We’re all affected by the coronavirus pandemic and it’s lasting much longer than any of us expected. It’s especially challenging for individuals struggling with addiction, so it’s important to prioritize your mental health and self-care.
Covid-19 and Mental Health
During this pandemic, there are a lot of issues that can serve as triggers for substance use: anxiety and stress from the virus itself, depression from isolation, limited social connections, or feeling stuck in a long term feeling of discomfort. We all might be giving into unhealthy habits and behaviors because of the pandemic, whether it’s watching TV all day, chain smoking, sleeping on the couch all day, or spending too much time on social media. We all find ourselves many times feeling bored, frustrated, wanting this to be over, and not accepting where the world is right now. On top of that, we might be dealing with the guilt and shame that feed into the cycle of depression from trying to escape the uncomfortable.
As we all stay home more, it’s forcing us to be in the present, which can be difficult for a lot of individuals, especially for those struggling with addiction. And if you are struggling or recovering from addiction, you may be trying to escape, avoid the current situation, or numb the discomfort by using drugs or alcohol. But this discomfort isn’t going away soon, so we have to figure out healthy ways to cope with this long-lasting pandemic.
How to Maintain Sobriety During the Pandemic
1. STRUCTURE: Now that we have more flexible schedules, it’s even more important to create a schedule and stick to it. If we leave our schedules open-ended, it could lead to boredom, feeling a lack of productivity or sense of purpose, and eventually result in drug and alcohol use.
2. ACCOUNTABILITY: If you are part of a peer support program (such as Smart Recovery or 12-Step), make sure you’re in touch with your online community so they can hold you accountable, promote a sense of social connection, and avoid unhealthy patterns of isolation. A virtual community is not any less valuable, so don’t allow yourself to justify or rationalize skipping out on meetings. Have someone hold you accountable and make sure to hold yourself accountable as well. Not sure what kind of treatment is right for you? Check out this blog post that can help point you in the right direction.
3. SOCIAL CONNECTION: Reach out to your sponsor regularly. You can incorporate calling or texting your sponsor into your weekly schedule. It’s important that you have some sort of social contact on a daily basis.
4. SUPPORT: If you feel the urge to use or drink, who can you call in the middle of the night for support? What professionals are part of your support network who can guide you through this tough time? It’s important to set up a strong network of people who won’t judge you and who are positive supports with your best interest in mind.
5. BOUNDARIES: It’s important to set healthy boundaries and know when “enough is enough.” If the idea of video chatting feels overwhelming or anxiety-inducing, don’t do it! Listen to your inner wisdom and trust your gut. It’s totally fine to decline an invitation to video chat, talk on the phone, or go to a socially distant in-person hangout if you’re not feeling up to it from time to time. Do what’s right for you and don’t feel pressured into doing something that sacrifices your mental health. You have the right to stick to your routine. You have the right to make time for self-care (find tips on how to practice mindfulness here). You have the right to put yourself and your sobriety first. You have the right to say “no.” Boundary setting helps you find the healthy balance between your own needs and the needs of your relationships or other important aspects of your life. Remember, healthy boundary setting doesn’t put you in a situation of self-sacrifice or people-pleasing, but it also doesn’t promote isolation or avoidance either.
6. HEALTHY ACTIVITIES: Engaging in sober positive hobbies or new interests can help form your sense of self or identity, and it also gives you something to look forward to during this challenging time. If you remember things or activities that you used to love before you started using, then revisit those old hobbies, interests, and values (if it’s safe to do so). If you can’t remember anything you used to love to do before you started using, then take this opportunity to try new hobbies or activities until you find something that you really enjoy doing (as long as it doesn’t put you at risk – both in terms of sobriety and Covid).
7. LOVE YOURSELF (or at least act like it): We are all feeling the stress of the pandemic. Remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself. Life can be difficult and that’s OK. Give yourself permission to be human, to feel, and experience life fully by practicing acceptance, gratitude, humility, and authenticity. Loving life’s joys and learning to cope with challenges by relying on yourself, rather than external validations or substances, are what life and the therapeutic journey are all about. Trust your inner wisdom and embrace the challenges that come with sobriety – this is empowerment and self-love.
You Can Overcome Your Addiction
If you are struggling with a drug, alcohol, or behavioral addiction, I’m here for you. You deserve to live a sober, successful, and healthy life… even during this pandemic. Therapy can help – take that first step and reach out for support. Use the button below to message Dr. Heather Violante online or call (754) 333-1484.