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Staying Sober Through Hurricane Sandy

Many people in recovery face a dual challenge to stay "dry" during the storm.

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By May Wilkerson

10/29/12

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As the eastern seaboard faces Hurricane Sandy's 85-mph winds and a predicted 11-foot storm surge, many addicts in recovery face an equally scary threat: isolation. For alcoholics who have put down the bottle, staying occupied and socializing with other people can be an essential tool for warding off the temptation to drink. But in the event of a severe weather event like a hurricane, many addicts find themselves left to their own devices—which, combined with the anxiety provoked by a media barrage of ominous weather warnings, can increase the desire to drink or use drugs. "I'm honestly more scared of being alone with my mind than of the storm," Alex, a sober alcoholic from NYC, tells The Fix. "As they say in 'the rooms' [of AA] it's a dangerous neighborhood in there." Recovery meetings like AA are closing down all over the New York area and well beyond as winds increase, leading many recovering addicts to seek out alternate ways to stay connected. Most 12-step programs offer meetings by phone, and the internet provides a host of resources for coping with addiction, with websites like intherooms.com providing social support online for alcoholics and addicts in recovery or getting sober.

Others find networking sites like Facebook helpful for warding off loneliness. But these sites can also be triggering, by serving as a reminder that many are turning to alcohol and drugs to counteract the boredom and isolation brought on by the storm. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel jealous of all the people posting about how they're stocking up on tons of booze to get through the next couple of days," says Heidi, who lives in Brooklyn and has one year sober. "Me, I've just got a lot of cookies and tea and movies to watch. And that's cool." Other people in recovery say the hurricane has increased their urge to drink or use, and it can be especially hard on those who are newly clean or sober. "I just want to get drunk and stoned and wake up when it's over," says John, an addict from Brooklyn who has two months clean, "but I know that won't help anything." Others rely heavily on the reminder of "what it was like" while they were drinking or using, to help them stay sober and weather out the storm. "For me, one drink leads to god-knows-what, and that could mean anything from prison to death," says Georgia, who has eight years clean. "No storm is worth throwing away my life for."

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