Monday, August 22, 2011

Disaster Preparedness: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

There is a hurricane heading for the East Coast this week, expected to hit here in Florida on Friday with winds of around 115 mph. Time to pull out the old disaster preparedness plan and run through the checklist: water, prepared food, gas, sobriety ...

Sobriety? What is that doing in a disaster plan? So many people, when they think of a disaster, think only of the physical concerns they may encounter; food, water, shelter. The psychological needs that come with experiencing a natural disaster are too often ignored or unrecognized. Today, especially, it is vital to take your sobriety into consideration when making a disaster plan.

Think of the horrific scenes of destruction from the tornadoes of this past year, the stories of entire counties without power for weeks. How would your sobriety hold up under those kinds of stressors? If you do not have a specific plan for handling a natural emergency or disaster, you are planning to fail in the event a disaster strikes you.

What sorts of things should your emergency sobriety plan include? One of the biggest things you should prepare for is not having electricity and/or internet. You won't necessarily be able to log onto your support group site to post your frustrations and fears. Your phone may not work either; during the hurricanes of 2004 we were without phone service for almost ten days. Road blockages and damaged buildings may mean that support meetings will be cancelled. In other words, you may find yourself cut off from the majority of peer support you currently rely on to help you stay sober. It will be up to you to maintain your sobriety until services can be restored.

Here are a few tips for creating your emergency sobriety plan:

  • Have a written disaster plan - knowing what you will do before, during, and after a disaster ahead of time will alleviate a great deal of stress during an emergency. FEMA has good information on creating a plan and preparing an emergency kit.
  • Know your triggers - specifically, make a list of triggers that are likely to occur during an emergency; stress, anxiety, general or specific fears (such as a fear of the dark if you may be without power for a period of time), and possible injury to yourself or others are all major triggers for many women. Have a concrete plan for handling each trigger without drinking.
  • Include craving reducers in your kit - If chewing gum or hard candy help with cravings, make sure you have plenty in your emergency kit.
  • Plan to keep busy - Boredom can be a huge trigger in a disaster. A deck of playing cards or a board game can keep your mind occupied during daylight hours when there is no electricity.
  • Make a Sobriety Notebook - print out posts, emails, and websites that you would turn to if you had access to a computer and keep them in a notebook where you can refer to them as needed. Keep extra paper and pens so you can journal. Print out the statements and put them in the front of your notebook for easy access.
  • Keep a routine - Try to maintain your sobriety routine. Continue morning meditation, do daily reading and journaling, and practice gratitude thought at night.
The most important thing to remember in a disaster is this; drinking will only make your situation worse. Being prepared before an emergency happens, both physically and emotionally, will pay off in spades in the event a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or other natural disaster strikes. WFS Statement 12 reads, I am a competent woman and have much to give life. This is what I am and I shall know it always. By planning to keep your sobriety intact during periods of emergency, you reinforce your competence and strengthen your recovery.

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