I am employed as a Navigator for a violence intervention project based in Accident & Emergency departments throughout NHS Scotland. We work alongside our fantastic medical and nursing staff reducing the number of recurring presentations caused by social issues.
Due to the current crisis we have been asked to adapt the support we offer and are being proactive and creative in finding new ways to support our most vulnerable patients.
Many of the people we support have addiction issues and in the past they have been referred to 12 step meetings. But because of COVID-19 all meetings are now closed until further notice.
In my local recovery community, I have witnessed a very positive change. When the lockdown closed our meetings people initially feared the consequences of being unable to connect with each other face to face, but addicts if nothing else have a great capacity to adapt, we had to in order to survive active addiction. So the meetings that closed reopened online giving us a platform to continue supporting each other and a place where we could direct newcomers to our fellowship.
At first, people were sharing their fears but quickly realised this was not helpful and only served to reinforce the anxieties of others. In a very short period of time, this changed and the message being transmitted was of gratitude. The old-timers with long sobriety and a wealth of wisdom shared their experience of overcoming difficult and challenging times while remaining abstinent.
The message then changed to one of hope, a rare commodity in these difficult times and certainly alien to one who is living in active addiction. So the laughter returned and the altruism of the fellowship once more took precedence resulting in the meetings flourishing and interactions with people from all over the world via Zoom.
The first two meetings to close were based in Crosshouse and GRI hospitals, both experiencing very high attendance numbers ranging from 50 to 80 people, as well as successfully introducing patients from the wards. The decision to close was made before the lockdown but we were advised and felt as responsible group members we could not risk taking those numbers into hospitals without putting our medical staff and patients at risk.
It was with a heavy heart we closed both meetings but I am now delighted to say they are up and running again online through Zoom. Both are experiencing an increase in attendance and because of the simplicity of using the app (two clicks and you are on) Navigator referrals have soared and our patients are getting support from the comfort of their own homes.
If it were not for the meetings going online many would have been unable to attend because of issues including anxiety, agoraphobia and physical constraints. They can now join us and receive the support they deserve for their addiction issues.
If our fellowships had not seized the opportunity to adapt I dread to think where our members would be now, perhaps as a society we can learn from this.
I’ve gained insight into what’s important to me over the past few weeks and it’s not the nice car in the driveway, I’ve not driven it for 3 weeks. It’s not the designer clothes in my wardrobe I find myself reaching for, it’s the more comfortable garments, labels or not. It isn't the drive for success, property or prestige, all things I have placed great value on in the past. I now know the importance of time shared with loved ones, laughs with friends and colleagues, and connection to all things the virus has temporarily stolen from us.
COVID-19 will come and go, the love and laughter will return, the hugs we experience will be heartfelt and we will again experience the joy of each other’s company.
Can I take this opportunity to thank all the front-line workers who are selflessly attending their work in these trying and uncertain times. To the staff in our NHS, not just the doctors and nurses, but to everyone who at this moment is laying aside their fears and turning up at the hospitals every day to support us. In normal times I am inspired by these dedicated, hardworking and caring individuals. But at these times words can’t describe the appreciation I have for our NHS and its staff.