Staying Connected: Maintaining A Recovery Support System While Social Distancing

Like all other aspects of everyday health, sanity and quality of life, pandemic-enforced social distancing has made it harder than ever for people in recovery to connect and meaningfully engage with their support systems. It’s also made it harder for people to know how to help an alcoholic or someone impacted by substance use disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists “community” as one of the four dimensions of a solid recovery support system. When we can’t be close to the people we care about, or who have actively supported us during our best and worst times, it’s easy to feel isolated, alone and devalued. Whether you’re in active recovery, considering getting help, or you need to know how to help an addict, here are some easy ways you can give and receive critical emotional support in a safe and responsible way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pick Up the Phone

We use our phones for everything, from watching movies to getting our news to ordering our groceries. Why not use them to stay connected to the people who are closest to us or that we know need help—like how they were originally intended to be used? Call your loved one or support system every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, to see how they’re doing. If they don’t answer right away, call a mutual acquaintance just to maintain that consistent connection and find out if they’re OK. Loving an addict means putting in the extra work and doing everything you can to check on their mental health; this often begins with a phone call. If you’re on the other side of things, and need help to maintain your recovery, connecting with your support system while social distancing may require a little more phone time, but it’s worth it.

Organize A Regular Video Conference

Maintaining connection with a recovery support system during social distancing requires routine and discipline; and this often begins with simple scheduling. Anyone who has ever battled meth addiction or tried to figure out how to help an alcoholic knows that behavior can be erratic during active substance use. Keeping a loved one who is in recovery accountable to a regular routine, however loose it may be, will allow their supportive community to keep tabs on them and identify a potential problem. Whether it’s Zoom, Skype, Teams or any other video conferencing software on which we’ve come to rely these days, establish a regularly scheduled conference call each week or every few days. For people in recovery, this will help to get the consistent and meaningful support they need. For members of the support system, it will offer peace of mind and assurance that they need.

Safe, Supportive and Socially Distant

There’s still the good, old-fashioned way of meeting up in person…with a twist, of course. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is incrementally relaxing social distancing guidelines and, while we’re not sure what the future definitively holds for this virus, we can navigate the daily ebb and flow of information by striking a balance between safety and quality of life. Limit the size of gatherings for your support system to 10 or less people. Try your best to assemble outdoors so you can stay six feet away from each other. Wear masks and make sure that no participants have been exposed to or have contracted the virus. While these measures may seem mildly inconvenient, they represent our best chance of balancing life and safety.

Get Help If There’s A Problem

One of the primary purposes of a community support system is to be able to act quickly and intervene in the event of relapse. Unfortunately, the stress, uncertainty and confusion of this pandemic has made relapse a reality for many. Experts have predicted from the start that isolation would be a primary driver of this spike in recurring substance use. You can do your part to make sure the people you care about who are in recovery have the love, support and community they need to thrive and overcome the stress of this pandemic by just rallying around them and letting them know you’re there.

If you notice a problem, start helping your loved one find treatment right away. If you’re in recovery and feel like you may be vulnerable to a set-back, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help and support. This crisis is testing everyone’s mental health and coping capacity, and it takes strength and courage to admit you need help.

Recovery Unplugged is mindful of how hard it can be to stay connected with your recovery support system while social distancing. We’re here to guide you or your loved one toward immediate treatment if the stress of the pandemic and related isolation has led to relapse. Contact us today to get help now.