Sobriety in the Time of COVID

2020 has proven to be quite a wild ride thus far – and we still have a few months to go. It is safe to say that this year has been tumultuous for everyone… However, those who are in addiction recovery and have come to rely on in-person peer support groups have been forced to adapt in a unique set of ways. Yes, Zoom Alcoholics Anonymous meetings allow for those in recovery to stay connected, but there is certainly a necessary level of accountability that has been compromised by the inability to meet face-to-face. Additionally, there is a newfound set of stressors that could potentially make staying sober more difficult than ever before. Being forced to stay isolated and indoors, potentially losing a job (or at the very least, experiencing job insecurity), being away from family members and friends, experiencing a mandatory change in daily routine and worrying about financial stability and housing – all of these things are likely to contribute to an increase in stress and therefore a certain level of instability in recovery.

Of course, there are those who have seized the opportunity and thrown themselves into creative outlets, home improvements and continued self-improvement. But for many of us, the era of COVID-19 has been triggering for many reasons. If you have been having a tough time navigating your recovery during this unprecedented time, know that you are not alone. We are all trying to do the best that we can while learning as we go. It is completely normal to feel unstable from time to time – fortunately, there are numerous healthy coping mechanisms you can employ in order to make it through even the most difficult COVID-related relapse triggers.

Learning to Adapt

As recovering addicts and alcoholics, many of us are very set in our ways. We like to adhere to a consistent schedule. When it comes to long-term addiction recovery, consistency really is key. We find a structured routine that works for us and throw ourselves into it. This typically includes one 12 step meeting every day, showing up to a part-time or full-time job or showing up to school and doing whatever else we have laid out as part of our personal recovery program. When things hit the fan (as they have been all year), we must learn to adapt without getting thrown too far off of our game. Change is always going to be a necessary part of life, no matter how vehemently we try to avoid it. The cool thing is, this year as a whole has been a master class in adaptation – a life skill that will undeniably continue serving us for the remainder of our lives. Some more good news – if we can make it through this year with our sobriety intact there is a very good chance that we can successfully make it through anything that life throws at us.

COVID-Related Relapse Triggers

Below we have provided a list of potential COVID-related relapse triggers – and several ways in which you might effectively overcome them.

  1. Loneliness and isolation. Some of us are still quarantining, some of us have let our guards down quite a bit at this point. But regardless of where we stand with the whole “social distancing” thing, we have undeniably had to make some adjustments. The nationwide quarantine that began in March left some of us in a shaky place. In order to combat the feelings of loneliness that might still be lingering, it is important to stay in touch with your sober support group in any way that you can. This might include virtual AA meetings (remember to share where you are at during the meeting if you are feeling at all unstable in your recovery), phone calls to friends and regular conversations with your sponsor. Even if you cannot meet up in person there is no reason why you can’t stay connected.
  2. Financial and job insecurity. Major corporations have been forced to downsize and some small businesses have gone under altogether. If you get let go, keep in mind that it is not a reflection of your worth or your ability as an employee. This has been an extremely tough time for businesses of every size, and businesses owners are being forced to make some very tough decisions. If you do get laid off and you are concerned about pulling through financially, remember that you have successfully pulled yourself out of the depths of despair once before. You have faced circumstances just this difficult before and come out the other side unscathed. You will be okay! Stay connected and do what you can to stay motivated and push forward.
  3. Feelings of stress and uncertainty. We like to know exactly the way in which things are going to play out most of the time. Any level of uncertainty can be unsettling. The uncertainty that goes hand-in-hand with COVID-19 is pretty extreme. In order to stay focused on the present moment and avoid slipping into future-centric anxiety, utilize the grounding techniques you learned in addiction treatment. Practice breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation and any other coping skills that have worked for you in the past. Take a long walk outside and remind yourself that while things may seem difficult, every uncomfortable emotion is temporary and will resolve with time.

Staying Sober Long-Term

Staying sober long-term requires a solid and well-honed set of relapse prevention skills. In most cases, this relapse prevention skills will be taught in an inpatient treatment setting. At Chapel Hill Detox, we believe that instilling these vital skills should begin during the very first stage of addiction recovery. We offer numerous recovery-related services to our clients, including daily group therapy sessions during which potential relapse triggers and the development of relapse prevention skills will be discussed in depth. We recommend that once a client has been physically stabilized and the withdrawal process has come to a close, he or she transfers directly into a residential treatment facility. This will prevent relapse from occurring between medical detox and inpatient rehab – a time period during which the individual is the most susceptible to a return to old behavior. In order to stay sober long-term, individuals must know what triggers a return to old ways of thinking and how to effectively combat negative thought patterns. To learn more about relapse prevention training, please feel free to give us a call at any point in time. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you out in any way that we can!

Chapel Hill Detox – Begin Your Journey of Healing 

If you have been undergoing an especially difficult time this year and you are looking for additional help and support, Chapel Hill Detox is available to help. Unfortunately, the rates of relapse have increased dramatically over the course of the past several months. If you have been suffering at the hands of an untreated substance abuse disorder or if you have picked up a drink or a drug after an extended stint of sobriety, there is help available. It is important to seek professional clinical care as quickly as possible, seeing as addiction is a progressive disease and when left untreated the symptoms will only continue to get worse. Medical detox is a necessary first step when it comes to long-term addiction treatment – at Chapel Hill Detox, we provide clients with a pain-free and closely monitored withdrawal process, overseen by an experienced team of medical professionals. For more information on our comprehensive detox program, feel free to reach out to us at any point in time.

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