4 strategies to help you return to life in person after finding recovery online
Let’s face it – it’s been a tough year. The coronavirus pandemic brought with it unprecedented new levels of stress, uncertainty, and economic insecurity. Many battled with grief, upheaval, and diminished social connections. In fact, the word “unprecedented” was used so often during this time that people begged us to stop using it. It’s no surprise that along with this tumult, mental health issues spiked, as did binge drinking and overdoses. In short – people struggled to cope. And who could blame them? Many of the structures people rely upon for well being, such as friends and family, 12 step groups, and regular routines were unavailable.
What’s more, the lucky few who found recovery during the pandemic, face the unique challenges of maintaining it despite fast changing circumstances and reentering the face-to-face world.
Most who sobered up over the past year likely did so with the help of a treatment center, or by attending online meetings of 12 step groups, or a combination of both. For those who are now just getting their sea legs in online groups, many are nervous about the imminent re-opening, and the prospect of attending these meetings in person.
Eliza, who got sober during the pandemic by attending online meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, shares her experience:
“I feel safer on Zoom, to be honest. I’m particularly introverted. I don’t think I could have gotten sober if it weren’t for Zoom. It helped that I didn’t have to put my video on or share my name and that I didn’t have to say anything. That helped a lot until I felt slightly less freaked out and vulnerable. I think many people who got sober on Zoom would not have not joined a 12 step group without the extreme anonymity and privacy and comfort of their own homes. But I do look forward to the energy in face-to-face groups.”
Aside from just meetings, many who found recovery during the pandemic started their journey when much of the world was still in lockdown. They, perhaps fortunately, didn’t have to contend with attending their first party, wedding, or concert clean and sober. Many holidays were skipped, and the temptation of bars and restaurants was lessened because they remained shuttered. For these people, the prospect of the world throwing its doors open again may indeed be daunting. Here are some tips for staying on the beam as “normal” life resumes.
Take it Easy
It’s important to acknowledge that the newly sober aren’t the only ones daunted at the prospect of a return to normal life. For most of us, after a year indoors, facing a relentless schedule, large social circle, or any of the other trappings of a “normal” life seems overwhelming. Many people feel less confident socializing, uneager to return to stuffy office environments, and insecure in large crowds. This is all to be expected after what we have collectively been through. Many experts advise taking it slow. There is no need to make up for a lost year or hustle to fill every hour of the day. Starting out slow is a good way to make sure you don’t find yourself burned out by the intensity. It will also help you stay centered as you think about what and who you want to re-introduce and when.
Find a Network
One core component to a happy, healthy recovery is finding a network and getting plugged in. For those who have been attending meetings online, going to their face-to-face counterparts, when re-launched, might be an easy way in. The comfort of a few familiar faces goes a long way. And it may be helpful to try several meetings of the fellowship of your choice until you find one that feels like home. Finding a group of people who are living well while not drinking, using, or acting out is essential. They can offer friendship, support, and helpful guidance, especially for those who are just starting out.
For most, remaining accountable is a vital part of lasting recovery. This means being honest about where you are at, and allowing other people to call you out when you’re not. Good ways to stay accountable include staying connected to a sponsor, a group of sober friends, or finding a homegroup that you attend regularly. Letting people see you and know you can be a little scary after hiding behind a screen for a year, but it’s an opportunity for deeper connection and bigger joy.
Stick with What Works
If you found a routine that worked well during the pandemic, such as a regular meeting schedule, meal times, or home exercise routine, there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Routines can form a foundational part of wellness and make it easier to do the good-for-you thing when you don’t feel like it. Hopefully, all of us will take the good things that came from the pandemic and leave the rest behind.
Best of luck and let us know how it goes! As always, our team is here to offer support, resources, and help if and when you need it.