12-Step meetings suspended;members now relying on sponsors, literature
By Robert Stevens
In these times of uncertainty, things we take for granted as a constant in our lives are slipping by the wayside.
Once such example is the fact that recovery meetings through programs such Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous have been shut down due to social distancing, leaving people without the support they need.
“Recovery is a time when people need more support, yet less is available,” says Lance Martin, a therapist at the Central Utah Counseling Center. “This is a time when sponsors become very important. They all need to step up and reach out to make sure the people who are depending on them are OK.”
Martin says the impact of the novel Coronavirus on the Sanpete County residents in recovery from substance abuse is very real, but it’s important for people to take a certain mindset in this time to minimize the risk of them relapsing.
With the regular 12-step meetings suspended during the health crisis, the first thing Martin says we need to focus on is not to obsess over the crisis in anyway. He says that many people in recovery have anxiety already, so dwelling too much on what the public health crisis is doing to your life is a mistake that can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, or full-on relapse.
“During times like this it’s extremely important to not obsess over everything you read about it,” Martin says. “Go to the official sources, and follow those, not every little thing you read on social media.”
Martin says healthy coping mechanisms such as physical activity can play an especially important role in these times. Although following social distancing guidelines is important, creating opportunities for exercise or other physical activity within those guidelines can be a big help when the structure of 12-step meetings is falling by the wayside.
He also says you should be wary of too much screen time.
“Rather than binging on social media or Netflix, do something different,” he says. “Consider it an opportunity to get away from that.”
Without that regular structure from the meetings, Martin says it’s good to look to other support networks as well, as long as they are positive. Family and friends who are clean and sober can be a good substitute for your regular meetings.
There are efforts in place to make digital 12-step meetings the new norm during the health crisis. By using videoconferencing software such as the popular Zoom, people in AA and NA are trying to fill the gaps left by the social distancing guidelines so their members are not as such a high risk.
Visit AA.org or NA.org for more information on what is happening and who you can talk to about recovery in your area.