Whether you’ve been sober for six months or over six years, there’s no doubt that stress, uncertainty, and unprecedented opportunities and temptations to fall off the wagon can be a recipe for disaster. If you’re in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse, the pandemic can be especially dangerous. Staying sober might not look like it used to (at least for now), but the good news is that you can adjust and modify your techniques in order to fit the current demand. (Image Credit: Freepik)
Know that drug and alcohol detox programs are still available during COVID. However, if you’re like most people, you want to avoid being in high-risk environments right now—and that includes a detox program where you’ll be at a higher risk of infection than if you stayed home. Still, it’s a good idea to keep these resources readily available. For right now, it’s a good idea to plan for staying sober by taking some key steps.
1. Recreate Your Support Network
What did your support network look like for sobriety before COVID? How has that changed? Did you have a sponsor that you no longer connect with on a regular basis? Zoom fatigue is real, and it can feel daunting to add yet one more meeting to your daily life. If this is the case, opt for a different way to connect. This can mean a phone call or even a safe, socially-distanced meeting in person, depending on your circumstances.
2. Ask Your Housemates for Support
If you live with others, work with them to create a home environment that is as free of temptation as possible. Maybe you already do this—but could amp up how supportive they are with a heart to heart. Maybe you have roommates you’ve never asked to support you, but right now you could really benefit from them keeping their alcohol out of sight from you. Creating a stable home environment is an absolute must in an era where everyone is home around the clock.
3. Seek Professional Help
Maybe it’s AA, or maybe it’s a counselor that specializes in addiction. While building a supportive home environment is critical, it’s not a substitute for professional guidance. Again, there are options beyond a Zoom meeting (although there are plenty of those!). Telemedicine, and in some areas/situations, even in-person sessions may be available.
4. Keep Yourself the Right Amount of Busy
Striking a daily balance is something everyone struggles with, but for those in recovery, it can make a huge difference in avoiding temptations. If you’re looking for work or otherwise seeking ways to fill your days, it might be time to pick up a new hobby. Yoga, gardening, cycling in the neighborhood, and other options that produce endorphins and keep you just the right amount of distracted are all great options.
5. Know Your Triggers
For those who have undergone a guided recovery program, you might think you know your triggers. Have they changed during the pandemic? Are there new ones? Knowing, identifying, and removing your triggers when possible is a critical part of sustaining your sobriety. Maybe it’s a certain time of day, food, activity, or person who makes you question your sobriety. Just like with an allergy, knowing what your triggers are is a must if you want to avoid them.
6. Shop Wisely
When lockdowns began in New York, liquor stores and even bars were considered essential services. In other words, it’s never been easier to drink with delivery services readily available. These days, drinking has become a bigger pastime than ever before. If you’re tempted to place an alcoholic order along with your groceries, set up established lists so you can easily “re-buy” or choose an app or store that doesn’t offer alcohol.
Ultimately, what will help you stay sober during COVID are similar strategies that worked before the pandemic. This involves creating a support network and environment that works with your sober lifestyle. If you’re working from home, you actually have more control than you likely did at the start of the year. There are no work happy hours to struggle through or parties to discreetly navigate. However, boredom, stress, and fear are all big triggers for many in recovery. Do what you can to lessen and avoid them while creating a healthy environment.