These are unprecedented times we are experiencing in the wake of Covid-19 and much is uncertain. For those of us in recovery, we are especially vulnerable as we navigate life without our once comforting companion: alcohol. Though alcohol has proven to cause way more harm to us than good, stressful times can trigger the urge to escape or use alcohol or substances to cope with our emotions.
When I was drinking, long weekends, vacations, special holidays, inclement weather days, seasonal breaks, and other windows of free time were all peak drinking times. Social distancing isn’t the “break” we anticipated but it still contains key characteristics prone to heavy drinking and binges. Self-destructive habits and addiction flourish in isolation and secrecy.
Once I got sober and started facing these situations head-on without alcohol, I realized there was so much to learn and new habits to acquire that would help me sustain long-term recovery.
So how can you navigate this time of uncertainty and hold on to our sobriety? Here are some essential tools that will support your recovery.
#1 External support and accountability
So many of us benefit from the consistent support and accountability of others. It’s amazing how accessible online support is for those in or seeking recovery right now. Find meetings HERE
You cannot control every opportunity to drink but you can:
- Keep at least one safe, alcohol-free space - your entire home, your bedroom, your home office space, etc
- Avoid or minimize interactions with people, places, and things that threaten your sobriety
- Unfollow and/or limit exposure to triggers on social media
- Ask those living with you to not drink around you
#3 Soak up the resources
From books to podcasts to articles and blogs, find some helpful literature to help you understand yourself and learn tools for recovery.
Cravings will come but you can prepare to ride the wave by identifying a list of things you can do until they pass. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
#5 Take care of your body
If you’ve been over-consuming alcohol, your body and mind have some healing to do well beyond your last hangover. You can help this process by eating well, drinking water, and exercising.
#6 Spiritual practices
Some days the only thing you’ll have to help you through is your relationship with God or your higher power. Nurture this relationship daily through prayer, meditation, grounding exercises, spending time outdoors, spiritual readings, and gratitude lists.
Give yourself a reasonable schedule that's not too busy or too open. You may find that your drinking used to fill up hours that now feel long or boring. Structure will help you find a new normal. Download my daily living planner HERE.
#8 Therapy and/or treatment
If your alcohol use is a concern to you currently or if you're struggling to stay sober during this time, consider therapy or treatment. Now, more than ever, there are resources available to us to start right where we are. It is not always safe to discontinue alcohol use on your own and many benefit from a medically assisted detox to prevent more severe health risks or withdrawals. For others in recovery, there's no promise that life will be free of challenges just because we get sober. Maintenance of what we've obtained is just as important and therapy can help you navigate this time.
Each journey in recovery is different! What works for one may not work for another. What doesn’t seem like it’s working today may start to improve tomorrow. The key is to not give up and set yourself up for the best chance at sobriety.
Kristen Feemster, LMFT, LCASA, is a licensed therapist in Charlotte, NC.