Isolation Is Our Enemy: How to Stay Sober in the Coronavirus Pandemic
What do we do to protect our recovery when the whole world goes mad over toilet paper? When everything changes so suddenly on such a large scale, the anxiety level of the masses reaches a fever pitch very quickly. While this blog speaks mostly to those in recovery, you may find that just about anyone can use these suggestions to help protect their mental health right now as well.
Anyone who’s been in recovery for any length of time knows very well that isolation is not good for us. Those of us who achieve and maintain long-term recovery are disciplined in what it takes to stay sober, but there are going to be times that are difficult and require extra diligence. We are in one of those times right now.
How do you prevent relapse in a time of crisis that requires you to be isolated?
Successful long-term recovery requires massive change in our attitude, behavior and possibly even our social circles. We are also asked to change our thinking. Successful recovery includes a social support network of other addicts, family and even perhaps a professional counselor. Many people in recovery read substance abuse literature, pray and/or meditate and take care of their physical health by exercising and maintaining a proper diet. You’ve probably heard that “resistance to persistence” is the number one thing that drives relapses. So now more than ever, find ways to do all of these things.
Those of us who achieve and maintain long-term recovery stay aware of what it takes to stay sober, but there are going to be times that are difficult and require extra diligence. We are in one of those times right now. Here are some suggestions for maintaining your recovery during the Coronavirus pandemic we are experiencing now.
Be Willing to Do More & In Different Ways
Whatever routine you’ve established to maintain your sobriety, doing more of these will help combat the dangers of isolation. That includes taking stock on what lifts your spirits, maintains your resolve to stay clean and sober and allows you to help others.
Find Virtual Meetings & Make More Phone Calls
This is something that I know most people in long-term recovery who are diligent probably are already practicing during this time of isolation. Staying in social contact and maintaining spiritual connections is the name of this game. During times of crisis we need to increase the frequency of things that ground us and keep us on the path of doing the next right thing. Increase your contact with your sponsor, your therapist and other spiritual mentors whether by phone or video chat. Visit Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous websites for meeting info. You can go to Zoom.com and easily set up a free account.
Pray and/or Meditate
My experience is that when things get hectic and my routine changes, it causes stress and anxiety. I need to have a long time in silence to de-stress and contemplate what is the next right thing to do. Some days my meditation occurs several times a day. You need quiet time to reflect and get centered.
Practice Mindfulness & Live in the Moment
“One day at a time” has never been more important to your sobriety than it is now. Don’t spend time living in the past and don’t spend time worrying what may happen in the future. Remember that we can’t change the past and what we think might happen in the future most likely will not. “More will be revealed” as we move through this period in our history. I often use my prayer and meditation time to practice mindfulness in the sense that living in the moment is achieved. This connects us with our intuition to make good decisions on the next right thing to do.
Fill Your Time and Your Brain Constructively
When you have a lot of time on your hands playing video games, being on social media or watching TV may be part of your routine. However, a more productive use of your time right now may be to do some research on topics related to recovery and how to stay clean and sober in times of crisis. Filling your head with recovery-based information can also include talking to other people about recovery during this coronavirus forced isolation. As a matter fact the idea for this particular blog came from a conversation I was having with a friend of mine in recovery - we were talking about how to protect our recovery now.
All of the families that I work with regarding addiction are asked to purchase the Relapse Prevention Therapy Workbook by Terence Gorski and Stephen Grinstead. Spending time developing a personal relapse prevention plan allows you to know your triggers and have ready-made healthy thinking processes to talk yourself off the ledge prior to relapse.
Take a Time Out from Family if Necessary
During this isolation you may be sequestered with family members who trigger you. You may see them as the cause of your increased frustration, anxiety and depression. It’s important to find ways to insulate yourself during these times from anyone who may cause you to want to drink or use drugs.
Have honest conversations with your family members and let them know when you need to have a time away from them. Respectfully tell them what you want. Remember that it’s a selfish program in that you must be selfish at times to protect your sobriety.
Serve Other People
One of the things we learn in AA is that we keep the gift of recovery because we give it away. Service to others is one of the important pillars of my recovery. Over the years it’s become clear to me that doesn’t only mean service to other alcoholics, but also service to the larger community.
Be creative in the ways that you can actually be in service to other people. If you are not working right now, check with local churches, charities, etc. to see if you can be of help … perhaps delivering meals or other items to the elderly who are at greater risk. Recently I had a conversation with a neighbor and as we were ending it, he said “let me know if I can do anything for you.” Knowing that he was available to help was of great comfort to me. My daughter and son-in-law who live nearby have been delivering things to our house that we need. Nothing like giving and receiving care and concern!
I have reduced my fees during this time and have been working on developing an online therapy group to help those who are struggling. I am also reaching out to my own recovery support network more often to both give and receive support.
Use Google for More Info
Whenever I need to learn something, I have in my hand a powerful resource that with just a few touches of the screen will give me information on any topic I want to research. Use the internet to help you learn about relapse prevention techniques and suggestions. Google to find online meetings. Google where to find an addiction therapist that can help you remotely through phone or video sessions. Google some guided meditations. Google whatever and use this powerful tool to stay in recovery during these trying times.
Let Yourself Have Those Darn Feelings
During any major crisis our reality is shaken up and there is a period of shock. We can experience disbelief and even grief during these times. Fear increases our anxiety and even depression can occur. Personally, I’ve had to up my use of certain coping skills to combat feelings of depression and anxiety during this uncertain time. These feelings are normal in these abnormal times. Pay extra attention to self-care routines that allow you to work through these feelings. It could be that you just need to let yourself sit and cry. You can call a friend or go online for a virtual meeting or elevate your mood with music. You know yourself best, so do whatever it is that makes you centered and balanced in the moment.
Whatever Happens, Don’t Pick Up
You may see an increase in your urges to use alcohol or your drug of choice during this time. Remember if you have an urge, immediately contact somebody on your support team and admit that you’ve had an urge. Long-term recovery success in large part is achieved through substituting healthy relationships, honesty and openness for substance abuse.
In all my years as an addiction counselor and professional interventionist, it’s clear to me that those of us who maintain long-term recovery do so through understanding the basics of a good solid recovery program. They have a solid relapse prevention plan in place, learn to think on their feet and just simply “don’t pick it up or put it in.” If you don’t already have one, get a solid support system in place and lean on them often. Remain committed to your recovery no matter what … let me say that again, remain committed to your recovery no matter what!
“Accepting the unacceptable Is the greatest sources of grace in the world”
Please stay safe and care for each other!
Here's some more information that may be of interest to you:
What Causes Addiction?
Are Trauma & Addiction Connected?
How Do You Know If You Have a Drinking Problem?
Could Your Brain be Wired for Alcoholism?
Spiritual Life of Children & Addiction: Are They Connected?
Why Are Teens & Young Adults So Susceptible to Drug Use?
Talk to Your Children About Drugs Before It’s Too Late
If you or a loved one may be struggling with addiction, it is very important for you to seek out professional help as soon as possible. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I may be of assistance to you or your loved ones. My website provides more information on my practice and how to contact me with questions or take advantage of a free 20-minute phone appointment.
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