Those in addiction recovery rely heavily on in-person, peer-led, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings to stay sober. With the recent coronavirus outbreak and the government’s urge to stay home and practice social distancing, staying sober has become a whole new challenge. Staying committed to recovery can be difficult in and of itself; doing so while staying home and experiencing a major shift in structure and routine is a whole new animal. What are people doing to stay sober, and how can you ensure that your recovery will last for the duration of the outbreak? The key is definitely in staying connected. Social distancing doesn’t mean falling off the face of the planet or avoiding human interaction altogether. Many Facebook groups have already been created in order to help recovering alcoholics and addicts maintain an essential sense of community. There are online meetings held on a regular basis to which we’ve included the links to several resources at the bottom of the article, and as always, please feel free to call us at anytime for additional resources or support.
Addiction Recovery – Why Bother?
During times of crisis and uncertainty, it can be pretty easy to throw in the towel and convince yourself that things are going straight down the crapper anyways…so what’s the point? If we’ll be locked up inside all day and all night what’s the worst that could happen? Might as well put recovery off until things get back to normal. As recovering addicts and alcoholics, we’re prone to having thousands of crazy thoughts run through our heads on a daily basis. When we’re left alone with these thoughts it can be altogether too easy to give into them. This is why it’s essential that we stay connected to those who have our best interests at heart and those who we know can help talk us off of a ledge, because they’ve done it before. As far as staying in touch and remaining fully plugged into your recovery, here are a few tips:
Whenever you start to feel indifferent towards your sobriety, immediately give someone a call.
Indifference is dangerous. If you start thinking things like “who cares” or “what difference does it make,” it’s time to hop on the phone with a trusted sober support. Having a lifeline is crucial, and having an entire network of people that will have your back in case your lifeline isn’t available is also extremely important. Make a list of people with ample time in recovery that you know and trust, and reach out to each of them. Say something like, “Hey! Just wanted to reach out and see if you’d be willing to be one of my main points of contact during the quarantine. I want to stay connected and make sure that I’ve got some good people in my corner in case things get tough.”
Ask your sober friends how they’re staying plugged in during this unprecedented time.
If you need inspiration, simply ask other people. Everyone in recovery will have a slightly different quarantine schedule. Draw inspiration from others and constantly try new methods of staying sane and in touch.
Develop a recovery-related schedule and stick to it to the very best of your ability.
One of the biggest threats to recovery is a lack of structure. If you lay in bed until 3pm, make yourself dinner, then binge-watch Netflix until 2am, you’ll probably find yourself in a risky headspace sooner rather than later. Set a schedule for yourself. Wake up in the morning, do 30 minutes of yoga, make breakfast, walk around the block, and if you feel like chilling out and bingeing Netflix don’t be hard on yourself – allow yourself to veg out! Just remember, everything in moderation.
Make a list of reasons why you got sober in the first place, and refer to this list whenever you start to feel a little shaky in your recovery.
Don’t hesitate – grab a piece of paper and a pen and do this now! Remember why you got sober in the first place, and remember how much hard work you’ve already poured into your recovery. Remind yourself that everything is temporary and soon this will all blow over. Whenever you start to feel down, refer to this list – and if you think of anything else, don’t hesitate to add it!
Do what you can to help others.
Just because you’re physically isolated doesn’t mean you can’t continue to help others. Download an app like Zoom and organize your own virtual meetings. Invite those who you know might be struggling to participate. If you have a super outgoing friend that you know might be struggling with social distancing, set up a time to have a virtual dance party. Stay connected and continuously reach out to others, offering support and fun means of interaction whenever you can.
Spend time outside (but remember to keep a safe distance from others).
While state parks and hiking trails are now shut down in a lot of areas nationwide, you can still take a long walk! Make sure you’re spending a little time outdoors every day. Not only will this provide you with necessary exercise, but it will help to keep you grounded.
Make a list of healthy coping mechanisms and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Think of all of the things you would do before the COVID-19 outbreak to help you cope with difficult times or uncomfortable emotions. The good news is that most of these things are still accessible! Meetings are accessible, many yoga studios are offering virtual classes, and there are even virtual meditation classes and counseling sessions available. All you have to do is a little bit of digging. Make a list of the healthy coping mechanisms that you still have at your disposal. Then make a list of the unhealthy ones (avoidance, denial… substance abuse) and weigh the benefits and consequences of each.
Play the tape through!
Does drinking or getting high sound like a good idea? First of all – it isn’t. But why not? So you run down to the 7-11 and get a cheap bottle of wine. After the very first sip you’ve officially relapsed. You aren’t going to keep drinking forever – you already know that doesn’t work for you. But you’re so overcome with guilt and shame that you continue drinking. You make another trip to 7-11. Soon you’re sick in the bathroom, wishing to God you hadn’t even opened that can of worms. Returning to drinking or using is guaranteed to be more painful and devastating than spending two weeks inside. Play the tape through and weigh the pros and cons – if you weigh them honestly, you’ll quickly realize that there is never going to be an excuse good enough to justify returning to your old ways.
Combating Loneliness During Isolation
In order to stay sober and connected to your personal program of recovery, it’s crucial that you do everything in your power to combat loneliness. The best way to do this is to make as many phone calls as you can within a day – don’t worry about being obnoxious, chances are that everyone else is just as eager to chat as you are! Additionally, stay connected through online meetings! If you need other inspiration as far as resources go (or if you just need some additional support) remember that we’re always standing by to help in any way that we can.