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Sobriety Online: Managing Recovery in a Virtual World

It's possible to recover from addiction and thrive, even during a pandemic.

Rock to Recovery/Used with Permission
A virtual therapeutic music group.
Source: Rock to Recovery/Used with Permission

Covid 19 has changed the landscape of everything we know, including how mental health and addiction recovery are managed. With 12-step and other support groups conducted mostly online, it can be difficult for people newer to recovery, as well as some old-timers, to connect to the help they need.

Here are several actions to take to access the assistance needed to be sober in a virtual world.

Attend virtual 12-step meetings: In order to find virtual 12-step meetings, one need only go online and search for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or any other group in the nearest city or town. This will yield a website that will have instructions for accessing online meetings. Because online meetings are available in every time zone, there are actually more meetings accessible day or night than has traditionally been the case. If it’s the middle of the night where you are, search for a meeting in London, England or Melbourne, Australia. You’re sure to find welcoming people to help you.

Call people: Most support groups will offer a phone list of members. If you like the way a person shares about their recovery, call them after the meeting and talk to them. This is welcome and a good way to build a support system. Connection is critical to recovery.

Meditation apps: There are many apps, and even some online groups, that teach and support a meditation practice. Meditation can bring a sense of calm and connection. When part of a daily practice and used in conjunction with support groups and a support system, meditation can be effective in decreasing urges to drink/use and give a sense of well-being.

Volunteer: Called “service work” in 12-step programs, helping others is one way to make meaning, get out of your own damaging thoughts, and contribute to making a better community. While some service work is sobriety-related, other efforts may involve community service or social activism. Some volunteer activities can be done online or at home. Foster a dog. Help people register to vote. Raise money for a charity that’s important to you. There are many ways to be of service to others.

Telehealth: Treatment for mental health issues can be done safely and effectively from home. Whether you had mental health concerns before stay-at-home orders or developed them because of the isolation of being at home, find a therapist and start talking about the issues. Many insurance companies are now covering telehealth visits for mental health. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has resources to help, as does Psychology Today.

Online groups: There are organizations that are providing free or low-cost online services. These groups offer meditation, breathwork, music, and other forms of therapeutic connection. A virtual search can put you in touch with practitioners who are providing special services to those in need during the pandemic. Become part of one of these communities.

Focus on what you can control: There are parts of our lives over which we do have a fair bit of control. What are you doing to sleep well? Are you exercising? How is your nutrition? Are you bathing and getting dressed? The more you do to maintain a healthy routine, the better you will feel, especially if you are taking care of your basic needs in a healthy and responsible way.

Speak up: If you need help, ask for it. If you are struggling with addiction or mental health issues, let people know, and keep letting people know until you find the help and support you need. Talk about what’s bothering you. Friends or family may not be able to change what’s going on, but they can give you space to feel what needs to be felt, so that you can develop healthy coping mechanisms and develop resiliency.

Go to treatment: If you are unable to get or stay sober in the relative isolation that the pandemic has caused, residential treatment is an option. Many treatment facilities across the country have room at present. Treatment facilities are doing everything in their power to keep Covid-19 out of facilities through screenings and safety protocols. Now is a great time to get help in a residential treatment program.

You do not have to be alone. There are online and face-to-face resources to help you get and stay sober. Use them.