When COVID-19 hit the world, the fate of many 12-Step meetings became unknown. Many switched to online platforms, while others had to shut down completely. However, as more and more people are getting vaccinated, some 12-Step meetings are opening the doors for in-person meetings once again. In-person meetings do not mean COVID-19 has gone away, though–you still need to ensure you follow safety protocols. If you miss the unbeatable feeling of being in person with the people in your recovery circle, here are some tips to stay safe as you transition back to in-person meetings.
Risk Factors to Consider
When deciding to go back to in-person meetings, there are certain risk factors you should take into consideration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined the following:
- Number of COVID-19 cases in your area: High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the event location or the locations the attendees are coming from increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
- Setting of the event: Indoor events, especially in places with poor ventilation, pose more risk than outdoor events. Some meetings are moving to in-person but are still outdoors!
- Length of the event: Events that last longer pose more risk than shorter events. Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more (over 24 hours) significantly increases the risk of becoming infected.
- Number of people at the event: Events with more people increase the likelihood of being exposed. The size of the event should be determined based on whether attendees from different households can stay at least six feet apart. Physical distancing at events can reduce transmission risk–for example, blocking off seats or modifying room layouts.
- Behavior of attendees during an event: Events where people engage in behaviors such as interacting with others from outside their own household, singing, shouting, not maintaining physical distancing, or not wearing masks consistently and correctly can increase risk.
Wear Your Mask
Although some states, such as Texas, have begun to lift mask mandates, many states still have mandates in order. Even if you are in a state that no longer requires masks, wearing one is one of the best ways to ensure your safety. Remember, you don’t know where people have been or who they’ve seen. Keep your mask on even when you share during meetings (as uncomfortable as that can be). The priority is keeping yourself and others safe.
Not only should you wear your mask, but make sure you are wearing it correctly. The CDC outlines the correct way to wear a mask as:
- Washing your hands or using sanitizer before putting on your mask
- Putting the mask over your nose and mouth and securing it under your chin
- Fitting the mask snugly against the sides of your face, slipping the loops over your ears, or tying the strings behind your ears
- Making sure you can breathe easily
If you have to adjust your mask continuously, it doesn’t fit properly. In this case, you may need to find a different mask type or brand. If others are not wearing their masks properly and you feel uncomfortable, it may be best to go home and try an online meeting.
It is also crucial to be mindful of the facility in which the meeting is held. Some facilities may have their own personal rules, no matter what mandates in the state look like.
Keep Your Distance
As meetings open in person, many are setting up their meetings with chairs six feet apart. However, if you happen to run into a meeting where this is not occurring, take matters into your own hands. The CDC states that social distancing should be practiced in combination with other everyday preventive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and frequently washing your hands.
Most 12-Step meetings also use hugs and handshakes as a way to greet members. As much as you may want that warm hug from another member, it is best to avoid them for the time being. Some alternative to hugs or handshakes include:
- Putting a hand on your heart (to signify love)
- The “what’s up” nod
- Throwing up a peace sign
It can be hard not to hug the people you love and know in your 12-Step meetings. However, you can let your friends know that you love them and set something up for the safety of both of you to spend quality time together, such as setting up a Zoom coffee date.
Keep You and Your Space Clean
Remember to keep yourself and your space clean. The CDC states you should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are unavailable. Wash your hands before and after the meeting.
Keep alcohol wipes on you and wipe down your chair before and after sitting down. Many facilities will have their own cleaning protocols, and chairs may already be clean. However, you can never be too safe. Again, remember to take the facility’s rules into consideration and help clean their space once the meeting is over.
When in Doubt, Stay Online!
While you may be tempted to attend in-person meetings again after so long, you may still be fearful. If you have any doubt, stay online! There are still plenty of meetings that are hybrid (both in-person and over Zoom) and entirely online.
As more and more people are getting vaccinated, 12-Step programs are beginning to meet in person again. It can be exciting to see members you know and love after such a long time but remember–there is still the risk of contracting COVID-19. Consider any risk factors of attending in-person meetings and, when in doubt, stay online! If you choose to go back in person, remember to wear your mask, keep your distance, and keep yourself and your space clean. COVID-19 has impacted everyone worldwide, but Hired Power is here to provide you with the support you need. When you choose Hired Power’s sober companion service in Orange County, CA, you can feel confident that you’ll engage a qualified team of professionals. We understand the loneliness and isolation created by lifestyle changes in early recovery and COVID-19. Let us help you and be there for you. To learn more about our services, call Hired Power today at (714) 559-3919.