups to meet virtually through conference calls, Zoom meetings or with Google Hangouts, which offer free video conferencing.
Go to www.aa.org or www.na.org to get more information and to find virtual meetings. In addition, most SUD treatment organizations are moving to offer virtual support like AA and NA.
Google “SUD treatment centers near me” or “addiction treatment centers near me” to find the nearest one. If you are an alum of a particular treatment center, give them a call to see what virtual services they might be offering alumni.
Use telehealth services where available. Most health insurance plans offer some telehealth as a covered service.
Engage in healthy activities. This might include physical exercise, yoga or meditation. Read uplifting books or other literature, including the Big Book. Review the 12 Steps daily.
Lastly, lean on a higher power. As I learned early in my recovery journey, you need to believe and have faith in something larger than yourself, whether that is God or another higher power, to carry you through difficult times.
Following these steps and taking advantage of the virtual resources that are available will help you continue your recovery journey.
Pat George is a former president and CEO of the Valley Hope Association, an addiction treatment organization based in Norton, with centers in seven states. He has spent 28 years in addiction recovery.