By Deja Gilbert, Ph.D., LMHC, LPC
As the United States braces for an unprecedented time of ‘social distancing’ due to coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19, a few other countries, according to the United Nations (UN), are now seeing a decline in cases from this fast-spreading disease. And while the U.S. is just beginning to see the impact of this virus, it’s vital to remember that just as this is beginning to slow in China and South Korea, it will also pass for us.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 19, 2020, there were more than 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 150 deaths with numbers projected to rise.
And while these numbers and projections can be alarming, it’s essential to remain calm, avoid feeding into fear, and act in the most effective manner to ensure not only your own health and well being but that of our nation. Solidarity is more important now than ever.
COVID-19 and Sobriety
During this time of uncertainty and stress, those in recovery will also face these same fears and stressors. However, for those in recovery they may also face the temptation to drink or use their substance of choice to help cope with the fear, anxiety, and constantly changing world. If you or someone you love is in recovery, it’s important to learn more about how you can stay sober (or help those you love find the resources) during these trying times.
One of the most important things to remember is that taking a drink or using another substance will never make things better but it will most definitely make things worse.
For most of us, daily life looks a lot different today than it did just weeks or months ago. From schools being closed and college students doing all classes online to working from home or being out of work altogether our landscape today has drastically changed in just a few short weeks.
And while these changes can be scary, particularly for those who are in recovery, it’s important to know that staying sober is always a choice. Life will always present challenges to sobriety and being able to adapt and find the support you need will make the difference.
Support is essential for almost anyone living in recovery from alcohol or another substance to continue to stay sober. Many find support groups both in and out of treatment very helpful in navigating the road of recovery.
If you are in recovery, have a loved one in recovery, or are considering getting help there are resources to help you on this journey even in the midst of this pandemic. At Futures Recovery Healthcare we continue to work daily to help those continue on their road to recovery as well as those who are ready to get started in sobriety.
What’s Changed in Recovery Support from COVID-19 Pandemic
While each day more states begin or expand mandatory ‘social distancing’ and the closing of non-essential businesses, the once so commonplace sobriety supports and resources are changing too. However, it’s important to understand the support groups for sobriety and treatment centers are still active and can provide the treatment, fellowship, and support needed for those in recovery.
For many, working is now all from home, for others work has halted altogether. Those with children are finding themselves at home with kids and often their significant others. Even college students are now back at home. These are all major changes from the norm to which we’ve become accustomed.
Churches, retail stores, movie theaters, entertainment venues have in most states ceased all activities. This can pose many challenges for not only those in recovery but everyone in general. As a nation, we are used to being on the move and rarely slowing down – particularly to this type of at-home 24/7 pace. For the time being, life as we know it has changed.
Support groups such as the Twelve-step programs, Celebrate Recovery, and Refuge Recovery are unable to hold in-person meetings as many churches and halls have closed. Some of these meetings are now being held online in virtual meeting spaces such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype.
If you are in recovery – especially early recovery – you may be struggling with all of these changes. Many treatment centers stress the importance of creating healthy, supportive routines in order to stay sober and enjoy life in long-term recovery. With all of the changes in the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of our routines have changed rather drastically. This can put stress on everyone and it’s important to carve out new routines as soon as possible.
When there are additional stressors on people, those with addiction issues may first think to reach for a drink or substance to help them cope. This can increase relapses during this challenging time in our world.
It’s vital to remember that you can stay sober during this time. Successfully navigating this time of uncertainty and staying in recovery will make the challenges you face in the future that much easier to overcome in a healthy, positive – and sober – way.
The tools needed to stay in sobriety may look different, but it’s still very achievable. Here are some tips from experts in the field of addiction treatment you can immediately and easily adapt.
Staying Connected and Sober with COVID-19 Restrictions
Six Tips to Sobriety During a Pandemic
One of the most fundamental pieces of staying sober at any time are the connections with other people in recovery. If you have been in a treatment center you most likely have phone numbers, social media connections, and emails of others you met there. Utilize these now. Pick up the phone, send a text, send a direct message (DM), or use Skype to get face to face contact. Talk to people not only about how you are feeling but see how others are doing, what tools they may be utilizing, and most importantly find out what you may be able to do to help others. Giving back is crucial at any time in recovery but particularly now.
- Online Support Groups
Many of the twelve-step programs already offered some online meeting options and today many more are now joining suit. Find the Twelve-step program that works for you and join. These meetings are being held in Zoom rooms and Google Hangouts. There are also twelve-step chat rooms that are open 24/7. Addiction treatment centers often have alumni groups that meet periodically during the year. If you were in a treatment center it is suggested you call them to see if they have set up online meetings for alumni during this challenging time.
- Speaker Tapes and Sober Podcasts
Utilize YouTube to listen to old school speaker ‘tapes’ from AA meetings. There is a wealth of AA and other twelve-step speaker tapes on YouTube which are proving to be very helpful to many in sobriety during this time. You can also search on YouTube or use the Podcasts app on your smartphone and find valuable talks on sobriety.
- Gratitude Lists
One of the most important ways to stay sober and positive in general is to make a habit of making a gratitude list every day. Try to write down three to ten things in your life to be grateful for today. It can be simple things like clean, fresh water to drink to bigger things like family and loved ones or your job. No matter what your circumstances are, there’s always something to be grateful for each day. Make it a habit to see the good in each day.
- Prayer and Meditation
Whether you are religious or spiritual or neither taking some time each day to quiet your mind and ask the universe, God, or your higher power to keep you sober and healthy can have immeasurable benefits. This time of being isolated at home is a great opportunity to start new healthy habits you can turn to anywhere. Prayer and meditation top that list.
- Healthy Daily Habits
When under stress it’s sometimes easy to let healthy habits go by the wayside. However, this is when it’s most important to engage in self-care and stay healthy in your body, mind, and spirit. Taking time to exercise; whether it is a walk outside, yoga, or hardcore cardio will help raise your endorphins (the feel-good hormones) and boost your mood.Look at what you’re eating and make an effort to incorporate more healthy fruits and veggies during this time of stress. When you put healthy food into your body your system is more able to deal with the chemicals being released from higher levels of stress.And while your mind may be racing and sleeping isn’t at it’s best, it’s vital to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If you are struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep try a guided bedtime meditation. These can be found on YouTube.There’s no doubt that today’s global situation can cause fear and concern. However, it doesn’t have to derail your sobriety or mental health. Use these tips to stay strong in recovery and come through this challenging period with renewed strength, hope, and sobriety.