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Thank goodness COVID-19 occurred during the digital age!
One can only imagine how much more difficult life would be for people in recovery if the pandemic had happened a couple of decades ago.
At least now, even though it is not ideal, folks in recovery have many useful digital online tools to access when physical distancing policies limit availability to in-person support.
How COVID-19 Endangers Sobriety
Adjusting to life in addiction recovery is difficult enough. Throw in a pandemic that turns our world upside down, and in what seems like an instant, our usual recovery routine is upended.
Over the past many months, individuals in recovery have had to be nimble as they adapted to the ever-changing recovery community landscape. This hasn’t been easy and has caused added stress to an already stressful situation. As we all know, stress is something that can significantly undermine recovery efforts.
A study published in Alcohol Research, “How Does Stress Lead to Risk of Alcohol Relapse?” considers this exact issue. For example, the author observes how emotions and stress responses differ in individuals who are chemically dependent on alcohol.
The study identifies unique alterations in the stress pathways of alcoholics and looks at the connection between the ability to manage stress effectively and the risk of relapse. The author concludes that the brain alterations caused by stress contribute to a higher craving response and increased alcohol relapse.
Because it is painfully evident that COVID-19 has led to significantly higher stress levels in the general population, for an individual in recovery, the effects of this can be quite daunting.
Online Sobriety Support During COVID-19
Recovery support is an essential element in maintaining sobriety that cannot be overstated. For several months this year, access to these important sources of support was unavailable or severely limited. It is safe to say that the result of this was quite detrimental for those in recovery, with increases in relapse, overdose, and mental health crises.
While live recovery meetings can help people in recovery, there are, thankfully, alternative solutions to be accessed when needed. Becoming knowledgeable about the various options to help you remain sober during coronavirus COVID-19 will be invaluable for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately, for the past several months, the online recovery community has flourished. The major programs, including A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous), N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous), SMART Recovery, and others, have solidified their online platforms and offer these options at all hours of the day.
Check out the online sobriety support resources:
In addition to the online meetings, social media is another important support resource. There are some super active sobriety-focused Facebook groups and Instagram accounts that can offer encouragement and engagement at just about any time of day. So even if your region experiences an uptick in COVID-19 and has to return to strict lockdowns, there is still a great amount of online social support available.
Protecting Your Mental Health During the Pandemic
One of the most important priorities during the pandemic is to learn how to manage stress and anxiety. Anxiety can be crippling and, as noted above, is a major trigger for relapse. While everyone is feeling the pandemic’s negative emotional impact, it’s important to pay close attention to your mental health. When there are signs that your mental wellness is seriously eroding, it is critical to seek the professional help needed.
Signs of deteriorating mental health may include:
1. Loss of interest in daily life
2. Sleep disturbances: nightmares or insomnia
3. Sudden weight gain or loss
4. Self-harming behaviors
5. Racing heart rate
6. Feelings of hopelessness or despair
7. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
8. Increase in somatic symptoms: headaches, stomachaches, diarrhea
9. Extreme mood swings
10. Disconnecting from friends and family
11. Angry, violent behavior
12. Experiencing delusions or hallucinations
13. Suicidal thoughts
Individuals in recovery who recognize signs of psychological strain should seek out help from their outpatient recovery services and schedule an online therapy session. Just as with online recovery communities, psychotherapists have also developed digital platforms through which to deliver counseling.
When an in-person therapy session is not available due to COVID-19, it is almost certain that an online session will be. In addition to a one-on-one online therapy session, mental health support group sessions are also available for added peer support during the pandemic.
To better manage the additional stress and worry this year, it helps to include relaxation techniques in your daily routine. Again, digital solutions are available to provide these activities in the comfort of your home. Live-streamed or taped yoga classes and guided meditation apps are readily available to offer these stress-reducing practices.
More Tips for Maintaining Sobriety During the Pandemic
A solid sobriety strategy encompasses a broad range of actions. It is important to add extra dimensions to your strategy because of the increased demands on mental health caused by economic worries and the virus itself.
To further reinforce sobriety during these times, consider these tips:
>> Improve your diet.
Time in lockdown this year has resulted in some unhealthy eating habits. Recommit to a healthy diet that is rich in lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables for optimal health.
>> Be productive.
Boredom can become habitual if you let it, so find something productive to focus on. Maybe you have some deferred home projects to tackle, which is an excellent way to use time if furloughed or laid off from work.
>> Stay active.
Cardio exercise is the best thing we can do for our overall health, so get outside and run, jog, swim, walk, hike, or cycle. Tune in to some exercise classes on YouTube if the gym is not accessible right now.
>> Get good sleep.
There are several ways you can improve the quality of your sleep. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding heavy meals after 7 p.m., limiting caffeine, and shutting down the smartphone before bedtime all help.
Even with recovery care now available online, the daily distractions caused by all the upheaval, stress, and change placed an added burden on people trying hard to stay sober.
A concerted effort is required during this most unusual time in history. To remain committed to sobriety, we must adjust to these new realities and take advantage of online support resources while also working on maintaining good mental and physical health.