2020 has certainly turned out to be an unexpected and stressful year for millions of people globally, and especially students and people in recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted our realities to virtual learning, social distancing, significantly less in-person activities, and rigorous preventive health measures, like mask wearing and thorough cleaning.
Why is that a problem for people in recovery? Johann Hari says that the opposite of addiction is connection, but how can we do this when we are so far removed from human connection during a pandemic? We adapt — that’s how. People in recovery are incredibly resilient and we don’t give ourselves enough credit for it. Recovery isn’t over just because of a pandemic.
National Recovery Month
This September has been the 31st year of National Recovery Month. This year’s theme is celebrating connections! The goal of Recovery Month, as outlined by Faces and Voices of Recovery is to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery possible.
As National Recovery Month is coming to a close, we took the opportunity to reflect on how recovery has changed this year and what our hopes are for future recovery celebrations from a student perspective.
How has recovery month influenced your recovery?
Ali: Recovery Month helped me realize early in my recovery the awareness around recovery and the things being done nationally to help further the recovery movement. It helped me see the cool events going on throughout the country that brought neat attention to the movement.
Asia: Recovery month has influenced my recovery by showing the strength I have gained with the help of recovery communities by providing me the opportunity to truly reflect on my achievements since deciding to take a path of recovery.
Maysa: Recovery month has allowed me to learn so much more about various resources available to people in or seeking recovery. Also, hearing other people share their stories during Recovery Month creates a feeling of a sense of community and serves to empower people.
Paola: Recovery month is just a reminder of how big the recovery community is and also reminds me that if I am ever struggling that I have a great support system and that I don’t have to deal with my struggles alone.
Justin: Recovery Month has helped me to feel reconnected to the recovery community
after feeling so disconnected over the past few months because of COVID.
What has been different about recovery month during COVID? And how have you had to change your recovery practices?
Ali: Normally during Recovery Month I enjoy doing the Walk for Recovery in MN that has become an annual event. Because of COVID it was a lot different this year and I found myself spending that day with my family instead (which was a perfect alternative and such a fun day). I also found myself doing an adventure trip at the beginning of September where I was able to explore a different way to work on my recovery in the wilderness of Colorado and how important that trip was for me.
Asia: This recovery month has been challenging due to COVID-19 because there are so many stressors and less in person events that I look forward to throughout September. I had to change my recovery practices by incorporating more self-care routines to keep myself centered after drastic changes in my daily life. Now I find myself reading for fun from a diverse background of authors and trying to return so some of my hobbies I let go off because I thought it would not be the same sober. Turns out, creating art soberly is very liberating and I enjoy being able to simply make things based on my authentic creativity rather than my drunkenness.
Maysa: COVID has drastically changed the way recovery month feels this year. The inability to meet in person for meetings and events has made me feel rather isolated. To combat this, I have been taking walks and speaking to others in recovery who face the same issues of isolation.
Paola: This recovery month has made it clearer for me that I am a person in recovery. Before I would identify myself as an ally (which I still am) however, I now acknowledge that I’m in recovery of self harm. Making that realization and obviously dealing with the emotional roller coaster that is COVID-19, it has now offered me the ability to allow myself some grace in my day to day life.
Justin: COVID has had a profound effect on my recovery. I’ve always looked forward to Recovery Month because of the events and the opportunity to celebrate (in person) with other people in recovery. The collegiate recovery program that I am a part of always has big events during this month. This year we aren’t able to do that. Because of these changes I have had to work on getting used to virtual events and meetings and being more present and intentional even when I don’t feel comfortable or connected.
What are your hopes for the future of recovery month?
Ali: I hope Recovery Month continues to be an avenue where people feel they can express themselves, be proud of their recovery (and other) accomplishments, and really celebrate all things recovery.
Asia: My hopes for the future of recovery month is incorporating hobbies into events where people have the opportunity to get together (post-pandemic) and being able to engage with others while also having fun beyond the screens and meetings.
Maysa: I hope that in the future, there is more of a focus on BIPOC experiences in recovery spaces and non-traditional recovery paths.
Paola: I hope that Recovery Month and the recovery continues to grow. I hope that this month can offer a safe space to people who are currently struggling and are wanting to try a new way of life.
Justin: My hope is that by next year we will be able to celebrate Recovery Month in the “normal” way. By normal I mean in person, of course.