With a continuing need for connection, addiction and recovery services go virtual

JFCS Jewish Community Addiction Services has adapted to meet the needs of clients during the pandemic

The pandemic and social distancing measures it requires is challenging for everyone, but can be especially challenging for people in recovery and those who are battling substance addiction. This month we are featuring two columns that address these challenges and offer advice and resources. Below is an article on how JFCS’ Jewish Community Addiction Services is adapting to these times. To read a first-hand account, “Reflections from an alcoholic during the COVID-19 crisis,” by JFCS Graphic Designer and Digital Communications Associate Megan Wiese, click here.

By Beckly Lyle Sulkin, MSW, LGSW • Jewish Community Addiction Services Coordinator

Addiction has been called “a disease of isolation,” of which the opposite is connection. While we all face challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, people struggling with active addiction or trying to maintain recovery may face unique difficulties due to isolation imposed by social distancing. As society highlights the need for isolation, connection becomes more difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

As with many human services and social gatherings, recovery communities have found a temporary home on the internet. On April 13, JFCS and the Jewish Recovery Network (JRN) hosted the first-ever Virtual Freedom from Addiction Seder on Zoom. Nearly 30 people gathered from near and far – including Minnesota, Arizona, Florida, and Missouri – to celebrate our exodus from slavery and freedom from addiction. Many attendees expressed thanks for the opportunity to participate in a sober Passover Seder. It was clear from their comments and participation that the chance to be part of a recovery community during this unusual time had a positive impact.

Similarly, many recovery support meetings – including 12-step meetings such as AA, NA, and Al-Anon; as well as alternatives such as SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, and LifeRing Secular Recovery – have migrated to remote meetings by phone and video chat. While these virtual meetings are not entirely new, they have seen a dramatic increase in recent weeks, offering more location-centric meetings in response to the pandemic.

These meetings offer familiar faces from local meetings, and are held at the typical time of the in-person meetings that they replace, easing the transition from in-person to online participation (and hopefully back to in-person in the future)! Recovery community organizations such as Minnesota Recovery Connection are also providing remote services, including recovery group meetings and peer support services.

Admittedly, the abundance of resources can be overwhelming at times. Finding the motivation and energy to attend virtual meetings or access new recovery resources can be a challenge in and of itself. Some may find themselves feeling guilty that they are not taking a more active approach to their recovery.

In the spirit of the Passover season, I encourage anyone feeling this way to adopt a mindset of dayenu, which says, “that alone would have been sufficient; for that alone we are grateful.” If you are able to be of service to others (a proven strategy for promoting abstinence): dayenu. If you are only able to attend one meeting a week, instead of your typical daily meetings: dayenu. If all you can do to keep from drinking or using in the next day (or the next hour) is to focus on self-care and personal comfort: dayenu.

It is okay to not be okay. JFCS’ Jewish Community Addiction Services is here to help. If you would like more resources, strategies, or support for recovery during this time of crisis, please contact Sharon Goldetsky at 952-417-2149 or SSGoldetsky@jfcsmpls.org. In the meantime, may we all find the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Click here to read a Star Tribune article, “Twin Cities addiction experts fear rise in drug overdoses amid virus isolation”