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Staying Sober in a Pandemic

This moment in history is, well, historic. Millions of people are out of work and stuck at home. Those who are fortunate enough to remain employed and work from home face their own set of challenges, balancing work, personal and family life. For the sober alcoholic or addict another level of stress and uncertainty compounds on an already anxiety ridden time.

Isolation can be a death sentence for the addict while connecting with others and being of service is a lifeline. So, how can one struggling to make ends meet, maintain an acceptable level of mental health also maintain abstinence.

1. Stay Connected.

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step groups have adapted to the online world. Zoom meetings are held around the world at many times a day. While fellowshipping with friends over coffee, in person, isn’t an option, connecting virtually can promote the same feelings of connection and create accountability. Share in meetings. Sitting behind a computer screen can buffer some of the fear and anxiety of speaking up in meetings. You can use this time to build your fellowship and develop new relationships.

Stay connected with your sponsor and sponsees during this time through regular phone calls and video-chat sessions. Staying in touch, and honest, with your sponsor about how you are struggling relieve the burden of isolation and facing your challenges alone.

2. Be of Service

You can be of service in your virtual fellowship or within your community. Nonprofit organizations are regularly holding remote and in-person events to support those in need. This may be writing cards for seniors who receive meals at home or making face masks for medical professionals. Check with your local city council or nonprofit organizations to see what the needs are and how you can be involved. These events are regularly posted on Facebook, so while you’re mindlessly scrolling, (because we all are), check them out.

If you are low-risk and need to get out of the house, offer to deliver groceries to elderly or high-risk neighbors. Find out how others are getting involved in their communities and being of service and ask if you can contribute.

3. Physical Activity

Exercise and movement are great for reducing stress and promote feelings of well-being. While the gym is closed, check out some YouTube exercise videos or find out what your favorite fitness influencers are doing at home. If you have access to parks and trails, and can maintain social distance, go for a walk or hike. Getting out of the house can break up the day that seems to go by so fast and yet drag on forever.

4. Stick to a Routine

There’s a reason they make you wake up early in rehab and follow a specific routine. During addiction, we lack structure and stability. During this crisis, things probably feel out of control. The only thing we have control over is ourselves. What was your routine before the pandemic? Maybe you have to modify it, but try to find ways that create structure in your day. Not only will it feel productive but there will be continuity and predictability.

5. Take up a Hobby

You know that thing you’ve been saying you’re going to start doing? Now is the time to do it. Maybe you want to learn a new language, take up a regular meditation practice, start therapy, become a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. If you are stuck at home, dedicate 15 minutes per day to your new practice, add it to the schedule, then follow through, even when you don’t want to. Self-discipline will increase your sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem. If feels good to commit to something and follow through, and who knows, maybe you will find a community of people trying out this new activity and increase your support and accountability network.

Finally, remember you are not alone. If at the end of the day things still feel overwhelming, remember that there’s nothing a drink or a drug won’t make worse. There are people who love and support you and would love to hear from you, even if it’s to complain or cry.

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