Cold Weather Threatens Gains, Stability for Recovery Community

The occurrence of COVID-19 for the recovery community in Charlestown has presented monumental challenges to staying sober, but it has also pulled the community closer together like never before and led to great victories for sobriety.

But a lot of that has been dependent on in-person meetings outside at the Charlestown stadium, and the cold weather is looking to threaten all of that progress – sending people back inside to isolation and ending a very popular exercise program in the Town.

Now Shannon Lundin White of the Charlestown Coalition said they are hoping to find a space inside where they can meet the guidelines and still meet safely.

“We have 30 or 40 people at the bleachers now as opposed to the 80 or 100 because it’s colder,” she said. “People get seasonal depression or don’t want to sit in the cold for an hour. Soon enough we won’t be able to be outside at all. We saw an increase in fatal overdoses before, and we just had one last week. Zoom doesn’t work for everyone. Many in recovery look to the interaction and things you can’t feel on Zoom to get through. I see even more problems if we get to a point where we can’t meet in person again.”

Right now, White said they are looking at several options.

They are putting out a call for anyone who might be able to provide them space at the proper COVID-19 guidelines for gatherings. Meanwhile, they are also looking into a tent with heaters for an outdoor assembly with the help of MGH and the Coalition, but they don’t have the land to put it on.

“The issue with the tents is we don’t have a space to put it,” she said. “We can’t do it on Parks and Recreation property. We need to find private property.”

The need is urgent, she said, because since returning to meetings outside on the bleachers, they have had more than 40 people celebrate one year sober. With the one-year milestone the hardest to achieve, such a number is rare, she said. That momentum would be lost on Zoom, she fears, and could lead to more fatal relapses.

“It could get to the point where this is the difference between life and death for some people and that’s without exaggeration,” she said. “The time has come again where we’re desperate a seeking a place to meet inside or a property for the tent.”

Meanwhile, another space issue is a popular exercise class run by Sam Amado, who worked at Free Form Fitness on Sullivan Square. While it wasn’t a recovery community class, White and Amado said many from that community found the approach helpful and attended regularly.

Unfortunately, due to the new guidelines, the gym had to close, and Amado was doing a boot camp outdoors in Everett. With the cold coming, that too will have to end and space for the class has become essential and rare.

“I started in 2017 and have been in the Charlestown community for three years now,” said Amado. “As far as being on the other side of the bridge – as I live in Everett across from the casino – it’s really just been the other side of the bridge. I’ve met so many great people and we have really bonded in the class. The business has taken a hit though. It is boot camp style and that requires 20 people and the new regulations have it down to five. There are options though for personal training, which is what we’re looking towards.”

Classes are only 30 minutes and White said they hope to be able to stagger them with smaller numbers safely.

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