In late 2019 many of us heard the word Coronavirus for the first time. Known or called by various names (COVID-19, Novel Coronavirus, Coronavirus, and a few that are not suitable for printing), our world has been bugged by various coronaviruses over the years. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome were also diseases caused by coronaviruses. So, it is not the first time a coronavirus has made worldwide headlines. Despite efforts on many different fronts, over the last few weeks and months, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes the disease, has taken caused the world and how humans live in it, to change quite drastically. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has forced a new definition of “normal” daily living. Many states have closed schools for the year, which means parents are now thrust into homeschooling their children.
Additionally, many states have enacted stay at home orders, which have resulted in the closing of many businesses across all business sectors. People are working from home in an attempt to avoid contact with people outside their immediate family units. This has resulted in a nearly complete cessation of travel and the unfortunate side effect of people being separated from their family, friends, and social support structures. For recovering addicts or those struggling with sobriety, these sudden lifestyle changes can be challenging to cope with and can jeopardize their chances of maintaining sobriety.
It is not unrealistic to say that virtually everyone is under some amount of stress over what is going on in our world today. If you are part of the population who is concerned about how this pandemic may impact you or your loved ones, it is essential to know that you are not alone. While the current situation will not last forever, it is important to find healthy ways to cope for the time being. It is also important to stay physically as well as mentally healthy. So, even if you are living under a stay at home order, or isolated for other reasons, there are several different ways you can remain committed to your recovery and sobriety. Below are some of the things you can try and ways you can continue to get the support you need during these confusing times.
The Challenges of Social Distancing
Pretty much everything we hear on the news and on television today is related to “social distancing.” The commercials we hear are all about contactless delivery and how to obtain needed goods and services with minimal human contact. News broadcasters frequently mention social distancing guidelines and remind us, with frequency, to maintain a safe distance of at least six feet from one another. If you happen to venture into a store to purchase groceries, the announcement over the intercom every fifteen minutes or so also reminds you about social distancing guidelines. The idea of social distancing has also become one of the most common and popular memes on Facebook, and #socialdistancing is trending on Instagram. While it is true that social distancing and other safe contact practices are some of the keys to defeating the coronavirus pandemic and “flattening the curve,” it has almost become an inescapable element to our daily news.
This strain of Coronavirus is relatively new, and as a result, there is little research regarding treatment and cures, but what we do know is that it is highly contagious. To successfully flatten the curve and reduce the speed with which the virus is spreading, health officials of all levels (from federal to local and state) are recommending that people remain at least six feet away from each other at all times. Due to these restrictions, things such as going to a friend’s house, hosting a dinner party, grabbing coffee with a friend, or even going to group meetings or therapy sessions are essentially off-limits for now.
If you are currently in recovery, social distancing guidelines most certainly will have a significant impact on your daily life. As noted above, it likely means you are unable to attend meetings, make plans with or hang out with your support group or even meet with your therapist in person. For many in recovery, these things are part of what helps them to maintain sobriety, so when they suddenly and unexpectedly become off-limits, it can be challenging to maintain a positive course.
In addition to these initial challenges, a significant part of recovery and long-term maintenance is mental health. If you have been in recovery for a while, you have likely created a stable support system you can call on when times get rough. However, for those who are living in isolation (for whatever reason), social distancing can be a challenge. It likely means you are spending a lot more time alone with your thoughts, which can potentially be harmful. The lack of social connection, either voluntary or involuntary, can cause recovering addicts to become depressed, anxious, or to revert back to their old habits as a coping mechanism. So, what are some things you can do while practicing good social distancing habits to help get through these unprecedented and challenging times?
Use Technology to Stay Connected
Today, more than ever before, it is essential to find alternative strategies to stay on track with your sobriety. Since the common routes most people typically take are not available, it is crucial to seek out and try alternative methods. The good news? Technology and its constant advancements and changes have made it easier than ever to stay connected, even if you cannot physically be with your support groups. Although we may not be able to gather in the same room, we can gather via the internet and related technology, and new programs and means for making this possible appear every day. Even our cell phones allow for “face to face” communication options.
Whether you prefer to attend group meetings, one-on-one therapy sessions, or simply spend time with your friends and support circles, there are ways you can have those same social interactions digitally. All you need is internet access to make it possible. If you normally do not have internet access, many internet service providers are providing free internet in your home or free wi-fi hotspots for people to access during this time.
- Attend a virtual meeting: If you typically attend in-person weekly or monthly meetings, consider trying a virtual meeting. Many support groups and organizations are utilizing online platforms such as Zoom or Skype to continue providing access to meetings and support services for recovering addicts. Similar to in-person meetings, your group leader will virtually invite participants to share and talk about their experiences. Your leader will run the meeting from the comfort and social distancing safety of their home or office, and you can attend along with your other group mates from your location. This allows you to continue to attend your meetings.
- Virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings: For those in recovery from alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous offers online groups as well. You can visit their website to find virtual meetings in your area that you can attend. Many of these groups meet daily and are designed with time zones and locations throughout the country in mind. You can also find groups that are specific to gender, LGBTQ, or that cater to the blind or hard of hearing.
- Use technology to stay in touch: Maintaining contact with your support group is vital to continued success in recovery. Even if you are in isolation or under a stay at home order, it is essential to remember that technology such as skype and facetime have made communication and contact more accessible. Even as we are all social distancing for safety, your smartphone, iPad, or computer assures that contact with members of your support group, friends, and family is easier than ever via a call, text, or video chat. If you are feeling isolated due to the current situation, consider making a check-in with one of these people part of your daily routine. Consider perhaps checking in with a family member or having “morning coffee” with a member of your support circle over video chat.
Coronavirus and all of the societal changes that have come along with it have certainly added challenges for everyone. However, it is essential to remember that just because you cannot physically be near or with those people who are part of your support system, does not mean you cannot interact with them. Although your locations may differ, you will still get the same level of support via the use of virtual conversations than you would in person. Additionally, your days are likely much less full right now than they usually are. Consider filling parts of your day by chatting with those you are closest to. This will help you to feel less isolated and alone. Be sure to reach out to others who are part of your recovery groups as well to let them know you are available to talk with during these strange times.
Maintaining mental health is challenging during these times. It is also important to maintain physical health during this time as well. Self-care is essential during recovery, and this includes mental as well as physical health.
There are a litany of studies and books of research that show how exercise can help to boost your mood, reduce anxiety, lower stress levels, improve your immune response, and so much more. Moving your body every day is a great way to maintain mental and physical health. This does not mean you need to spend hours each day sweating at the gym. Truthfully, in most states, gyms and fitness studios are closed right now; however, several companies are offering online fitness classes through streaming programs so you can “hit the gym” from your very own living room. Exercising every day, even if it is only for thirty minutes, can not only occupy some of your time but can also improve your mood and physical well-being. Look online for virtual yoga, cardio, stretching, or even weightlifting programs. You can also get outside in nature to exercise. Remember, social distancing does not mean you are not allowed to get out in the sun. If you live somewhere where you can go for a walk or hike outside in nature and get some fresh air and much-needed vitamin D, then go for it! Just remember to maintain social distancing guidelines should you encounter any other walkers or hikers.
In addition to physical health and daily exercise, it is also important to consider your mental health as well. Isolation can be challenging. It can also lead to depression, anxiety, and reduced inability to exercise healthy coping mechanisms for everyone. Consider checking out one of the many guided meditation videos on YouTube or other free to watch platforms available online. These videos range in length from just a few minutes to over thirty minutes. Meditation at the beginning and the end of the day is a great way to help you stay focused in the present moment and avoid some of the negative thought patterns and behaviors that can come with isolation.
These are challenging and ever-changing times. It is, without a doubt, depressing and frustrating to watch the nightly news or read news feeds on our phones each day and wonder when things are going to go “back to normal.” Currently, there isn’t a solid answer to the question of when we can resume our day to day lives as we knew them before. So, it is vital, at least for now, to embrace this new normal and determine the best way to continue making progress and maintaining recovery. The use of technology allows people to continue to interact with those in their support circles without putting their health at risk. Technology can also open the doors for communication during these times when we feel isolated by the pandemic outside our doors. Remember to reach out to friends, family, and those in your support circles. Additionally, many therapists and medical providers are exercising the use of technology, so it is possible to reach out to them during times of need as well.
These are indeed challenging times. Each day things seem to change, and the things we are supposed to do to maintain our health and safety can seem hard to keep up with. These consistent changes can make maintaining the stability needed during recovery very challenging. It is important to remember during these times that you are not alone, and it is still possible to maintain social contact while maintaining social distance. The Hills Treatment Center is here for you.