Get Out The Toolbox: Surviving the Coronavirus Pandemic

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One of the phrases that I keep hearing get thrown around amidst the Coronavirus pandemic is “nothing has prepared us for this!” And in a sense, this is true. We haven’t seen a pandemic like this on a global scale since the Spanish Flu in the early 20th century. 

However, I don’t buy the fact that we are totally unprepared for the moment we are in. It should be better stated that nothing specifically has formed us for the moment we are in. But everything in life has shaped us to be able to respond creatively to the challenges that we are facing.

When I first started recovery, I decided to avoid self-isolation by spending time at local coffee shops to do my various computer work. It seems strange to me now, because I really enjoy going to coffee shops, but I was petrified at the thought of being in a place by myself. 

It honestly took a lot of effort and courage to take that step and flee from the comfort of my apartment. This ability to be comfortable by myself, while at the same time opening myself up to potential social interaction, is one of the “tools” of my program. However, with social distancing in place, one of my tools has been taken away from me!

You might be wondering, what is a program “tool”? One of the things members are asked to do in an SAA program is to develop a recovery toolbox. This includes obvious things such as attending meetings, working the Steps, and getting a sponsor. 

However, stuff like this is just the tip of the iceberg. Other tools of recovery include prayer, exercise, healthy friendships, eating well, seeing a therapist, phone meetings, attending religious services, etc. Some people in SAA even create the “three circles,” which include defining “acting out behaviors,” “danger zone behaviors” (the 12-step version of the near occasion of sin), and “healthy behaviors.”

The “outer circle,” which entails “healthy behaviors,” is where we can include an elaborate list of additional tools. For me, this has included getting a spiritual director, attending Eucharistic adoration, reading, and making sure I’m going on dates, oddly enough. Basically, it’s a recipe for keeping ourselves healthy and whole.

Readjusting Our Outlook and Attitude

Obviously, the Coronavirus has been quite the disruption. More likely than not, your group isn’t meeting. You probably haven’t been to Mass in a few weeks and you’re likely stuck at home. In light of many of the “tools” I just described, social distancing and the large-scale shutdown of our economy, civic, and religious institutions have wiped a lot of them out! What are we to do?

First off, I think it’s important to realize this is not humanity’s first rodeo—the human race has survived numerous pandemics before and we will get through this one. The second thing is to accept the new reality for what it is. Life has really slowed down. Our interaction with others has diminished. Human beings are social creatures, so we certainly can’t stay in this “distancing” state for too long, but we can still thrive in our limited situation. It just demands a simpler lifestyle.

A wise priest once told me to “make friends with winter.” Where I live, there’s nothing we can do about the cold, snow, and limited daylight, so we create a culture around this season of the year. The priest suggested I take up winter sports. It’s a way of embracing a particular lifestyle around a more challenging season. In a similar vein, I suggest that we “make friends” with social distancing. It won’t last forever, but the limited lifestyle could bear fruit if we allow it.

Readjusting Our Tool Box

Once we have accepted reality, we can begin readjusting our toolbox appropriately. I see this forced limited lifestyle as an opportunity to focus on self-reflection and determining what in our lives we would like to change.

The second best thing to an actual in-person meeting is a phone or online meeting. These offer a great way to do a check-in and stay connected with others striving for recovery. From my experience with phone meetings, there are usually people from all over the country (check out the list below for links to various 12-step phone and online meetings).

I have also been making use of my social media platforms. Not only does this keep me in contact with loved ones, but it exposes me to positive things going on during the crisis. Certainly, this isn’t as fulfilling as meeting with people in person, but it’s a decent substitute.

Additionally, I have been making sure I go outside each day for a walk. I try to make it to one of the local parks to expose myself to some natural beauty. But even just a walk around town is good. I find that not only will I come across other people, but a lot of my best thinking and praying occurs while I’m out and about.

There isn’t one right or wrong way to build a toolbox during the Coronavirus pandemic. However, it’s important that we reflect on how we can adjust our lives during this irregular time of social distancing to get the most out of it!


Phone & Online Meetings

Catholic in Recovery Virtual Meetings:

AA Phone Meetings:

SAA Phone Meetings:

Adult Children of Alcoholics Phone Meetings:

NA Phone Meetings:

Streaming of Virtual Masses

Word on Fire Catholic Ministries:

Virtual Daily Mass:


Quarter Joe is a lifelong Catholic and has been in recovery for pornography addiction for nearly three years. He is passionate about the spiritual path of the 12-step model and the power of Jesus in the Eucharist in bringing healing and transformation.