Everett’s Recovery Café, battling isolation during COVID pandemic

By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread throughout Washington State, local churches, educational institutions, and organizations that routinely host meetings to assist in people’s recovery from substance addiction and practice mental health care have closed their doors indefinitely.

Everett’s Recovery Cafe, a community organization providing a place to receive support through addiction recovery, mental health challenges, and homelessness, in a cafe environment, closed its gathering space on March 18. 

Wendy Grove, Founding Director of Recovery Café Everett, says that the temporary suspension of statewide support groups, where people can share their challenges and receive coping strategies, including her own organization’s recovery support circles, has created a feeling of isolation among the recovery community across Snohomish County. 

“Part of this new life that people are venturing into, they’re taught to not isolate, to go be seen, and to be known,” said Grove. “The lack of human contact is isolating a lot of people.” 

Substitutes for the in-person circles have included the cafe’s recovery coaches reaching out to members by phone and hosting alternative support group meetings through the video conferencing software Zoom. While not all of their members have access to electronic devices or feel comfortable using the online platform, it’s been accommodating to other members. Still, lack of human interaction and in-person support has proved challenging during recovery. 

“A lot of our members in the Zoom circles are grateful that they can see the faces over the computer screen but are still lacking this piece of human connection,” said Sarah Brooks, Director of Operations at Everett Recovery Cafe. “Our members are struggling with it.” 

“A lot of people say that the opposite of addiction is community, and we can see that,” added Grove. 

According to Grove, recovery specialists are developing a model for pandemic responses, predicting that 50% of people with a mental health issue can develop a reliance on an addictive substance during the COVID-19 pandemic and similar circumstances. Inversely, 50% of people experiencing a substance abuse issue can develop a mental health issue.

“It is precarious times for everybody… to not have that support, especially for people who are in recovery and seeking to transform their past patterns,” explained Grove.

According to the National Institute of Health, recovering addicts need a supportive framework of at least two years of sobriety to warrant long-term recovery. During the pandemic, some people recovering from a substance use disorder are finding it especially difficult to maintain their sobriety with their 12-step programs uprooted. 

“A lot of people just started this path. They just got all the balls rolling and then everything now has frozen,” said Brooks. “They’re in this waiting pattern, and that takes a lot of people backward.”

Recovery Cafe will resume in-person one on one recovery coaching with Snohomish County’s entry into phase 2. The next step would then be to resume the community center’s small group recovery circles. According to Grove, they are accepting new members, and those in recovery from substance use are eligible for a recovery coach program.  

To learn more about Everett’s Recovery Cafe and its additional services and accessible resources, visit https://www.everettrecoverycafe.org/

Erin Freeman

I graduated from Washington State University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a specialization in rhetoric and professional writing. I also received a minor in political science. I joined the Lynnwood Times in February of 2020. To me, community newspapers affirm a sense of community by connecting people through the coverage of local stories and current events.

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