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Staying Sober During COVID-19: A First-Hand Account

The following blog was written by our Clinical Director, Anne Marie Esposito, who is also a person in recovery.

These are extraordinary times, and never in the history of recovery meetings have buildings been physically closed and inaccessible to newcomers. We are finding online meetings in a desperate attempt to connect with another alcoholic or addict. We are taught very early not to socially isolate — to find support, connect, and remain consistent in attendance to whatever it is that we identify as our recovery program. We are now in a position where social isolation is the norm, distancing is required, and outside accountability for maintaining our program is more challenging than ever before. Being new in sobriety is difficult enough:  we are asked to “keep coming back”, ‘find a sponsor”, and “call them every day”. Those things alone are terrifying. But now, social media is the backdrop for alcohol-related memes and postings. The new way of managing stress is alerting your friends when your next case of wine is coming in. We are constantly reminded that others have “found their way out” but we are asked to resist, keep moving forward, don’t look back lest we slip. Online meetings are helpful and very much needed, but they are not the same as walking into a room and being embraced by a fellow alcoholic or addict, making eye contact, and feeling the energy in the room which helps push us through another 24 hours. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have the time remember the importance of sharing those feelings and fears. We recognize them and reach out immediately to share with someone in recovery, as it is our lifeline to remaining sober. We remember going late and attempting to leave early (despite being encouraged the opposite), only to have someone catch us at the door and say, “you were quiet tonight, what’s up? Do you feel like you want to drink/use?”  There is no one at the “door” of these zoom meetings. No one to catch the newcomer as we log off and take them to yet another meeting or out for coffee. Recovery is a social healing process. It is a “we” program. It takes a village of those who have gone before us. It was not meant to be done alone, and now we are adapting. We talk about things like fear, powerlessness, and unmanageability all the while the world is showing terrifying pictures on the TV. We are truly unable to control anything around us and our lives, in fact, feel completely unmanageable on any given day. These are the triggers, the perfect concoction to send any one of us back to the bottle at a moment’s notice. We drank and used over sports teams winning and losing, breakups, and thunderstorms. Now we are in a worldwide pandemic, which makes previous life events look like child’s play.  Depression is setting in, looking like fewer showers, food binges, and a foggy blur of sleepwear and work attire. What originally felt like a snow day without the snow is now feeling like an endless Groundhog Day of unknowns. Anxiety is appearing as stomach aches, migraines, and temper tantrums at an educational system that is trying to navigate an unprecedented time in living history of educating a nation of young people in their living rooms through laptops. This pandemic, social distancing, and isolation from others is a deadly combination towards feeding an existing problem or promoting a relapse. I know it, and my brothers and sisters in recovery know it. I also know what I need to do. I have enough time to recognize the signs and practice what I have learned. I collect Zoom meeting IDs like a kid in the 80s collected baseball cards. I am networked on social media with recovery groups both for mental health and 12-step meetings. I call in when I don’t feel like it and share when I don’t want to. I practice sitting in the quiet of the mornings using prayer and meditation to alleviate the fear that is hiding in the back of my mind. I close out my day in gratitude that I have a safe place to live and a family that loves me. I recognize I am able to do all of this because I am sober. One. Day. At. A. Time.  If you are new to this thing called recovery, my suggestion is to do any of the following:

  • Dust off your recovery books
  • Find an online meeting
  • YouTube a meditation or yoga instructor
  • Google an online church service
  • Find a recovery group on social media
  • Participate in supporting emotional wellness through TeleHealth

Whatever you do, don’t pick up. Just for today, just for right now, don’t pick up and call someone. Plug in, log in…do anything else. But don’t drink or use a drug. What I know and believe us that using/ drinking can and will make things worse. I also know this to be true, that while life is scary and challenging right now, this too shall pass.

Looking for additional resources to help you with your recovery during these difficult times? Check out our blog for online meeting links, recovery apps, and more.

By: Anne Marie Esposito, MSEd., LPC

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