The whole country experienced a lot of change in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. Treatment and recovery services were moved from in-person to telehealth using various virtual options. Isolation is a common relapse trigger, and unfortunately, the year has been challenging for people who have a limited support system at home. But now that 2021 has arrived, there is new hope – vaccines are making their way into cities worldwide. However, for now, peer meetups and support services will continue to look slightly different as healthcare providers and sober communities work together to keep everyone safe. The lack of in-person contact brings both challenges and new opportunities to grow.
The encouragement, compassion, and support you are used to getting from in-person meetings will continue through various means, including internet chat or video sessions. Most people were hoping that the new year’s arrival would relief from this socially distanced world that we find ourselves inhabiting. Patience and diligence are crucial to maintaining community health.
For 2021, you can expect that in-person meetings will not occur until near the end of summer at the earliest using current estimations. There is always the possibility that this could change but keep positives in mind. Your recovery is being affected by the pandemic, and it is up to you and your support system to find creative and useful ways to get around the issues that may crop up due to the current situation.
Anyone new to recovery during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has faced a significantly more challenging journey. Video and chat meetings online can only provide some parts of support meetings. Not everyone is comfortable using a computer or smartphone to jump into discussions, and even those who are may have trouble speaking out over the impersonal feeling medium. Not only this, but many people may not feel comfortable sharing their experiences if they live with other people. There is a human connection, but it is not the same as what you would experience while attending an in-person group meeting. It is a two-dimensional representation that lacks some of the intimacy of physical group gatherings. A few other ways virtual meetings can affect recovery include:
Some people may find it easier to make excuses to miss the online meetings.
Making and keeping connections with others can be more difficult.
Technical difficulties or lack of access to the internet can be a barrier to attending meetings.
Ensuring anonymity online is challenging since you can only see who is on camera and not who else may be in the room or within hearing range. No guarantee of anonymity can make it harder for some people to share.
12-Step programs focus on fellowship and growth. While the 12 steps themselves aim towards addressing individual members, the twelve traditions encompass the group as a whole. The traditions include, among other things, a focus on unity, trust in one another, and the importance of protecting the anonymity of every attendee. Human connection is the binding factor that turns a spiritually led meeting into a life-changing event. Virtual meetings may not have the same association with human connection, but there is no denying that they help people who may not have any other social outlet or peer group. Most aspects of meetings done in-person have online alternatives.
There are a few barriers that can make it hard for recovery meetings to feel the same, but there are ways to overcome them. Several examples of obstacles and solutions include:
Anonymity: Group leaders may request that participants use headphones and keep their cameras turned on to provide peace of mind for each participant.
Technological Issues: There are plenty of online tutorials you can utilize that can walk through fixing common issues that may come up during virtual meetings.
Physical Isolation: Seeing and speaking with people over a computer or smart device can help whittle away at some of the physical isolation that has become a part of everyday life for many people in recovery from the pandemic. Keeping cameras on and encouraging every member to participate will help decrease the feeling of being alone.
Communication: Group leaders are responsible for ensuring that everyone feels safe and heard during recovery meetings, but they will not know if barriers interfere with your ability to participate if you do not tell them. Communication is the key to overcoming issues that may arise.
Group meetings are a cornerstone of substance use treatment aftercare and long-term sobriety. Without the compassionate, encouraging space to fellowship with other people, recovery can feel lonely and isolating. Community locations have been shut down for most of 2020, and COVID-19 has forced many people into lockdowns. Due to this, their meetings have moved online for the safety of the community. This version of 12-Step programs and other support groups is useful, but they can sometimes lack human connection. The best way to overcome challenges is by communicating with your group how you feel and any barriers you are experiencing during group meetings. Here at Safe Harbor Treatment in Costa Mesa, California, is dedicated to providing a place for deep, spiritual connection that can motivate and provide hope for anyone in recovery. Meetings will be held virtually for the first part of 2021. To get more information about our group meetings, call us at (833) 580-1473.