By Patrick O’Neil (RADT, MFA), Group Facilitator, Cast Center
The U.S. government just declared a national state of emergency. The coronavirus is officially here and the disruption to our lives as we knew them is now in full effect. Not only is our health in jeopardy, but also our ability to engage in positive social activities has been put on hold. Here in California Governor Newsom has banned gatherings of 250 or more people and further warned that, “Smaller gatherings can proceed if organizers implement six feet of social distancing.” While all that is prudent and the right thing to do, as no one wants COVID-19 to continue to spread and infect more people, if you’re in recovery, and especially if you rely on recovery meetings as your support system, then there is cause for concern.
Under the “meeting closures” tab of the central office website for Alcoholics Anonymous Los Angeles there is an ever growing list of meetings that are now closed with an “until further notice” attached. Meanwhile all meeting sites were closed in the city of Santa Monica and more are expected throughout Los Angeles County and elsewhere. Narcotics Anonymous sent out an email stating, “Some groups are discussing contingencies for the possibility that they will not be able to meet face to face for some period; ideas include hosting phone meetings or online meetings,” while the largest NA meeting in Hollywood has gone dark, it too until further notice.
You would think that with all the stress and anxiety the coronavirus is causing that the support addicts and alcoholics get from meetings would be needed now more than ever. But at the cost of infecting everyone just doesn’t make holding and attending meetings a good idea.
So what alternatives are there for the recovering addict and alcoholic in order for them to stay clean and sober during such trying times? Here are a few suggestions that can help fill the void.
Online Meetings: There are many online meetings sites, such as the Online Intergroup (http://aa-intergroup.org/) which is exclusively for AA and requires that you send in a request to join. The Never Alone Club for NA (https://www.neveraloneclub.org/) that has online meetings and chat rooms. And others such as In The Rooms (https://www.intherooms.com/) where you can just sign up and access an extensive roster of AA, NA, CODA, ACA, OA, Women in Recovery, NA Pride, and SLAA meetings from 5am to midnight. But really, this is only a partial list and many more sites can be found when you search the Internet.
YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=AA+meetings): Do a search on YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of video meetings and speaker shares. One channel “Best Speakers for the Newcomer to Alcoholics Anonymous” has hour long speakers sharing their strength and hope. Narcotics Anonymous, S.M.A.R.T. Recovery, and Refuge Recovery also have many videos available on YouTube as well.
Podcasts: Podcasts are a great way to listen to the message of recovery. Cast Center’s founder Mike Bayer’s “The Coach Mike Podcast” (https://www.coachmikebayer.com/podcast) is a health and wellness podcast where Coach Mike talks to a “different guest that brings wisdom and solutions that could help you enhance your life” and is available on most major sites such as iTune, spotify, and Stitcher. And the Buddhist inspired non-twelve step Refuge Recovery (https://refugerecovery.org/podcasts) offers some very enlightening podcast that include guided meditations and dharma speakers.
Community: Many meetings are working hard to figure out how to deal with this “social distancing” issue. Some have even decided to create virtual “live” meetings that you can log onto. The best way to keep abreast of what your local meetings are planning is to add your email and phone number to their “mailing lists.” A large AA meeting in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood just announced that the Friday night meeting will be held via a zoom conference and texted all their members a link with a passcode.
Literature: All the major recovery organizations have literature that is the backbone of their program. From pamphlets to books they are the main source of information on how to stay sober for the recovering alcoholic and addict. Most meetings have their literature on sale for cost and have liberal payment options. If you can’t get to a meeting there are sites where you can purchase literature online. Reading recovery literature has always been recommended for grounding the beginner and helping the old timers keep connected and stay clean and sober.
Use Those Phone Numbers: All newcomers are told to get the phone numbers of their fellow recovering addicts and alcoholics whenever they’re at a meeting. Yet for the majority none of them really use them, as it feels awkward to just call a stranger. But these are difficult times and if you’re going to stay sober without in person meetings then you are really going to have to make more of an effort than just showing up. Reach out and call. That connection could save your life. And while you’re at it, call your sponsor. They need to hear that you’re okay and being of service helps them stay sober.