Calgary Dream Centre
4510 Macleod Trail SW Calgary AB T2G 0A4 (403) 243-5598
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Connecting While Socially Distancing: How the Calgary Dream Centre Handles Recovery During COVID-19

Two recovering addicts holding hands to show support while wearing rubber gloves

If you spend any reasonable amount of time in our building, you’ll hear a saying. “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It’s connection.”

Connection is vital. We are social beings. When someone does not have the opportunity to bond with health connections (family, friends, communities, etc.), they often bond with unhealthy behaviours or substances to fill that gap. 

Isolation, loneliness, rejection, abandonment, resentments; they’re are all symptoms of a lack of connection, and they’re dangerous ingredients in addiction or relapse. Connection is absolutely critical for anyone trying to overcome their addiction.

So now, during a time of unprecedented uncertainty, the Calgary Dream Centre is trying to maintain an effective and affirming recovery community while respecting the importance of “social distancing.” 

This is how we’re holding on to positive connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Impact of Social Distancing in Recovery

“Social distancing” is an interesting term. You could interpret it as the need to isolate or withdraw. That’s accurate in a sense, but it’s not the entire picture. I like the phrase “physical distancing.” It’s not about disconnecting socially; it’s finding alternative ways to connect that prioritize physical health and safety. 

Physical distancing has absolutely changed the way we approach recovery. While it’s definitely a challenge, we see an opportunity for individuals in recovery to get creative and enhance their relapse prevention or life recovery plan. 

This is the ultimate test of radical acceptance and accepting life on life’s terms, and the recovery community is rising to the occasion. Facing such adversity and choosing not to escape with substance use takes incredible bravery. These are defining moments in recovery that can strengthen the belief that tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

How the Recovery Community is Staying Connected

We’re so proud of our recovery community. The measures we’ve taken during lockdown have really been a joint effort from staff, alumni, and current residents. 

A New Approach to Aftercare

Our Aftercare meetings are an important support system for alumni who are working hard to maintain their sobriety. Normally, Aftercare meetings take place in groups of 30 people or more. But with provincial guidelines in place, we’ve had to make some changes.

We’ve broken Aftercare meetings into smaller groups. For residents still living in our building, they’re continuing to meet in groups of six in-person. For alumni who live off-campus, we now have a Zoom meeting they can join remotely. In our community housing, Aftercare meetings are peer-led by someone already in the house.

Daily Work-Outs

In an effort to keep everyone healthy and active, we’ve started offering 3 fitness classes a day at 6 AM, 4 PM, and 8 PM. At first, we had to get a little bit creative, using laundry detergent bottles and bags of sidewalk salt for weights and table racks for chin-up bars.

However, after a simple social media post, we’ve received donations of weights and a lifting bench, which have been a huge blessing. Residents have been using those to great effect, and take extra precautions to disinfect the equipment after each use.

Clients Taking On Volunteer Roles

We have around 20 in-house volunteers that help facilitate meetings, serve meals, clean living spaces, run classes, and so much more. Relying on our own residents significantly reduces the risk of our building becoming contaminated.

It’s also worth noting that we still have staff ready and available for support. Our front line staff have done an incredible job in keeping our building and resident safe and entertained. And our Operational Support Workers are on the job 24 hours a day to ensure client needs are met.

Spaced-Out Meetings

Meetings and programming are an important part of the recovery process. To respect physical distancing guidelines and continue running the meetings, we had to move programs to a larger space. Now, everyone in the meeting has their own table.

The space we’re using is also normally used for Imagine Church, banquets, and special events. It’s an important part of our living history, and it’s inspiring to see our current program residents become part of it.

Programming Changes

All of the meetings we conduct right now are in-house. We’ve had to modify some of our programming, pausing activities that are not in compliance with the Government guidelines. Replacement classes have included art therapy, Recovery 360, meditation, and other research-based programs like Outcome Star and the Genesis Process.

Good Things Are Happening in a Troubling Time

This has been a unique time for the Calgary Dream Centre. Now more than ever before, we’ve seen our residents become proactive community builders.

Residents are creating their own bible studies, work out routines, and recovery meetings. They’re taking the initiative to step up and lean into solution-focused thinking. We get to see success on a daily basis as our residents adapt to this changing world and learn how to thrive in the uncertainty. It’s all about mindset, and the mindset of our residents and staff is endlessly encouraging during this strange season.

You Are Never Alone in Recovery

It is normal to feel isolated and lonely right now. But you don’t have to sit and wait for someone to call or message you. You can be the one to start a conversation, even if all you have to say is, “I’m struggling today.” 

It’s okay to reach out. It’s okay to not be okay. We’re facing uncharted waters, and no one expects you to have all of the answers.

We often feel that success means achieving something by ourselves. But that kind of success becomes a very lonely place when we reach the finish line and no one is there to celebrate with us. Make the effort to reach out, forge connections, and build communities. When you find success, you’ll have an army of support celebrating with you.

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  • David Skidmore

    Written by David Skidmore

    Manager of Alumni Services & Family ReVisioning David has been working with the Calgary Dream Centre since 2015. He has a Masters in Theology, a Doctorate in Leadership Development and Educational Systems. In his role at the Dream Centre, David manages Alumni Services and our family support program, ReVisioning the Family. Through these programs, David helps people with lives impacted by addiction understand recovery and gain hope for a better tomorrow. Originally from Oxford, Nova Scotia, David is a licensed skydiver and has raced sailboats in Toronto.

    More Articles by David Skidmore

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