As news of coronavirus dominates headlines worldwide, Americans have begun to stock up on necessities in anticipation of long periods of social distancing. Everyone is at risk, especially those who are immunocompromised or elderly, and gathering in groups has been discouraged. But what about those who attend regular 12-Step meetings while in recovery?
How 12-Step Meetings Will Change
Millions of Americans rely on 12-Step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to maintain their recovery. These gatherings serve myriad functions; they provide accountability, support and a space to feel understood for many who have overcome addiction. However, new guidelines from the CDC and WHO recommend avoiding groups. They also encourage citizens to practice social distancing.
Social distancing involves the creation of physical distance between people who do not live together. For communities, this means closing schools, workplaces and major events. For individuals, this means maintaining at least six feet of distance between yourself and others while in a public space. The New York Times clarifies one of the most common misconceptions about this recommendation:
One aspect of social distancing – the admonition to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more – has created a lot of confusion. It has given the impression that while public outdoor events are bad, it’s OK to host up to nine people at your home or outside. That is not correct. Right now everyone should limit close contact, indoors and outdoors, to family members only.
Luckily, there are still options in place for those who enjoy AA and NA meetings. AA’s Intergroups, the state level organizations that run these programs, have begun taking action to address COVID-19 self-quarantines. For example, the New York chapter has closed its office, but plans to move meetings to phone calls. Online meetings are also available; there are countless to choose from, many of which are linked from the Online Intergroup directory for Alcoholics Anonymous. Of course, your individual group may create its own plan to continue meeting via Skype, Zoom or conference call.
The General Service Office (GSO) of Alcoholics Anonymous, a resource for those in the program, released a statement on the subject. They explain that groups across the country have taken steps to protect their members through several cautionary steps. These include:
- Avoiding shaking hands and handholding
- Sanitizing meeting hospitality tables
- Suspending food hospitality
- Creating contingency plans
- Updating contact lists
- Keeping in touch by phone, email and social media
- Meeting by phone or online, rather than in person
Adapting Your Recovery for Coronavirus
Another aspect of the coronavirus outbreak is an indefinite period of self-quarantine. As of this article’s publication, the government has advised all non-essential personnel to stay home, working remotely if possible. This means not leaving the house unless you absolutely have to – quick grocery runs are okay, but socializing with others has been brought to a minimum.
It’s no secret that isolation is challenging for those in recovery. Support and accountability are necessary to stay on track. There are several steps you can take to make your time at home enriching, rather than stressful.
First, consider listening to a recovery speaker online. Websites like recoveryspeakers.com offer libraries of recordings and guests blogs covering all aspects of addiction, treatment and recovery. This content can provide inspiration and insight into your own journey.
Next, be sure to stay connected with important people in your life. Whether you’re dialing into a remote NA meeting or catching up with your sponsor, keep those good influences around in the days ahead. Try to be intentional about calling relatives or friends to check in; you’ll get some social interaction, and they’ll know that you’re okay.
We also encourage you to stay busy. Isolation can sabotage all of your efforts if not taken seriously. Keep all substances out of the house and instead make a list of activities to entertain yourself. You can learn a new instrument, put up those shelves that you’ve been putting off or curl up with a favorite book – anything goes!
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The days ahead are uncertain, which means that you may find yourself in an unprecedented situation in your recovery. Be prepared to contact your treatment center, therapist or sponsor when times are tough – they will be ready to help you.
Staying Safe from the Coronavirus
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released protocols that will help you to avoid contracting coronavirus. They include:
- Clean your hands often (washing for 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick or those outside of your home.
- Put distance between yourself and other people (self-quarantine).
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on a regular basis (light switches, doorknobs, phones, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks).
By following the recommended protocols and prioritizing your recovery, you will thrive in the coming weeks.
Tennessee Addiction Treatment Center
At Cumberland Heights, we hope that everyone in recovery is taking the appropriate precautions to protect themselves during this time. We will continue to follow CDC guidelines regarding coronavirus in the days ahead. To access support or additional resources, please contact Cumberland Heights today.