In this week’s blog, our interns share how they’re navigating recovery during COVID-19 and the practice of physical distancing, including challenges they’ve faced and top tips for accessing recovery digitally. 

What’s been the most helpful recovery resource for you recently?

Justin: The most important recovery resource for me has been the virtual lobby the staff at the Texas Tech CCRC is doing. During “normal” times, students from the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities come to the Center to hang out, get coffee, and find fellowship. The CCRC staff has set up a Zoom lobby that is online Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This helps us stay in contact with other students and still have fellowship. 

Erin: My network has always been the most impactful resource for me. Being able to call other women, who almost always have either shared the same experience or can direct me to someone who has, helps eliminate feelings of being alone in my recovery. I’m privileged enough to have access to technology that allows me to reach out to others in recovery on a daily basis, so that tool has not been altered by the current uncertain climate.

Ali: The Collegiate Recovery GroupMe has been pretty rad. I also belong to an expressive arts organization and they have been doing some neat and innovative things to keep positive. I’m also grateful to still be working full time as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist and I still get to try to connect (virtually) with our participants. 

Katana: Online meetings with my CRC and SAFE Project each week have been the most helpful so far. I have had a chance to connect with my friends in my CRC and make new recovery friends as well. It is encouraging to see how smooth the transition has been to an online platform and seeing so many of us going through similar experiences. It is also inspiring to see so many people in recovery supporting strangers in their recovery.

Paola: The recovery community/ARHE’s Student Recovery GroupMe chat has been really helpful. I have been able to meet other students who are going through the same stresses and anxieties and we are able to provide a sense of safety and support to each other.  

What keeps you positive or motivated on a daily basis?

Justin: The things that keep me motivated are my relationship with my higher power and my friends. I have a fantastic support system, and we all check in on each other. The funny memes on Facebook help too.

Erin: I try to start every day with a gratitude list. This reminder of everything I’ve gained since getting sober pushes me to work on my recovery and take on the day with a positive attitude. I had very little to be proud of while I was in active addiction, but I now have everything I could have ever dreamed of, and more. 

I also work in the recovery field, which allows me to be of service to others and reminds me I need to share the gifts of my recovery with those beginning their path to recovery, as well as those who have been in recovery long-term.

Ali: Knowing this thing will eventually be over and when it is there will be sunshine outside and warm weather to be enjoyed. Knowing I still have a stable job is of course nice too. 

Katana: I made a self-care schedule, so I prevent myself from burning out or losing meaning. Also, I have daily video calls with my friends from school and people in recovery to maintain a sense of social connection. Lastly, I continue doing work that feels helpful to others. Seeing all the people stepping up and spreading positivity keeps me positive and motivated.

Paola: What keeps me motivated is trying to help people in recovery and also know that these little things that go on in my life (such as classes, exams, and stressful situations) are meant to get me to where I want to be in life and live to my optimal potential.

What suggestions do you have for students in recovery during this time?

Justin: One suggestion I have for students in recovery is to stay connected! So many of us struggle with depression and anxiety under normal circumstances. I know for me the current situation has thrown my mental illness into overdrive. Staying connected has been crucial to staying as healthy as possible.

Erin: I would absolutely recommend students in recovery get into a routine of attending digital meetings. By building the meetings into my schedule, I’m kept accountable, knowing there are meetings I can attend and that I don’t have any excuses to skip them. Right now, I have Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday meetings I make. Meetings with other college students have been the most beneficial for me since we can all share our struggles in topics like online classes, delayed or canceled graduation, and loss of site hours for internships or practicums.

We share our struggles, but the conversations always include tools we each have for combating these difficulties. One of our interns started a recovery group chat that students across the country use to tackle our feelings as students not only juggling the aforementioned difficulties, but also how recovery intersects with those issues.

Ali

  • Make sure you’re keeping a routine, even if it is putting on sweatpants and a T-shirt every day. Waking up at the same time, going to bed at the same time, that kind of stuff. On the other side of that coin, be patient with yourself and those around you. This is new for everyone, no one knows what to do and we sure don’t know how to do it “right.”
  • Online learning isn’t so bad. It may take some learning and getting used to but it truly is easy to adapt to.
  • Mute yourself on Zoom when you aren’t talking! No one wants to hear you rolling around in your chair or typing.
  • Call your grandparents! Especially if they’re not great at social media, FaceTime, etc., they will enjoy hearing from you and you’ll get stuff out of it too. If they’re local and they need a supply run, offer to do it for them. I recently got to do this for my grandmother and it truly made my week. I added some flowers and chocolate in there too to brighten her day and I think it worked.

Katana: I suggest students work on self-care and love, however that appears to them, and take frequent breaks from social media. When you are on social media, there are a ton of therapists and mental health accounts that give amazing advice and reminders which is an easy way to make your feed more positive

Paola: Physical distancing, not social distancing! Stay connected and try to be silly and lighthearted when you can be. This is the time to randomly dance like no one’s watching, try something you’ve been wanting to do for a while and get creative. You’ll get through this. 

How have you found adapting to the change to online/virtual resources?

Justin: Adapting to online resources was a little weird at first, but it’s become more comfortable. 

Erin: Spending time with others in recovery is a huge part of my recovery, so I was initially hesitant to attend online meetings since I thought once the meeting was over everyone would log off. Instead, I’ve found that people like to stick around afterwards to catch up and check in on one another.  

I also have taken to using apps that address general anxiety to provide me a resource to pause in my day and focus on how I’m feeling. They allow me to check in with myself, reflect on my day, and give me concrete ways to improve my mental health.

Ali: I’m pretty familiar with the online resources as much of my higher education was done online or with hybrid classes. 

Katana: I quickly adapted to the virtual resources as they are easier to schedule and join. I have met so many new people due to the online meetings, and I have been introduced to different types of meetings and topics. The hardest part is being constantly inside. My meetings with my CRC would sometimes move outside if it was really nice. 

Paola: Adapting to these new changes to online and virtual resources have been quite simple considering that I usually have my phone in my hands. However, it can feel quite different and impersonal when interacting via Zoom so it’s really important to have valuable conversation with those you are Zooming with.

What is your top tip for coping with feelings of overwhelm?

Justin: My top tip for coping is to pray or meditate.

Erin: I spoke with another professional in the field and he pointed out to me that I, and others in similar situations, may be working harder remotely than I would when in a structured office/site setting. I have felt the need to justify the opportunity to work remotely and catch myself working from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with breaks only for meetings or eating. 

He reminded me it’s absolutely okay to step back from work and reevaluate my life and work balance. Setting times to start and stop work allows me to be more productive during those work periods, because I know I will be able to step away from it later in the day and take care of myself. 

It’s also okay to not work a day. Both my boss here at the ARHE, and my research lab coordinator are incredibly understanding when I become overwhelmed. Giving myself that breather to refocus on other tasks, which for me includes studying for the GRE, lets me come back to my work with a fresh mind.

Ali: When things get overwhelming (and they have recently) I sit with the feeling for a bit, cry if I need to, and then take a look at the things I’ve been prioritizing and if something needs to change I change it. I’ll also take a break, and I’m getting better at taking scheduled breaks, or making sure I get a break before I think I need it. If you wait until you think you need a break, you might be too late.

Katana: I was feeling overwhelmed recently with job applications, feeling burnt out and empty, and moving my body and being mindful of my emotions and energy have been the most helpful for reducing dissociation and have more presence and purpose.

Paola: Reach out to someone, because having overwhelming feelings and keeping that bottled in can feel torturous. It’s important to recognize that we are all going through this together.