Our Senior Specialist Therapist Teri Lyn Fairnie speaks about how the people in recovery from addictions who follow the 12 Steps are better prepared for the challenges of pandemic lockdown.
Are people who live in healthy 12 step recovery are better prepared to face life’s challenges such as the Coronavirus pandemic we are facing today?
When you’re in healthy recovery, Step 1 is about realising that life can be unmanageable and there are things that we are powerless over and so, in terms of addiction recovery, recognising how addiction has made your life unmanageable, and that you’re powerless over your addiction.
In terms of global issues that are facing us, being able to recognise the unmanageability that’s happened on a global scale, and that we are individually powerless over the virus. We can’t control it and we have to kind of accept that this is where we’re at. And if you’re in healthy recovery you have a very good grounding in step 1, so being able to acknowledge that this is chaotic and unmanageable at times, that we can accept “this is where we are” and we can begin to work with things as they are for us each day.
How can those who are not in recovery learn from those who are in order to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic?
Learning to sit with yourself and learning to take advantage of these moments for self-growth and self-exploration. Self-awareness is a key cornerstone to getting well and so figuring out how you are feeling and how you are responding is important. The other thing that we do well in recovery is we connect with people. The recovery community did an amazing job of when we weren’t able to do face-to-face meetings any more. Groups began reaching out to each other, they began doing larger platforms to continue to hold their meetings, so that they were still coming together on a regular basis to support each other.
Smaller groups of friends in recovery made smaller Whatsapp and Zoom groups, again to maintain that recovery and that reaching out to people in a time of need and to get that support that need. That’s the other beautiful thing about recovery is that we know how to ask for help when we need it. That’s key for everyone and that’s a big lesson that I think everyone could take away from this in terms of what the recovery community is doing is ask for help; talk about what’s on your mind, talk about how your feeling because that’s what we do, that’s what we encourage, that’s how we get well.
How has Castle Craig gone digital since the pandemic outbreak?
We started with digitalising our aftercare group, so people that have been in treatment here that were physically attending our aftercare programme here at the Castle have gone digital, and it’s actually allowed it to expand for those who couldn’t previously make the meetings in person.
I’ve done the family workshop, which is typically in person, I did that digitally this past month, which was an interesting format but still successful and helpful and so it is part of considering in what I do. Nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting – as we all know – there’s an energy that you get from being in a room with other people, but at the same time there’s a lot to be gained from still feeling that connection and hearing each other’s stories and sharing that connection.
So I’m looking at expanding those family sessions and having regular online sessions for the families that can’t get to us for a full weekend workshop.
I think a lot of people are realising what is important to them and what they do value, and that connection – making sure that the people you care about know you care – is something that people took for granted before and people who weren’t dealing with addiction weren’t aware of that.
In recovery, we remember the isolation our addiction brought us to, so we knew what isolation meant, we knew how it felt. And right now that’s something new for a lot of people – especially family members of those with addiction – they didn’t understand what it meant when we talked about those feelings of isolation. Now they’re really realising what that is and what that does to you.
It could help families relate more to those struggling. As we talk to families to educate them about what addiction is, what they don’t realise is that the family runs a very parallel process to the addict in their life and they don’t recognise how they’ve already been slightly isolated – they’ve been isolated from their loved one in addiction, they begin to isolate from their own friends out of shame kind of feelings, and they begin that kind of isolation process in a different way.
Having it brought so obvious with the pandemic and not being able to go out and have that casual social connection, you can’t deny what happened because, if you are in those early stages when you’re kind of in denial of what’s happening, when you’re forced to sit with yourself and you’re realising you actually haven’t been talking to the people you want to reach out to, you become very aware of that isolation and this is very much what your loved one in addiction is going through.
Families could be able connect better now with these feelings of isolation. We forget that we’re social creatures by nature – that’s part of being human – and technology for so long had become a barrier for that. With this we’re learning to bridge that gap and realise that actually we don’t have to use technology to isolate ourselves, we’re trying to see how we can turn that around.
We all need to keep reaching out to people, keep talking and keep sharing. There are people who will understand.
Watch the video here!