Ever since the Coronavirus pandemic disrupted our normal lives and tested the disaster preparedness response of the healthcare system, we have been trying to find ways to protect our physical and mental wellbeing in these challenging times. Restrictive measures implemented to fight COVID-19 have affected many essential aspects of our lives, like family relationships, social connections, and work. This fast-paced infectious disease outbreak has forced us to change our way of life and to accept social distancing, homeschooling, and the absence of physical contact as a “new normal.” These unfavorable circumstances came hand in hand with fear and uncertainty about the future and have made people feel lonely, lost, and helpless.
One survey conducted by the American Psychiatric Association showed that 40% of Americans live in constant fear of becoming infected or dying from this harmful respiratory virus. In contrast, 62% of participants stated that they fear for the wellbeing of their loved ones.
Some pessimistic predictions are that millions will lose their jobs due to the devastating effects of locking down the American economy. This is why we need to devise various support systems to mitigate the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on our mental health and wellbeing.
People going through the process of drugs and alcohol recovery, and people suffering from co-occurring disorders will find it hard to cope with this new reality. Spending time in confinement and isolation will trigger negative emotions and insecurities and lead these patients into relapse. They will need support and encouragement from people they love and trust now more than ever. For this reason, we will focus on ways to create a sustainable support system for people in recovery during COVID-19 lockdown. Here are several tips that will help you stay on the path to recovery in these challenging times.
1. Stay in Touch with Your Sponsor
One of the essential links in the support system for people in recovery is their sponsors. They play a significant role in the whole process because they created a special bond of trust with people fighting drug addiction. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to stay in touch with your sponsor continuously during this time.
There is an array of applications, like Zoom and Viber, you can use for daily meetings with your sponsor to share your thoughts and feelings throughout the day. We believe that a healthy and trustworthy sponsor-sponsee relationship is key to a successful recovery story because sponsors have already been through the recovery process. Thus they are the ones that will get through the temptations and challenges of this COVID-19 crisis. Bear in mind that you are not alone in the recovery process, even in times of social isolation. You need to reach out and seek help, and you’ll be back on the right track in no time.
2. Attend Virtual Support Group Meetings Regularly
The fact that all addiction recovery groups have closed their doors and suspended their real-time meetings doesn’t mean that they have stopped providing support for their members.
Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have transferred their meetings to the virtual world, and you can learn all about this by visiting their websites. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous has shared detailed information about the existing video chat or phone meetings on Zoom, Google Hangouts/Meet, and Free Conference calls, accompanied by tips on how to create 12 step meetings yourself.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has also compiled a comprehensive list of virtual resources for recovery aimed at people suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues.
Now that you know you can continue your recovery program from the safety of your home, you can maintain your recovery during the COVID-19 crisis with boosted confidence.
3. Keep Your Loved Ones Close, Even When You are Apart
All those who are struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues know the value of love and encouragement from their friends and families. Not being able to see or physically interact with your nearest and dearest during quarantine may put your recovery process at risk. However, the good news is that you can stay close to your family during these times of fear and insecurity.
You don’t have to give up afternoon coffee with your friend or your weekly visit with your mom. You can still spend this quality time with people you love by video-chatting online. When the tough days come, and you start questioning your decisions, make that video call to get much-need attention and support from your loved ones. This call might change your perspective and remind you why you are battling your addiction.
4. Stick to Your Medical Treatment
One of the challenges people in addiction recovery face during the COVID-19 pandemic is the inability to get prescribed support medications that can significantly alleviate the recovery process. Many people are having trouble getting appointments with their doctors to refill prescriptions because the public health system is overstretched due to the Coronavirus crisis. No matter how frustrating this may be, it would be best if you didn’t give up on your medication-assisted treatment. Stay in touch with your health provider, and try to find out if they offer virtual appointments.
Also, there are treatment programs that have adjusted their operation to the new, unfavorable circumstances. For example, the Opioid Treatment Program stayed in service to their patients but with an adjusted schedule. Now, they distribute a 28-day medication supply to stable patients and a 14-day supply to less stable patients. Thus, they are enabling their patients to get essential therapy while respecting social distancing measures.
No matter how grim your situation may look at times, bear in mind that there are professionals and organizations determined to help you go through substance abuse treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.
5. Keep Yourself Busy
We cannot emphasize enough how a well-structured day is vital for substance abusers on their way to recovery. Building a well-devised daily routine is an essential step towards an addiction-free life. But what to do when the global health threat disrupts your entrenched habits? This lockdown deprived us of numerous things we loved doing, like going to the gym or dinner with friends, leaving us with more free time. This doesn’t have to be a drawback. Try to find the best way to fill this free time with new, interesting activities. You can start playing that online game that your brother recommended months ago, or join the online fitness group if you’re missing your gym too much. All these healthy distractions will help you maintain your sobriety and steer clear from the temptation to start using again.
This situation has made people adjust quickly and figure out how to spend time together apart. Finding an online community other than your recovery community that shares the same interests as you may be an invaluable experience for you. You may form new healthy relationships that are crucial for life after recovery.
You may also take a proactive role in this global crisis and do something for the community. This situation is frightening, but in hardship like this, people reach out to others, and the feeling of togetherness prevails. If you want to spend your free time doing something good for the community, you can start volunteering. We have to bear in mind that our healthcare providers are carrying the most substantial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. They fight for the lives of others every day, staying separated from their families. Many volunteer groups have appeared as a result, and they are willing to help these frontline workers. These volunteers deliver food to them or their families, do their errands, or take care of their pets. Becoming a volunteer to help others may give you a renewed sense of self worth and the motivation to stay on track with your recovery.
This concludes our list of recovery tips on building a firm support system and staying sober during the COVID-19 outbreak. The realization that you can still reach people whose encouragement, love, and trust are invaluable to you should strengthen your determination to stay sober. You can also use this lockdown to join a group of people sharing the same interests by taking part in some online courses or helping your community through volunteering.