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Advice from two addiction medicine professionals who have been in recovery for 30+ years.

After overcoming alcohol or drug misuse, day-to-day life in recovery can be life-changing — but it can also come with its ups and downs. And for some, navigating that journey may be more challenging during the current pandemic.

With the stress and worry of an uncertain future, many of us are finding ourselves at home with more free time. For those in recovery, this additional time and stress can prove extra challenging. 

We spoke with two addiction medicine professionals who have been in long-term recovery themselves — each more than 30 years — to talk through these difficult times. 

Here are their stories, as well as their advice.

Franca Dalibor, certified recovery specialist and coordinator at Geisinger Medical Center

I’m in long-term recovery, which means I haven’t used a mood-altering substance in over 30 years. My journey began with inpatient treatment and, with the use of a 12-step program, a sponsor and many years with an outpatient therapist, I’ve remained a productive part of society and have gone on to enjoy a meaningful life.

I moved up to northeast Pennsylvania from south New Jersey in 2006 and settled into a comfortable job. Then in 2017, during the opioid crisis, I reminded myself, I have a lifetime of experience helping people into recovery.

At that point I knew I had to do something… it was my obligation to do my part. A funny thing happened at just that moment. A friend emailed me about the position I have today at Geisinger. I took the training, became certified and jumped right in.

Today, I work at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville and have two roles. I’m a certified recovery specialist (CRS) and meet with patients admitted to the hospital who have a diagnosis of substance or alcohol use disorder. I speak with them about accepting further treatment and offer them support throughout their stay. 

I’m also the CRS coordinator, where I oversee the Warm Handoff program. This program provides CRS services to those who come to our emergency rooms for an overdose or alcohol withdrawal.

Staying connected and grounded

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I stay engaged with my recovery network through phone calls, texts and Zoom meetings. I’m also supporting the recovery community by participating in discussions with different state agencies and coalitions. 

This time has been an opportunity for me to take a few webinar trainings. More importantly though, I’ve found extra time every day to feed the spiritual side of my program. Daily prayer and devotional reading help calm my mind and keep me focused.

The pandemic has forced me to step up my recovery program, and I’m doing really well. I’m now attending more meetings than I have in a long time and with people from all over the country. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Advice on seeking help when you most need it

If you need help right now, be willing to talk to someone who is in recovery. By calling Geisinger Marworth, you’ll speak with someone who truly cares and can direct you to the next step. That’s all you have to do… take the next step. We’re all here waiting for you. You won’t have to do it alone.

And if you’re worried about relapsing, stay connected. Don’t isolate yourself. Look for the red flags that signal you are going off course. Use the tools of a recovery program and place yourself right in the middle of a strong recovery community.

Participate in the abundance of online and virtual Zoom meetings available right now. Reach outside your comfort zone, meet new people in these virtual meetings, introduce yourself and share your story. You never know who needs to hear your message.

Bill Poray, director of Outpatient Services at Geisinger Marworth

I came into treatment at Marworth when I was 20 years old and have been in long-term recovery for 35 years. My journey of recovery continued through involvement with an outside recovery support fellowship. This has included being involved in service work — speaking at jails, rehabilitation centers and other institutions.

Currently, I’m the director of Outpatient Services at Geisinger Marworth. In my role, I not only supervise our outpatient program, but I’m also involved in a lot of outside community events and activities representing Marworth. I’ve also taught mental health counseling and social work at various levels, including undergraduate and graduate levels, and supervise interns at Marworth from various colleges and graduate schools.

Initially, I was motivated to work in this field as the result of my own personal experiences and the opportunities that became available to me in service work. However, over time, I truly began to believe I was called to do this. I’ve now been in the field for more than 30 years.

Self-care in today’s world

To take care of myself these days, I meditate and pray daily, and I run or do other stretching exercises several times a week. I have a few friends in recovery who I interact with almost daily, and I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with my family, reading and journaling.

Rather than looking at the current pandemic as a challenge, I believe it’s given me an opportunity to reflect on the progress I’ve made in my own personal recovery. The benefits of prayer and meditation have become more apparent to me, and those habits have stayed with me and carry me through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advice to those struggling today

First and foremost, it’s important not to lose hope and to accept that there is help available. Also, it is essential to maintain some sort of a routine, even if that’s just taking a shower, eating, maintaining a regular sleep pattern and being involved in some type of physical exercise or movement each day.

For those in recovery, remember to stay as socially connected as possible, keeping in mind the physical limitations we are all under. You can find Zoom 12-step meetings and reach out to friends and family members through any type of social media. Also, set your own daily routine, which can include writing a gratitude list, becoming involved in a hobby, going for a walk or any other activity offers you a distraction.  

Finally, remember that relapse is not a requirement for recovery. If you find yourself struggling, reach out to friends and family. We’re always here for you. Hope is not canceled.

Franca Dailbor
Franca Dalibor, certified recovery specialist and coordinator at Geisinger Medical Center
Bill Poray
Bill Poray, director of Outpatient Services at Geisinger Marworth
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