It is easier than ever to become lost in the rabbit holes our minds are diving into — fear of the future, fear of the unknown… If not already happening, many of us will likely also experience the reality of being host to a virus which may or may not make us, our loved ones, or our colleagues ill.

My gratitude extends to all who are taking seriously the social distancing actions and other important measures to keep people safe. It is truly choosing to live in the reality of the current situation.

For people with any kind of substance use disorder, this can be particularly challenging. I go back to an oft-cited resource, Johann Hari’s TED Talk in which he now famously posits: the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.

I have been hearing from people who are committed to their sobriety and depend on the interaction with others at their meetings are falling into panic mode. More than ever, it is imperative to find a peaceful locus within, and to find virtual ways to connect with each other that create peace, rather than incite inward chaos and fear.

Reliable Connection is Possible During COVID-19

As hardship often brings out the resiliency and strength in people, COVID-19 has prompted more opportunities for virtual meetings and gatherings on a multitude of digital platforms.

I have been asking people for suggestions for online resources that support sobriety and recovery, and offer a few below. I am sure there are many more out there and I implore you to keep searching and share the good ones with others.

Alcoholics Anonymous Online Intergroup
Their site is a very comprehensive website. I was impressed by the depth and breadth of audio/visual offerings from open to closed meetings, speaker meetings, LGBTQ, and much more. Not only that, there are meetings in multiple languages, and on their homepage is info to contact someone ASAP if you feel that you are going to relapse, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is well positioned to provide live help to keep people sober. I actually called their 800-777-1515 number before 5:00 a.m. and reached a helpful human within a minute. While she couldn’t give me specifics about virtual meetings, she did say a person with substance use disorder who calls the NA number can be connected with a person in recovery if that’s what is urgently needed. She advised that I look at the NA World Services website for information about virtual or online meetings. I did.

Again, I am impressed. Clearly many of these meetings were set up well before COVID-19 was compelling people to socially distance themselves. In fact, a brief search for web meetings produced 293 results—around the world, throughout the day, in multiple languages, and in all time zones. Speaker meetings, text study, beginners meetings, and more.

The NA phone app also provides instant access to several meetings hosted on Zoom throughout the day.

A friend in long-term recovery recommended Laura McKowen as another online resource. She is a blogger, a teacher, and recent author of We Are The Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life. She offers on-line self-questioning and self-development classes in a small group weekly format.

Prompted by the need for people in recovery to meet, she is hosting free meetings 5 days a week via Zoom. I was one of 280 plus participants who logged in Sunday morning. McKowen clarifies that this is not an AA meeting and in order to respect people’s privacy, meetings are not recorded. She opened with a reading and meditation, then a guest told his story. After that, she called on several people who wished to speak.

Interestingly, many of the participants were people who found that the 12 step recovery meeting format of AA was not the right fit for them, and have entered their own recovery through alternative pathways. I was impressed with the sense of connection, and strongly encourage you to check out her website if you’d like access to the zoom instructions to attend a meeting.

Hello Someday Coaching
A few weeks ago I interviewed the lovely Kasey McGuire, of Hello Someday Coaching. Kasey’s tag-line tells it all: Drink Less. Live More. Life, Mindset, Sobriety & Success Coaching for Busy Women.

For women who have been plunged into an amorphous world of working from home in the wake of the COVID-19 and are feeling lost without more structure, working with Kasey may be a God send right now. She provides accountability and connection through one on one coaching.

Telehealth Resources Can Help You Stay Sober

Many established treatment centers are offering on-line and virtual meetings. If you are finding yourself with a little free time, I urge you to look into some of these resources.

Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice for people to strengthen their sobriety resolve is to decrease the amount of time spent looking at new stories. Talk about being whipped into a frenzy! Some of the best gurus of our times are responding to the world with inspiring YouTube messages. Tara Brach (Facing Pandemic Fears with an Awake Heart), Tommy Rosen (What is The Coronavirus Trying to Teach Us?), Eckhart Tolle (Staying Conscious in the Face of Adversity), and Martha Beck (The Gathering Room: Love in the Time of COVID-19) are a few that I have found helpful.

Finally, if you want a great way to get out of your head for a little while, and into your body, check out Billie Carol’s Yoga of 12 Step Recovery (Y12SR). This offering is for those among us with any kind of addiction: substances, behavioral addictions, food, or perhaps recognizing that you might be someone who is just a little bit addicted to your own thoughts.

Billie is offering these for free on Zoom twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-7:00 pm. These meetings are not recorded, and while open, are still anonymous. Here are the links:
Meeting IDs: ⁠
⁠Tuesday meeting:
⁠Thursday meeting:⁠

During the live Zoom meeting that Laura McKowen hosted last weekend, I was struck by the sharing of a woman who has struggled with frequent alcohol relapses who now (like many) finds herself working from home and homeschooling 3 children. Through tears she said, “In years to come, I want to remember the Pandemic of 2020 as the time I got sober.”

Most of us are going to have the opportunity to look back on this time and recall how we responded. Think about — and maybe even journal —the future you describing to your children, grandchildren, old friends--how you spent the Pandemic of 2020. Perhaps you will describe a period of growth, insight, and sobriety.

At this writing, the Coleman Institute has deemed detoxes to be essential. Thorough screening protocols are in place. If we can help you remember the Pandemic of 2020 as the time you got clean, give us a call at 877-773-3869.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP