By Noe Gutierrez
If you are in recovery or seeking recovery, it can be a difficult mountain to climb on its own. Add the quandary of social distancing and the outbreak of COVID-19 and that loss of a road map and fellowship that are musts in ANY recovery program can be the determining factors in relapsing to any drug or behavior. We are no longer choosing to stay home but being told to stay home. We all have that need to stay connected and those in recovery are no different.
Coping with the current stressors in a healthy manner will make you and your recovery stronger while your loved ones and community members benefit. The fear and anxiety surrounding the pandemic can be intense and produce strong emotions for those in recovery. We all react and act differently to stressful situations. How we respond determines everything.
The recovery community in the Coachella Valley has responded in a huge way. No longer able to meet in person, people in recovery are utilizing their resiliency to stay abstinent by participating in online meetings, groups, counseling and therapy. Coachella Valley Weekly spoke with Pastor Bob Newby of Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, California to find out what they are doing to help Celebrate Recovery members cope with the Coronavirus and social distancing. I also offer a few points of guidance to help those in recovery, those seeking recovery and their supporters.
BOB NEWBY, Pastor of Recovery
Southwest Church, Coachella Valley
CVW: Celebrate Recovery is a world-renowned recovery program that has continued despite the pandemic. What are some of the services you continue to provide?
Pastor Newby: “We offer our big meeting every Friday night at 7 p.m. on Facebook Live at the Celebrate Recovery at Southwest Church FB page. This week we have a panel of four of our leaders sharing what they are doing to pursue sobriety and serenity as they are facing pressures from the effects of the COVID19 pandemic. Our leaders will give us a window into their world and what they are doing to manage their emotions under the pressure of the current situation. There are also online videoconferencing open share groups available. Invite your friends!”
CVW: What has been the biggest challenge in moving to an online only presence?
Pastor Newby: “We are making sure the open share groups are safe. We require people to wear earphones of some kind so that others do not hear. Another challenge has been the logistics of Zoom. Some of our folks are older and not familiar with some of the technology available.”
CVW: What has been the response from Celebrate Recovery members?
Pastor Newby: “The participants are extremely grateful we are having the meetings online. They are inviting others who they know would benefit. While it is not the same as being in person, it is a way to connect. During times like this, those of us in recovery know the importance of connecting rather than isolating. We are better together.”
Here are some potentially helpful guidelines for those in recovery:
- Use social media outlets like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp or even the now traditional email and texting to stay connected. Connect with your sponsor via these means as well. Let your family know how you are doing and feeling. If you need something, ask. It’s recommended that you do this at least once or twice a day during this involuntary isolation. Remember to limit your screen time as well.
- Many people who have significant and long-term substance use may develop weakened immune systems and may be more susceptible to illness. Focus on your health. Exercise daily while remaining safe and go outside and get some sun, vitamin D and fresh air. Regulate your eating and sleeping patterns while staying hydrated.
- This is stressful time for all of humankind; we must acknowledge that. It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Find a routine that works for you. I recommend starting the day with prayer, meditation, mindfulness or yoga; some space of time for you to rededicate your recovery on a daily basis.
- If you’re working from home, step away from the desk and use other locations to be your worksite like outside or on the couch.
- There are many online resources to support your recovery. Go to virtual-na.org or aa-intergroup.org for online mutual aid and community support group meetings. And of course, The Refinery’s Relapse Prevention During Social Distancing on Wednesday evenings from 5-6 p.m. (call (760) 385-3959 or email email@example.com for the Zoom link) and Celebrate Recovery at Southwest Church on Fridays at 7 p.m., both FREE and open to the public.
- Start and keep a gratitude journal to keep track of the good things in your life. There is always something to feel grateful for. Or just write down your thoughts, ideas and feelings.
- Offer your support to another. Find where you can give back to your community or check in with your recovery peers to see how they are doing. It’s a good feeling when someone, out of the blue, reaches out and says, “Hi, how’s it going?” You’ll find that when you do that, you build your own recovery and realize you are not alone in this.
- Finally, if you have thoughts of relapse (a return to use/behavior after a period of abstinence), reach out to someone. If you do relapse, again, reach out to someone and tell them. It’s only a setback and is part of the process. This is your opportunity to rededicate and reconstruct your recovery plan.
If you’re someone who provides support for a loved one, here are some things you can do:
- Reach out to your loved one. Remind them you are available.
- Along with your loved one, confess that this is a tough time and that you can identify with their challenges while being vulnerable to your own.
- Ask if they need anything.
- If you come across any resources, share them.
Bob Newby is Regional Director for the West at Celebrate Recovery and Pastor of Recovery at Southwest Church, Coachella Valley. You can reach him at:
Phone: (760) 200-2000
Noe Gutierrez is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II who works at The Refinery Integrated Wellness Services in Palm Desert, CA and at Alert Program in Palm Springs, CA. You can reach him at:
Phone: (760) 485-0948