At the moment, most Americans–and, in fact, people around the world–are being asked to stay home in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Stores, restaurants, and movie theatres are closed.
People who can are working from home while others can’t work at all–many without pay. Social gatherings–including church services and 12-Step meetings are being canceled in most areas.
In some ways, this is the perfect storm for anyone recovering from a substance use disorder. There’s a lot of uncertainty–will you or someone you love be infected?
How long will you be without work? Do you have enough savings to get by? Is the government going to do enough to help? And so on.
All of this is compounded by the lack of traditional support, such as meetings and spending time with friends. Just being stuck at home is stressful for many people, especially those who live alone.
Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to stick to your recovery plan. Here are some suggestions for staying sober when you’re under quarantine.
The biggest challenge for many people will be that they can’t go to meetings. Often, daily meetings are the only thing that keeps people hanging on, especially in the early months.
Most meetings have been canceled to protect members and communities. The good news is that a lot of groups are adapting by going online. There have been meetings set up on Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other platforms.
Check with your local chapter or with aa.org to find an online meeting in your area or even one not in your area. It doesn’t really matter as long as you’re checking in. These online meetings aren’t a perfect replacement for in-person meetings, but they can help you stay on track and help you feel less alone.
There are also online meetings for other groups such as SMART Recovery, LifeRing, and Refuge Recovery. If you aren’t familiar with those, this might be a good opportunity to check them out.
And there’s no reason you can’t attend these as well as online meetings of your regular group, especially if you don’t really have anything else to do.
This is a bad time to be missing therapy appointments. Many therapists already do HIPAA-compliant online sessions. If that includes your therapist, great–you’re ahead of the curve.
A lot of therapists are just now getting that setup. Others have been improvising with sessions over Skype, FaceTime, or just a regular phone call. Be sure to check in with your therapist to see what options you have for continuing sessions remotely.
The main thing is to resist the temptation to isolate. Don’t get sucked into Netflix, video games, memes, and Facebook and forget that the rest of the world is also sitting at home feeling bored and anxious. Text your friends and call your parents regularly.
When you’re just at home all the time, it’s tempting to let your routine slide. You don’t have to be at work–or anywhere else–at a particular time, so you might as well stay up.
You’re not going on any dates, so why bother to shower? However, in the absence of structure, you have to supply your own for the sake of your mental health.
Try to go to bed and get up at your regular times. Take a shower and shave. Eat regular meals instead of grazing all day.
Dial into your regular meeting if you can. These things help keep entropy at bay and give you something to do. Keep in mind that the real value of a regular routine is to help automate healthy decisions.
When you’re at home all day binge-watching all the shows your friends have been telling you to watch for the past three years, you might find yourself snacking more, ordering in, and generally eating less healthy food. It’s crucial to stick to a healthy diet now more than ever.
Food and mood are closely connected. Many studies have found that diets high in inflammatory foods like sugar, processed meats, and fried food are linked to a greater risk of depression.
Since you don’t have much else to do, this would be a good opportunity to learn to cook some simple, healthy meals. Not only is that an invaluable skill in itself, but it will also help keep you mentally healthy during the quarantine.
Exercise, along with adequate sleep, may be the single best lifestyle change you can make to improve your mental health. Unfortunately, the virus has closed down the gyms and team sports are probably not a good idea at the moment.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to stay active in or around your home. At the moment, it’s still considered safe to run, walk, or bike outside as long as you’re not in a crowded area. Check your local restrictions, though, before you head out the door.
If you really are stuck at home, see if you can improvise. One man in France completed a marathon by running back and forth on his 23-foot-long balcony. Most people won’t have that level of commitment to their exercise routine, but you can certainly do some pushups and jumping jacks.
Every trainer on the planet has now put out some kind of workout you can do at home, so take your pick. If yoga is more your speed, there are many good yoga channels on YouTube.
It may also help to reframe how you think about the quarantine. It’s easy to think of it as being locked up, in which case, you’re definitely going to feel bored, anxious, and claustrophobic.
Instead, think of it as performing a service for others. While most young, healthy people are not at serious risk from the virus itself, there are plenty of people in our communities who face a serious risk of death if they catch it. Think of staying at home as a way to protect the lives of those people.
If you are able to connect with your 12-Step group, that’s great, but also think of members who might not be able to participate remotely for whatever reason. Older members are both more vulnerable to the virus and less likely to be comfortable with the remote technology. Poorer members without internet access may also be more vulnerable to isolation. If you can, call and check on these people regularly.
This is a tough time for everyone and it’s especially tough for people just starting out in recovery. If that includes you, make full use of our unprecedented range of communication technologies. If you have completed an addiction treatment program, check with them to see if they have remote options for their follow-up care. The keys to making it through this challenge sober are to stay connected and take care of yourself.
At The Kimberly Center, we know that treatment is only the beginning of recovery. We offer follow-up and sober-living services to help our clients make a smooth transition back to normal life. To learn more about our holistic approach to treatment, call us today at 855-452-3683.