These past several days have ushered in a “new normal” when it comes to the way people interact with each other. Because of heightened risks from the coronavirus (or COVID-19), Americans are being told to keep their distance from each other and practice quarantining methods. But how will that impact the recovery field? Interestingly, USA Today offered an interesting perspective on the subject.
One big component of recovery and treatment involves community congregating. Whether it’s group therapy, therapeutic classes or cohabitating in a sober living home, human engagement plays a major role. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous follow this practice too, with regular meetings among members. Could taking that element away put people more at risk for a relapse? And let’s also consider that added COVID-19 stressors during can play into that too.
Recovery advocate Kenny Pomerance was interviewed for the USA Today piece and expressed legitimate concern about the subject.
“If someone is afraid to attend a meeting due to the coronavirus, then they might be more apt to relapse, especially in early recovery,” he emphasized to the outlet. “The added stress and potential financial uncertainty is also a concern.”
Technology, the article contends, may at least provide a partial solution to this. Just as companies are doing across the country with their remote workers, virtual meetings have become a quick fix. In this scenario, people dial into gatherings via their computer and use their webcams to participate from afar. Pomerance added that this tactic has worked well for the recovery meetings that he has joined in the past week.
Another solution recommended by USA Today is simply reducing the size of each group. Potentially breaking bigger recovery meetings into more frequent smaller ones, with different subsets of people. In this scenario, chairs would be set up at a safe distance from each other and physical contact would not be permitted. It is, unfortunately, not an ideal situation, but perhaps a viable workaround.
Churches and synagogues, for example, have adopted these types of tactics, now streaming sermons and allowing for live digital chats. And we must all remember, this situation is only temporary. As dangerous as the coronavirus may be, officials are confident that a resolution is on the horizon and the amount of those infected will go down.
Pomerance added that virtual recovery meetings do have their advantages, encouraging those in our field to at least try them with their members.
“We’ve done our best to come up with a unique platform which gives the warmth and caring you’d find in any in-person meeting,” he concluded. “The only things missing are the hugs.”