We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of the past pandemic year. For today’s story, WPSU’s Kristine Allen spoke with a Milesburg resident who teaches yoga for addiction recovery. She talks about the effect of the pandemic on the recovery community.
“I’m in what I would call long-term recovery now,” Linda Mantz said. “But I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.”
Mantz of is retired from Penn State, where she taught Human Development and worked as a counselor.
“I am grateful to be celebrating over 30 years of recovery this year,” she said.
Mantz began her recovery in 1986 when she was a single parent raising two kids.
“I was a single parent, raising two children,” Mantz said. “You know I always say it was kind of like my kids and I grew up together. Because I sobered up.”
She went to a local business school, then got an internship where she met a friend who helped her find her way into recovery.
“I stopped drinking. I started with counseling. And I started going to 12-step meetings here in Centre County. And one thing led to another, and I went back to school. My undergraduate degree is in human development and family studies. And my graduate work is in counselor education,” Mantz said.
She got her degrees at Penn State, where she began teaching in the evening. And Mantz, whose life had been changed by counseling, began to counsel others.
“I was a student counselor on campus. I also worked in town, privately,” Mantz said.
Many years later, after her retirement, Mantz was looking for something to keep her busy, and found a yoga class in Bellefonte.
“The principles of recovery and the principles of yoga really connect for me here," she said.
Much like she did long ago with counseling, Mantz decided to become a yoga teacher.
“I did yoga teacher training, and so I started teaching yoga for recovery at this studio in Bellefonte,” Mantz said. "But then, boom – in a couple weeks, we shut down.”
The pandemic closed the studio along with most other businesses.
“The pandemic has been hard on everyone," Mantz said. “But the recovering community has really struggled. The foundation of our recovery is personal connection. We meet people in small groups. We have support groups. We say 'Oh, hey, I’ll meet you for a cup of coffee.' And it’s gone. Addiction isolates people. And so a lot of folks found themselves isolated again.”
Mantz tried to keep in touch with those in her yoga for recovery group.
“And so we tried to reach out,” she said. “We used the phone. Support groups were starting to meet on Zoom.”
But for some in the recovery community, the isolation proved tragic.
“We lost some members,” she said. “I think because of the pandemic.”
Mantz says someone in her group died by suicide last spring.
“I don’t think that would have happened, if we had been able to see each other face-to-face,” Mantz said. "As much as we try meeting on Zoom, and talking on the phone, it’s still not the same. So there were some pretty hard moments in the recovering community.”
Mantz also had her own isolation and stress to deal with. So she looked for something to keep herself occupied during the long lockdown.
“And painting, artwork, has always been one of my stress-relieving strategies. I had been doing watercolor. And I had been doing pen and ink before,” Mantz said.
But this past summer, Mantz decided to learn to paint with acrylics, and do some acrylic work every day. For 108 days, to be exact.
“108 is a significant yoga number,” she explains. “And I didn’t know this and I didn’t plan it. But the 108 days ended on my sober anniversary.”
Mantz put together a Facebook page, titled “108 Art Journey.” And she decided to turn her project into a fundraiser. She says her artwork raised more than a thousand dollars to help teach yoga to people in recovery.
“I’m completely amazed and in gratitude,” Mantz said.
She also posted her artwork on her Instagram account.
“And that’s where I journaled the whole experience,” she said. "Talking about recovery, talking about painting, talking about yoga.”
After her pandemic experience, Mantz is hopeful about the future.
“For the recovering community, which would be my first concern, it looks OK,” she said. “We have a tremendous amount of resources here in Centre County. So the support is there. Yes, I am very hopeful about it.”
And Mantz is looking forward to teaching yoga for recovery, in person, once again.