Recovery Tips for Staying Sober During COVID-19
For those who are newly sober, or have been in recovery for a decade or more, choosing sobriety is a daily decision. One that requires personal awareness, thoughtful preparation and a strong support system. But with the current restrictions in place surrounding COVID-19, people in recovery are finding themselves feeling disconnected or alone as they maintain sobriety.
Connections with others are a tremendous source of support and strength for those in recovery. With 12-step groups being moved online and social distancing guidelines preventing meeting with sponsors and friends in person, people will have to become creative and extra vigilant about prioritizing their recovery.
Any time routines are interrupted, or stress and anxiety increases, people are at greater risk for relapse. This can include personal, relationship, work or financial stress. If you find yourself with thoughts of drinking or using other drugs, there are things you can do to reset your thinking.
1. Make a plan to stay connected to your support network. Write down a schedule outlining when you will check-in with your sponsor, peer recovery coach, family and friends and share it with them. They can help you stay accountable. A five-minute phone call with a supportive friend can help you feel connected to others. This is especially important if you live alone.
2. Take advantage of online recovery resources. The CDC’s guidelines around social distancing have led to many 12-step and other recovery groups to temporarily suspend their in-person meetings, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attend. There are many free virtual groups that you can access from your smartphone or home computer, including:
- The Token Shop Online AA Meetings
- In The Rooms Global Recovery Community
- Secular AA Meetings
- Recovery Dharma Online
- Virtual NA
3. Be aware of your usual thoughts and triggers but be on the lookout for new ones. Avoiding people and places that may lead to thoughts, cravings and relapse may be easier during social distancing, but new triggers may pop up as you adjust to more time at home. For example, if you find yourself thinking about drinking or using drugs while watching a new show or listening to a piece of music, try to figure out why your actions are causing these thoughts and then redirect your mind and attention to something else. For some people, more time spent alone can be a trigger. In this case, find safe ways to stay connected to people even if you can’t be in the same room.
4. Practice mindfulness. In other words, get out of your head and be present in the moment. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about things that may happen or are out of your control. Instead focus on one moment at a time. Understand that this crisis will not last forever and you are not alone in this.
5. Embrace routines and healthy distractions. Simple routines like going to bed, waking or eating meals at the same time every day can be helpful. If you find yourself having thoughts of drinking or using other drugs, try redirecting your energy by fully engaging in healthy distractions like journaling, drawing, exercise, playing an instrument or preparing a meal. Getting lost in these activities can be very therapeutic. You can also connect with friends and family online for a virtual game night using Zoom or Skype.
6. Talk to a professional. Finally, if you find that you are unable to stop thinking about using, or have relapsed, it’s important that you contact your doctor or therapist right away. They can help you get back on track. Many providers are offering virtual care options through video chat using your smartphone or home computer. Video visits are covered by most insurance plans and are a good option when an in-person visit is not possible.
Addiction is a chronic disease that doesn’t have a cure, only remission, just like diabetes or high blood pressure, it must be managed every day. Understanding your condition and having a treatment plan is the best way to control it.
Many alcoholics and addicts rely heavily on their ability to connect with members of their recovery fellowships. Being able to interact with like-minded people who share similar issues is arguably one of the most therapeutic aspects of recovery. Therefore, when something stands in the way of alcoholics and addicts being able to go to meetings, many of these individuals begin to panic. Unfortunately, one of the most common concerns is how to remain sober without access to some of the fundamental tools needed in order to recover?
As of recently, the fear of not being able to access meetings has materialized. Currently, the whole world is facing a global pandemic. COVID-19, a new strain of coronavirus, has caused many areas of the world, including increasing parts of America, to enforce mandatory shut-downs of businesses and social distancing measures. When recovering addicts and alcoholics are isolated, they often begin to revert back to old ways of thinking. However, with the right tools and a positive mindset, staying sober during social isolation is more than possible.
TIP #1: BECOME INVOLVED IN ONLINE RECOVERY COMMUNITIES
Fortunately, with the help of technology, many alcoholics and addicts have found a new way to attend recovery meetings or chat with fellow recovering individuals online. In fact, many recovery fellowships heard the concerns of their members and took it upon themselves to move their meetings online. Many people have been hosting meetings through the form of group video chats on various platforms. Therefore, anyone worried about not being able to make meetings will have the opportunity to hear speakers and gain new insights into their evergrowing sobriety.
In addition to online recovery meetings, there are also websites, forums, and even Facebook groups dedicated to providing a safe place for addicts and alcoholics to converse. If video chatting isn’t your thing, you could always join an online community of fellow recovering addicts. Sitting at home alone with nothing to do besides obsess over the possible outcomes of a health pandemic is overwhelming. In order to prevent unnecessary relapse, you could use the internet to receive support or advice from other recovering addicts and alcoholics.
TIP #2: STAY BUSY
Whether you are self-isolating or on a mandatory lockdown, it is vital to attempt to stay busy in order to prevent yourself from romanticizing the idea of relapsing. Oftentimes, boredom and being isolated from others are two main forces that drive an individual to relapse. This threat is extremely relevant to being stuck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to avoid negative thoughts from creeping up, try to find activities you enjoy doing to occupy your time.
List of activity ideas during self-isolation:
- Catch up on TV shows or movies
- Read a good book
- Play video games
- Play a board game with your family
- Pick up a new hobby
- Listen to live concerts online
- Complete a puzzle
- Start a diary or journal
- Use a video chatting platform to call family and friends
TIP #3: SET BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR FAMILY/ROOMMATES
If you are stuck in the house with family members or roommates during the COVID-19 quarantine, you may begin to feel irritated in regards to some of their behavior. This is completely normal, and well, inevitable. However, setting boundaries early on will allow you to maintain your sanity and your sobriety with little issues. For example, if you are a mother, your kids may begin to drive you insane. With school becoming virtual for the time being, you may have to re-establish some important boundaries that you previously made with your kids.
On the other hand, some people may have roommates who are not a part of the recovery community. This could potentially mean being stuck inside with a person who drinks. If you are in this situation, it would be wise to ask your roommate to only drink inside their bedroom. As a recovering alcoholic, seeing someone enjoying a glass of wine during a very stressful time could lead you to relapse. In order to prevent this, suggesting that your roommate keeps their drinking (or any other triggering behavior) private is advisable.
TIP #4: MAKE A PHONE CALL WHEN YOU NEED SUPPORT
Oftentimes, addicts and alcoholics just need someone to listen when they are feeling upset, worried, or like having a drink. Unfortunately, sometimes addicts feel as if they are burdening their friends, family, and even their sober supports. This can lead them to allow their negative thoughts to manifest into negative action (i.e., a relapse). Instead of succumbing to your fears or worries, call someone who can provide you with advice.
Who can I call when I am feeling like having a drink/using?
- Sober support
- Your sponsor
- Family members or friends
- Your therapist or counselor
- National addiction and mental health hotlines
Calling a loved one or a professional in a time of need is never a burden. If you are feeling anxious, upset, or triggered during social isolation due to the outbreak of COVID-19 – you are not alone. Make that phone call, listen to some relaxing music, and practice self-care. This too shall pass.
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