"Bumper Sticker" Recovery: Best Way to Stay Sober in Pandemic Times

April 27, 2020

 

With this unprecedented, world-wide situation comes an increased likelihood of relapse. The wisdom of my long-term recovery tells me that I must be more diligent in protecting my sobriety right now – and I believe the best way to do this is to focus on the “bumper sticker” basics of successful recovery programs.

 

A couple days ago, I woke up and realized this pandemic is here to stay for God knows how long. Awareness of my complete powerlessness and the incredible uncertainty of this current predicament hit me hard. The seriousness of the world’s struggle seems to be magnified with each passing day.  To say the Coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime is an understatement.

 

Armed with this new awareness, the basics of my recovery resurfaced. The first years of my recovery when I was most lost and spiritually broken were times of learning a new way to approach life. The memory of how important those “bumper stickers” of basic recovery were to my sobriety came back to me. They worked then and they will work now, too! 

 

Here are some of those meat and potatoes basics we all need to focus on right now:

 

Easy Does It

 

Human beings are gifted with a great brain.  Our minds are clearly capable of great achievements. However, during this time I find my mind to be one of my worst enemies. Unsupervised, my mind wants me to figure out what to do solve all the problems, while at the same time wanting to freak me out! When I remember to read the AA Big Book, the Twelve and Twelve, meditate and contact my support system, I feel more at ease. That allows me to slow down and focus on the next right thing to stay sober.

 

One Day at a Time

 

So, the program teaches me even during great crisis we need to take it one day at a time. Great advice but admittedly hard as hell to do sometimes! 

 

Many Americans in recovery and those who do not have my disease face the same fears about what the future will bring. Remembering to take life one day at a time opens the door for me to live in the here and now. Working the program in a way that focuses on only the present moment is the next right thing to do. 

 

Remember the past has already occurred, the future doesn’t exist yet and the present moment is the only thing that’s real.

 

Live and Let Live

 

But those hoarders got all MY toilet paper! How dare they believe that their clean bums are more important than my clean bum! Don’t get me started on the canned goods, the spring breakers, the lack of personal protection for our frontline workers, etc. Take your pick! The opportunities for resentments abound. 

 

Then my awake recovering self remembers that staying sober is today's primary mission. Even though some resentments seem justified right now, maintaining my sobriety and inner peace must be my primary purpose. So, as temping as self-righteous indignation is now, such indulgence doesn’t bode well with my desire to maintain my recovery.   

 

The Serenity Prayer

 

Yes, there is that. It keeps coming back to me how much I need to work on myself no matter what the external circumstances. However, I remember what got me sober keeps me sober! The temporary satisfaction of making other people wrong and believing I should be able to control life must take a backseat.

 

We Keep it by Giving It Away

 

Many times over the last decades when I’ve been helping other addicts achieve and maintain sobriety, my recovery was magnified. The benefits of me giving away what I have been gifted in the program can never be understated. So giving “it” away through sharing my experience, strength and hope with others is paramount. 

 

Consider Seeking Professional Help

 

When I joined the program, certain old-timers would often say you don’t need to go to therapy. They told me just work the steps, talk to your sponsor, read the big book and go to meetings. But they really didn’t know just how much I needed therapy! 

 

Therapy was a godsend in my first years of recovery. The stress and uncertainty of our current situation has me using not only my recovery support system more but motivated me to seek some additional support from my personal therapist to get through this. Remember that none of us have experienced anything like this pandemic before. There is no roadmap on how to cope gracefully with this crisis. Adding therapy to help protect your recovery would be prudent at this time.  Like many other professional counselors, I am offering phone and video sessions at reduced fees making therapy available to as many as possible.

 

Summary 

 

My experience seeing others recover, the strength they’ve found and the hope that is created by working a good recovery program fuels my belief that all can recover. The Magic of the program is stronger than any life situation we go through. Allowing ourselves to repeatedly surrender to what is and not fight what we can’t control makes maintaining long-term recovery possible.

 

Be legitimately freaked out for a moment, acknowledge the feelings, then be kind and compassionate to yourself and let it go. Remember, the urge to return to self-destructive patterns can increase in the present times. Keep doing whatever it takes even when the panic, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, powerless, and despair of the present come up.

 

Most importantly, remember that the one thing we do know for sure right now is that if we pick up and put it in … our life will only get worse – never better!

 

Here's some more information that may be of interest to you:

 

Isolation Is Our Enemy:  How to Stay Sober in the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

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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Dr. Joseph Kirkpatrick, LPC, CAI

(678) 316-3991

 

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