RUNNING A SOBER HOUSE IN THAILAND DURING COVID-19
Back in February, when the world was waking up to Corona, we were, it’s fair to say, pretty worried here in Thailand. After all, Thailand is very close to China, with just a 200-mile slice of Laos to separate the two countries. Chinese tourists also make up some 20% of the 32 million visitors every year, and so initially, there was some serious concern. But that “first wave” of corona never really came. At least not in comparison with Europe and North America.
As of mid-May the number of confirmed cases in Thailand was just over 3000 and the death toll just over 50. As I write this (June 4th 2020) Thailand is one of the safest countries in the world with regard to Corona virus.
Various theories are doing the rounds in the ex-patriate community as to why this is. It’s the heat. It’s the mask-wearing. It’s the lack of touchy-feely social greetings (kissing and hand-shaking) that are more common amongst westerners than Asian cultures. But to be honest, nobody knows. We probably won’t know for years.
One thing that hasn’t been up for debate, has been the relatively helpful and benign attitude of the laid-back Thai people (and also to be fair, their government). For example, Visa requirements have been temporarily waived. July the 1st looks like a date for a slow but steady re-opening of incoming flights.
In our field, the Thai rehab sector. The government has been pretty sensible. They allowed western rehabs to keep all the clients they currently had (mostly stranded Brits, Aussies and Americans) on the condition that we practiced social distancing.
ADAPTING TO CHANGING TIMES
At Alpha Sober Living, we adapted pretty quickly. One of the main therapeutic outlets during this time has been service work. Food ques have sprung up pretty much everywhere catering for Thai’s with low-income. Usually these are organized by the Army, but the events are always very peaceful as it typical of Thais. In the picture below you can see the Alpha residents (with masks and gloves on) attending one of these events.
Service is a central component of recovery, as is humility. Usually of course, addicts in recovery focus on service to other people suffering from addiction. But in our sober house, and particularly during this time, we have been focused on what could be done outside of our own recovery community.
If nothing else, being stuck here during this crisis has taught us a good lesson. There’s always someone worse off than you. And to see them behaving in a more peaceful and patient manner is very humbling. Maybe we could all take a lesson from Thais in terms of how to be optimistic in the face of difficult circumstances. Recovery is also about learning to regulate our emotions. Even if we are experiencing stress, we should always keep in mind that our addiction is powerful and feeds off negative emotion and fear. Thus we should be ever vigilant and seek to maintain a positive attitude. In Alpha sober house we like to say “gratitude is our attitude”. At least, it’s something to aim for.
With such a tourism dependent economy, of course, everyone wants the tourists back as soon as possible. This is beginning to happen now and our sober living facility and addictions outpatient counselling centre will continue to provide essential counselling services throughout this time. Unfortunately it seems as though substance abuse issues have rocketed through this period, especially in the western world, as have rates of depression and anxiety. We only hope that we can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Another cornerstone of recovery thinking.