Recovery Vermont’s Melissa Story, of Montpelier, shares her thoughts on self-isolation and how it has affected her.

How are you handling self-isolation?Self-isolation has been a whirlwind for me so far! I am a person in recovery from substance-use disorder, and I also work in the field of recovery, so things have really ramped up since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Vermont. We’re dealing with an epidemic within a pandemic. In my job at Recovery Vermont — a nonprofit public health organization in Montpelier — we help to educate, provide leadership opportunities and advocate for Vermonters in recovery. We believe the opposite of addiction is connection and that recovery doesn’t just mean abstinence, it means connecting people to employment, transportation, housing, health care, etc. The collective isolation that we are experiencing now is very dangerous to the recovery community, because the connection that we rely on to keep our recovery healthy isn’t available right now. People don’t have access to the resources that benefit their recovery such as medication, recovery meetings, exercise groups and meditation groups. My colleagues and I have been working swiftly to get our programs online and to create new ways for people to connect virtually. Hence the whirlwind I was referring to. I don’t feel like I have been in isolation as a result of this — I am very grateful for this work.

What has been the biggest challenge for you?The biggest challenge for me so far has been witnessing the economic hit to our small town. We live in a special community where we pride ourselves on supporting local farms and businesses. I know people have been doing their best to support our community, but with lots of people out of work, there has been an obvious lack of ability to help. Business owners have been working in such creative ways to keep things going.

What has been the most pleasant surprise?The most pleasant surprise for me during this pandemic is all of the dancing that I have done! There are so many amazing bands — both locally and globally — that have been streaming their music as a way to provide connection and help fundraise for people in need. We dug out our disco ball and a strobe light and have been having full-on dance parties. I also bust a move on my lunch break sometimes if it’s raining ... not something I’d probably do if I were in the office.

How much of what you’re doing do you think will you carry forward after the pandemic?Work wise, we will definitely continue what we are offering, and do whatever we can to help. We were planning on bringing our training content online, and the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for us to get it done ASAP. We are about to launch our first virtual Recovery Coach Academy, and this has allowed us to reach lots of people in rural areas that we weren’t able to before — it’s very exciting. Also, the disco ball is not going anywhere.

And what do you feel the lessons will be that come out of all of this?I think that we are learning a very important lesson on a global level. For too long, we have been in robot mode — doing the same thing every day without taking into question what is most important in our lives. Do we even know what makes us happy? This pandemic has given us the gift of slowing down, the gift of self-examination and the gift of pause. This is where life happens — in the present moment. If we can take this time to re-evaluate our lives and figure out what is most important to us, and start to incorporate these things into our daily lives — then this time will be well worth it.

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