‘My Recovery in Lockdown’ is a heartfelt and honest account of how one individual, Jamie Lee, was able to overcome new challenges to her recovery while in lockdown.
A week before lockdown was announced, I was suffering from burnout, I had been doing way too much and not taking any time for myself to recharge. This resulted in me having a week-long break from my volunteering commitments with Forth Valley Recovery Community (FVRC). I spent the week catching up on sleep and recharging with napping throughout the day and doing little, other than soaking in bubble baths and lazing around watching TV. After two weeks of doing truly little activity and having minimal contact with fellow recovering addicts, I started to miss human contact.
Prior to lockdown, I was a Walk Leader with FVRC; I was always busy with setting up and leading walks with fellow members in Clackmannanshire. I also took part in group walks in Stirling during the weekend, which always boosted my mood and made sure I got outside and did some exercise. I was able to attend my home group Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Meeting for the last time in person. Social distancing had been advised during these walks and meetings, and then they ceased all in-person activities when the government announced official lockdown measures.
When the announcement was made, I was filled with dread and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. I believed I would not be able to cope mentally nor maintain my recovery if I were not able to connect with Recovery Community Members and fellowship friends. I began to dwell on everything I could not do and what I would lose during this time. I was upset about not being able to visit my grandparents and cried over the fact that I would miss out on precious time with them. The realisation set in that my partner would not be able to see his son for some time too, and this broke my heart and added to my anxieties. All I seemed to do in the first few days following the official lockdown announcement was panic and focus on negative thoughts relating to my routine, my family, and my partner too.
I struggled to remind myself of what I had in my life to be grateful for and I dwelled on the fact that I could not physically see or be with my grandparents, stepson, or recovery buddies. However, I could FaceTime and video call them, and I was able to stay in contact via Facebook Messenger, texts, and phone calls too. It took me a week or two to comes to terms with this ‘new normal’ and I found it hard to accept this change forced upon everyone in the UK. I struggled to sleep, I was overly emotional and had a hard time finding a routine. All I wanted to do was cry.
My change in behaviour was noticed by my family too. I started to think that my mum and gran were becoming increasingly concerned for me as they started phoning and texting more often and told me not to give up and to make sure I got out once a day for fresh air and exercise. After days of sleepless nights and feeling there was no hope, my attitude and outlook finally began to change.
Within a matter of days, I began reaching to people in my Recovery Community via group chats set up by staff for volunteers and community members. I joined NA group chats with my home groups and even offered to host Zoom fellowship meetings. I knew if I did service and hosted the meetings, it would force me to go and stay connected within the fellowship. Doing any kind of service doesn’t just help me but others to! However, I struggled to properly engage with the Zoom sessions, the change from the normal face-to-face café style settings was drastic and I really struggled to connect. I was used to physically doing things in my volunteering role and sitting behind a screen filled me with a lot of anxiety and I felt I was unable to give anything to FVRC at this time. Having been diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and still being at quite an early in my recovery from addiction, I found it hard to adjust with any kind of change, and lockdown had brought an immense change I was not prepared for. Looking back now, I struggled to admit just how difficult I found it to cope and felt unable to truly connect and engage with anyone.
Meanwhile, Shumela at Resilience Learning Partnership (RLP) had come up with the idea of creating Craft Boxes for the children of Clackmannanshire and beyond. This triggered something positive in me. I immediately saw it as an opportunity for me to become proactive in this uncertain time and I could again be physically involved in a project, helping me feel more productive! I let Shumela know that I loved her idea and that I was keen to get involved while working from home. Shumela soon dropped 50 boxes and all their contents at my doorstep and I was ready to begin making a difference in my local community.
My partner, Matt, and I started work right away on sorting the craft supplies into the 50 boxes and we had them ready to be delivered in no time at all. Helping to produce these boxes helped to build my confidence again, I began to take pride in what I was doing! I felt that I really connected with the small team of RLP staff and volunteers, I had a new purpose of working with these people to make the craft boxes a reality.
I began connecting via chat and the odd zoom meeting with FVRC and my friends and family again, I was sleeping normally and no longer wallowing in self-pity and dwelling on the negatives that the lockdown had caused. I remained committed to my home group service with NA, hosting zoom meetings and was able to pick up step work again and since have completed and shared three different steps in lockdown so far!
The Craft Boxes project began growing fast and it became impossible to work on it from home. The decision was made that those staff members and volunteers who were able to and felt comfortable would work out of the Resilience Learning partnership offices in Alloa. This was to allow us to increase our capacity and work more efficiently. Our small team always works hard to complete orders and requests while making sure to maintain social distancing and safe practice. Matt and I had grown passionate about the Craft Boxes project and began throwing ourselves into volunteering our time to this cause. Before long I found myself managing our small team and once funding become available, Shumela offered me a 12-hour post. I could not believe it; I hadn’t worked for almost five years and this part time post was a great achievement for me.
Being employed now by RLP meant I was able to manage my time more efficiently and I began to engage more with FVRC Zoom meetings at weekends, connecting again with friends and newcomers to the community. This meant so much to me. I felt I had regained my strength and confidence that I had lost as a result of lockdown. I could see the difference we were making at RLP to the children receiving our boxes, the media attention we received was a huge boost to our confidence and personally gave me a sense of pride and something to smile about again. Since the project began until the time of writing, our small team has managed to make and deliver 750 craft boxes to children of Clackmannanshire and beyond. What an achievement! We have now secured additional funding and are in the process of ordering materials for three different boxes for teenagers, the elderly and single people living alone in these difficult times. I am ever so grateful to be part of the RLP team and this project, they have helped me regain not just confidence but maintain my recovery, given me purpose and form a routine again.
On Saturday 9th of May of this year, I celebrated ONE YEAR IN RECOVERY FROM ACTIVE ADDICTION!!!
I had planned with my sponsor and home group members to celebrate in style with a curry karaoke night or spending the day doing outdoor activities such as Go Ape. However, due to Covid-19, this was no longer possible. However, lockdown did not take away the fact I had reached this amazing milestone, it just meant that I could not celebrate with my recovery friends and family in person. But I was not about to let that stop me from feeling grateful for what I have today and feeling pride in my achievement. I woke to cards and gifts from my partner, family and close friend and their words of encouragement had me overwhelmed with gratitude and pride. I was overcome with emotions and cried tears of happiness for once. I spent the day receiving kind messages and phone calls from FVRC members, staff, and fellowship friends. Matt made sure I was able to relax, fixing me a nice bubble bath and even made sure I had a face mask to help me unwind, all before treating me to a takeaway. I rounded up my Clean Time Birthday by sharing my experience, strength and hope at my home group that evening with my mum and friend of almost 20 years present. My group members surprised me with a banner, balloons and candles via our zoom meeting and I was blown away with these kind gestures.
In these difficult times I have not always found it easy to deal with lockdown, and in the beginning, I found myself feeling lost with little hope for the future. Thanks to my resilience and strength and support from everyone at FVRC, NA, RLP, family and friends, I have been able to regain purpose, confidence, become connected and in a much better place to manage my anxieties and emotions. I now have a part time job while lockdown is in place and celebrated One Year in Recovery! Dreams really can come true if you are willing to persevere and work towards your goals!