There is no denying it. COVID-19 has begun to impact our daily lives and will continue to do so for an unknown period of time. Addiction treatment and recovery support communities are not immune to these disturbances. Addiction continues to kill people every day, and we can’t ignore that fact while the world comes to terms with this viral disease. The disease doesn’t have to jeopardize your recovery or prevent you from seeking help if you are suffering from a substance use disorder.
I have been receiving reports from clients and colleagues that some social support group meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, Recovery Dharma, Life Ring Secular Recovery, SMART Recovery, and other groups have been canceled or are experiencing significant declines in attendance. I am also aware that treatment programs have begun to make adjustments to the services they provide. It is possible that public gatherings and meetings may be prohibited or that travel may be restricted in the future. It is also possible that, due to your own health conditions, the risk of getting infected by attending in-person groups and services is simply too great.
I am not stating the obvious to create fear but to provide hope. I want to let those who are in recovery or need addiction treatment know that they can still find the help and support they need. The recovery community and the many thousands of dedicated addiction professionals across the country have been through a lot! This virus isn’t going to prevent us from helping those who need it.
Thanks to modern technology, you can find the help you need without leaving the comfort and safety of your own home. I have provided a list of as many resources as possible at the end of each section. Here are my suggestions for continuing your recovery or finding the help you need during this difficult time:
Get the facts. Don’t assume that your favorite meeting, support group, or the program you were planning on starting treatment at is no longer available. Most national organizations that provide support, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other organizations, have national hotlines, local offices, or representatives that you can call for information about meetings. Give them a call and find out for yourself. In AA’s official statement (link below) they list ways groups are providing alternatives if they can’t meet in person. If you are entering treatment or need to, call the program and ask them about the current status of their services. Many programs are taking precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus and/or are making adjustments to their programs in order to better protect the participants. Some programs are even offering groups, individual counseling, and classes through video calls. You can join these video sessions with virtually any smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Stay connected. It’s more important than ever to stay in touch with your sponsor and your friends in recovery – call them. You can attend AA, NA, and other support group meetings online over the internet for free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are podcasts and websites available that allow you to listen to the best meetings with speakers from all over the world. There are also recovery apps available on your smartphone or tablet that can connect you to others in recovery. National organizations such as AA and NA have local numbers you can call to speak with someone in the program if you need to talk. If you have been seeing a counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional and can’t see them in person, ask them to provide you with a session by phone or by video.
Treatment and counseling are still available. There are addiction professionals and treatment programs that help clients via telehealth. Telehealth services are usually provided over the phone, on the internet, or through video calls. You can receive an assessment, start counseling, and even complete and intensive outpatient program via telehealth. The professionals that provide these services must possess the same qualifications and experience as the professionals and programs that only provide in-person services.
Court-ordered treatment is still mandatory. If you have been ordered to counseling, treatment, drug testing, or classes or are required to receive an assessment by a court of law, it is still mandatory. Do not assume that a judge, probation, or parole officer will excuse you from court-ordered services. If your services, meetings or testing is canceled for any reason, or you are not able to attend for any reason, you should check with your attorney, the court, or supervising officer to ensure you are not violating the law. If you are unable to make contact, make every effort to fulfill your obligations through other means such as telehealth services or online meetings. Be sure to obtain proof of your participation or retain copies of cancellation notices to provide as evidence in the event you must obtain alternative services.
Be of service. If you’re stuck at home and running out of things to keep you occupied – be of service to others! Volunteer to take calls for the organization of your choice, learn how to secretary an online meeting, join online communities, and respond to posts from people in need. Your experience, strength, and hope may be exactly what someone needs to hear today!
Written by: Michael O'Brien, CADC II, NCAC I, SAP