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What to do if your local recovery meetings shut down for the pandemic

I’m reading an article in the Washington Post that sensationalized a man’s relapse into heroin use that ended in his death from an overdose because his local meetings were shuttered for the COVID epidemic. At first, the sensationalism had me rolling my eyes, but I’m working on empathy lately, so I did a mental about-face and kept reading.

I was not shocked or horrified. There was no fear or languishing in pity. I was genuinely saddened, though.

In the end, the story is really about a four-year-clean addict who relapsed because, left to our own devices, that’s kind of what we do. He overdosed and died, as have many since last March. This is a great line from the article:

Former drug and alcohol users [Ed. Normally we call ourselves addicts and alcoholics] who had long been warned that isolation was a precursor to relapse were suddenly instructed not to leave their homes.

This is right on the money, and disastrous. However, on Fit Recovery there are always answers to tales of woe and misery and there will be several in this case as well.

What do you do if your local recovery meetings are shuttered for a pandemic?

You do what you have to do. Recovery always comes first. We suspended meetings for less than two weeks last March before we started meeting in the church parking lot. The whole state was shuttered for months but we were out in the parking lot, having our meeting in the wide open. We brought our own lawn chairs, our coffee, some of us who felt compelled or who were compromised wore masks… my friends, you make shit work because it’s the human interaction that makes recovery work. There’s a chance I’d have relapsed if I hadn’t done what was necessary and I’m just shy of three decades clean and sober. Always remember that recovery comes first. Without recovery I have nothing. I have no hope for a happy life. I have no hope for a home or a family, a wife and kids. I’ll give it all away without recovery, because that’s what we do. I’m not about to let the questionable whim of a bureaucrat compromise all of that. So here are some things we did (or heard of others doing):

  • Have meetings at your house (provide and have waivers signed if you must).
  • Meet outdoors in the parking lot of your meeting place… we still do on nice weather days.
  • Meet where you’ve always met (if you can get permission – the church where we meet had special conditions we followed to the letter).
  • You’ve got a phone with a bunch of numbers of sober friends because recovery is your life. Use them. Punch the digits.
  • READ! The Twelve Step Companion, Daily Reflections, Sober Blogs, The Grapevine… there’s enough reading material to keep you busy for months.
  • Use Zoom or any of the other video conferencing tools… it’s not the same but it’ll do in a pinch. Personally, I needed real meetings because zoom meetings lacked the “feel”, but I only learned that because I tried Zoom meetings for a couple of weeks.

Will some of those suggestions break the “rules”? Yes they will, but when you really look at it, almost every decision maker who made a decision didn’t follow their own guidance. We’re not talking about a fancy dinner or birthday party, this is life and death. We used common sense to keep from getting sick and passing the virus, but we did what we had to do for recovery, first.

Don’t isolate. Don’t suspend your recovery. Don’t quit quitting. And don’t suspend your meetings. Without recovery, I’m as good as dead. In fact, my chances are so much worse against addiction on my own, COVID was just a passing thought in comparison. Stay safe, use good sense, but above all else, stay connected.

Don’t become another sensationalized story in the Washington Post. Be the good news they ignore.