CITC’s Peer Support Network looked to virtual meet-ups to help those in recovery battle pandemic-related isolation
When CITC’s Peer Support Network goes bowling or has a summer barbeque, it’s not just an opportunity to socialize. It’s practice.
“For a lot of people not in recovery, going out and doing stuff with friends is normal and fun,” pointed out Adam Allard, a peer support specialist with Recovery Services. “But when you’re in active addiction, you don’t do that stuff. You get really good at isolating and staying home alone.
“So when our Peer Support Network gets together for something social, it’s a chance to learn how to do it sober and how to have fun without drugs or alcohol.”
For years, the Peer Support Network has been meeting regularly for coffee. It’s a chance for members to catch up, talk through their challenges, and exchange ideas about how to find support for their continued recovery. They also got together for fun activities, like scavenger hunts and community “give-backs,” where they would do projects that would benefit their Anchorage neighbors. COVID-19 put a halt on those meet-ups, though.
While pandemic-related quarantining and social distancing became a burden for many, for individuals in recovery from substance misuse, it was especially hard. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, social isolation related to the pandemic became a major risk factor for recovery relapse.
“Bad things happen when you relapse,” Adam elaborated. “I know, with my last relapse, I ended up homeless and jobless. It’s just really sad to see people go through that.”
In March 2020, as it became clear that the social distancing practices inspired by COVID-19 weren’t going to end anytime soon, Adam launched sober coffee meet-ups over Zoom.
Every Monday and Wednesday morning, individuals in recovery and peers who have experienced the recovery journey log into Zoom to talk virtually. Anyone looking for recovery support can join in.
At first, Adam shared, because Zoom was so new, just a few regulars who previously met in person logged in for the online meet-up. Since he’s shared the event on Facebook, though, more and more people in search of a sober, social outlet have joined in. Up to two dozen people now regularly show up.
Now that restrictions connected to COVID-19 are being rolled back, many meet-ups are going to be happening in person once more; CITC’s Peer Support Network offers cultural classes on Fridays and activities like volleyball, park hang-outs, and kickball on Thursdays.
“But we’ll continue the coffee Zoom,” Adam said. “I can see those going on for a while. For those who want a safe, sober, social outlet without needing to leave their home, it’s been an awesome support.”
Are you seeking support with your recovery journey? Contact CITC’s Recovery Services.