The COVID-19 pandemic has left people all over the world unable to go about their daily lives. It’s a time when watching the news can bring about feelings of fear and frustration, a time when we are often left with more questions than answers, and it can bring about feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness. Social distancing and the suggestion to shelter in place have limited the resources many in recovery rely upon to help aid them in their quest for continued sobriety. However, 12-Step recovery programs and treatment centers have quickly adjusted in the face of adversity to provide what help they can. This is not the first time in history that recovery programs and those in them have been faced with adversity. There are unique ways you can care for yourself and your sobriety during the pandemic.
Start with the Basics
Connection is a key component in recovery, and when connecting to others is challenged, it can feel as if that essential need is in peril. The social distancing that is essential to help control the COVID-19 pandemic has left most spaces that previously hosted 12-Step meetings closed, and most people unable to gather in fellowship or meet with a support system. What is essential for those in recovery is to continue the basics of their programs. Quickly, after the seriousness of the health pandemic became clear, many treatment centers and 12-Step programs adjusted to the inability to meet in person by taking meetings online. There are a variety of platforms being used to facilitate this, and members are often able to use their smartphones or computers to join. There are hundreds to choose from. Reach out to your community and to your local 12-Step regional office to find what options are available and maintain a routine. These same platforms are also the best platforms to make sure you can still routinely meet with your sponsor or support system. Good old-fashioned phone calls to check-in and to lend support are also a useful way to seek and foster connection during this time.
Redefine Your Program
Those in recovery from a substance use disorder can thrive off isolation in negative ways. But you have the power of choice when it comes to your program. While our program of recovery may look very different for the time being, you get to make the call on what it looks like while staying at home.
- Define self-care specifically for the circumstances – During social isolation, our self-care routines may be disrupted, so it’s important to look at how you can practice it, given the circumstances. Perhaps you are sheltering in place with your close family and self-care looks like making sure you get what alone time you can. Find a space in your home where you can have privacy and some space to breathe, set clear boundaries with the others in your home and take time for yourself. Perhaps self-care looks like picking up a hobby or pursuit you haven’t had time for recently, such as reading or art. Even just maintaining a healthy bedtime and morning routine can be healthy self-care. Resist the urge to change up meal times or stay in your pajamas throughout the day, if these things tend to make you feel more listless or idle.
- Take care of your body and mind – While you can’t run by the grocery store as routinely as usual and visiting the gym might be out of the question, caring for your health is vital during these times. As going out for errands is a limited option, when getting groceries plan ahead, meal plan, and care for your body’s nutritional needs. Find methods of working out that can keep your body moving and your endorphins flowing: dust off old unused home gym equipment or use online workouts. While practicing recommended guidelines, plan to get outside when and if possible. Fresh air and nature can be beneficial to your mental state. Make meditation a practice, utilizing free apps to take a daily pause and center yourself in the present to help keep “future-tripping” at bay during uncertainty.
- Connect in what ways are possible – Virtual 12-Step meetings aren’t the only reason to connect to others. Use online platforms or phone calls and video chat features to connect to friends and loved ones you cannot see in person. Check-ins and available social time are essential in staving off feelings of isolation and depression. There are online game platforms or even group movie watching options through streaming services that you can do with your friends at a distance. If you are staying at home with loved ones, remember the importance of connecting with them as well. It can be challenging to be with the same person or people for up to 24 hours a day. Pause and practice gratitude for having others to navigate the experience with by taking a special time to sit and connect with them. Conversations and fun activities with the loved ones you are social distancing with can help bond you closer.
- Share honestly about your fears – A sponsor, a counselor, or your friends in recovery might all be experiencing the same feelings of fear that you are; and identification and validation are important during these times. Some are experiencing financial fears from the nature of their employment changing, and many have anxiety about the still unanswered questions about the future. Give yourself space to feel exactly what you are, but just as you would in daily life before COVID-19, talk about these feelings with your support system.
- Find ways to be of service – Consider your elderly neighbors and check in on them to make sure their needs are met. If you worked from home before the stay-at-home suggestion, lend your experience to those that are now trying to settle into a similar situation. Perform small acts of service for the loved ones you are at home with, making a meal if you aren’t normally the primary cook or asking what kind of help they need settling into life at home. Continuing to be of service can help someone in recovery keep their thoughts from swirling. While the ways we show up for others might look different, they are still of great value.
- Keep a schedule – It’s extremely easy to keep an odd schedule while you’re at home 24 hours a day. To help keep mental health challenges at bay, try keeping a normal routine by getting up at a reasonable time. This can help you be more productive throughout the day. Setting normal work hours if you are working from home can help keep stress levels down. Limiting the time spent on social media or watching the news can also be helpful in reducing anxiety.
- Be gentle with yourself – Remember that this is new to everyone. These circumstances are extraordinary. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself the space to feel worried, tired, overwhelmed and stressed. Be forgiving with yourself if you spend the day in your pajamas and you eat junk food; it’s okay if you have days where you feel lazy. You are not required to be highly efficient or productive when learning to navigate your way through a health crisis.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.