With the COVID-19 pandemic complicating healthcare, many Alcoholics Anonymous, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient addiction treatment programs are moving to online platforms along with individual therapy. Addiction recovery is already difficult and moving online adds an extra level of difficulty. These tips can help you manage your online recovery and make the most of the help that’s available to you.
1. Designate a Space
One of the benefits of in-person recovery programs is that they provide a safe space for you to separate yourself from your daily life. Being surrounded by reminders of your day-to-day activities can make it difficult to stay present in sessions. Choosing a room or space to use only for online recovery programs can help you create your own “safe space” to ground you in a recovery-focused mindset. Privacy is also key to feeling safe, so let others in your living space know that you are going to need some alone time at certain times, even if you don’t tell them why.
2. Keep Your Microphone and Camera On
Even if you are in a designated space, it can be easy to get distracted while you’re at home. In addition, it can be tempting to shut down and stop engaging during a difficult session. By keeping your microphone and camera on unless the counselor leading the session directs you to turn them off, you make sure that others are aware of your behavior and emotional state and can keep you accountable or offer support. This way, you can stay focused and engaged.
3. Be Prepared for Technology Issues
Video conferences for group and individual sessions are the best way to simulate an in-person recovery experience. Making sure your WiFi connection is stable and your phone or laptop is charged can help make this possible. However, at some point platforms will inevitably crash or your video or audio will stop working. Be flexible and have contingency plans such as messaging systems or your phone on hand in case you need to call in to a session.
4. Find Ways to Stay Connected
One of the biggest components of addiction recovery is the connection you form with other patients, and isolation can be counterproductive. In an online group, it can be much more difficult to talk to others and form meaningful relationships. If your program allows it, exchange phone numbers with people you feel a potential connection with and make a commitment to talk outside of the group. If not, at least increase your phone and video calls with your sponsor. Surrounding yourself with supports is helpful, so reaching out to trusted people in your life may also be a good option.
5. Make a Solid Plan
It’s normal to feel like online recovery isn’t quite cutting it. It can be harder to connect with your recovery across a screen. It may feel like no one is truly keeping you accountable, which can increase the urge to use substances. Isolation increases these urges as well, so it is important to discuss ways to keep yourself accountable with your therapist. You may want to send them reports, create a reward system for yourself, create a routine or come up with a list of 12-step and CBT skills that you can commit to practicing every day. Scheduling time for self-care and recovery homework can also help.
6. Keep the Line of Communication Open
Online recovery is probably new to your therapist and group leaders, too. If something isn’t working for you or you have an idea for how to make your sessions more effective, don’t be afraid to let them know. They’ll appreciate the feedback. In addition, remember that your therapists won’t be able to read your body language as well, so make sure to be as specific as you can and practice identifying your emotions verbally.