How To Keep Your Sobriety in Check As We Head Into Another Year of the COVID Pandemic
Your sobriety is essential, and that’s why it is so urgent that you develop strategies to cope with the COVID pandemic and its pervasive impact on your mental and emotional health. Even without the pandemic, you’ll need to be diligent, attentive, and proactive to maintain your sobriety, as events will inevitably challenge your newfound commitment to a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle. You can preserve your sobriety this year if you understand what can threaten it and what you have to do to protect it.
The COVID pandemic is showing every sign of becoming endemic. This means it will remain with us in one form or another for a long time. The sudden and unexpected arrival of the COVID virus was traumatizing for human beings everywhere, and it is still causing stress and anxiety nearly two years later.
Now that we are at the beginning of 2022, you have to be realistic about preserving your sobriety if you actually expect to preserve it. The stress, uncertainty, and dislocation the pandemic has created could be a threat to your newfound physical and mental wellness, which you’ve worked so hard to restore.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that even if the pandemic ended tomorrow, you would still need to be on guard against circumstances or situations that could threaten your sobriety. Recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health problems is a lifelong affair in even the best of circumstances.
Eight Tips for Staying Sober for the Duration of the Pandemic and Beyond
You should see your sobriety as one of your most valuable traits. It should define who you are now, and it is a part of your identity you should be determined to hold onto forever.
To preserve your sobriety, especially in such trying times, requires an effective and proactive strategy. What follows are eight suggestions that can keep you on a straight and steady course, regardless of anything else happening in your life or in the world at large.
#1 Be Diligent With Your Aftercare or Continuing Care Program
Your aftercare program will likely include some combination of individual, group, and family therapy, peer group meetings, medication management services, and educational, job training, or other social services.
You should meet all the obligations that were included as a part of your program and not make excuses to miss meetings or otherwise neglect your sobriety. If pandemic-related conditions require you to attend some sessions online, you should be there every time and do your absolute best to make these sessions productive and meaningful.
If you’ve been through treatment for addiction or for co-occurring substance use and mental health issues, your aftercare or continuing care program should be seen as a vital element of your recovery. Residential care prepares you to return home and re-enter society, but how well you make the transition back to “normality” will depend on the depth of your commitment to wellness. Aftercare tests that commitment, and it is a test you cannot afford to fail.
#2 Keep a Daily Journal Specifically Related to Your Sobriety and Your Recovery
The success of your recovery will depend largely on your level of conscious awareness. You must remain alert at all times, on the lookout for temptations or triggers that could lead to relapse. You must carefully monitor your thoughts and behaviors at all times to ensure you don’t slip back into old patterns that undermined your sobriety in the past.
One of the most effective ways to develop a self-aware mindset is to keep a daily journal related explicitly to sobriety and recovery. In your journal, you’ll write about all you’ve been thinking and feeling, either good or bad, and you’ll look deeper below the surface to see what might be motivating those thoughts and feelings.
These inner explorations will act as a regular and automatic progress check. They will help you cultivate an alert mindset that can help protect you from any and all developments that could put you at risk for relapse.
#3 Take Good Care of Your Mental Health
Your sobriety will be influenced by the state of your mental health. If you’re feeling depressed, chronically anxious, or out of touch with reality, you can safely assume your recovery from addiction is at risk. You need to be at your psychological and emotional best to generate the energy and the optimism you require to stay away from drugs and alcohol; that is undeniable.
When you notice signs that indicate a struggle with mental health issues, you shouldn’t try to “tough it out” but should seek counseling right away. Therapy in this instance should be seen as mandatory and as a critical preventive step to make sure your mental health challenges don’t compromise your sobriety or your overall wellness.
The risks of mental health problems are higher than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is yet another reason why a proactive approach is the only sensible option.
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#4 Be Honest in Your Communications With Friends and Families
The people who love you unconditionally will want to be there for you in your hour of need. They will want to help pick you up when you’re feeling down. They will be ready and willing to offer any moral or practical support you might need as you work hard to preserve your hard-earned sobriety.
However, they won’t be able to assist you if you keep them in the dark. If you retreat into a private world, too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about your past mistakes or your current struggles, you won’t be able to build a network of supporters ready to stand by your side and champion your cause.
This is why you should always keep your loved ones updated on your progress and on your present emotions and state of mind. As you face the inevitable challenges to your sobriety, their loving help and encouragement could be the difference between success and failure.
#5 Believe in Your Strengths While You Work on Your Weaknesses
You have the inner strength and determination to maintain your sobriety for the long haul. If you do have a relapse, you can make a short and quickly corrected mistake. You can pull yourself back out of the abyss before it can swallow you. Just the fact that you’ve made it this far shows you can make it further, regardless of how difficult it may be to avoid the temptation to return to drugs or alcohol during stressful or uncertain times (like those created by a global pandemic, for example).
Being a human being, you undoubtedly have weaknesses and vulnerabilities. They don’t have to sabotage your sobriety if you decide not to let them, which means acknowledging them and developing coping or self-improvement strategies to overcome their deleterious influence.
Your strength can win out in the end if you nurture it and cultivate it as the powerful healing force it can be.
#6 Improve Your Diet and Physical Conditioning
Your mental health is heavily influenced by your physical health, and vice versa. Anyone who is striving to overcome a substance use disorder should fill their lives with as many healthy and restorative practices as possible, and that includes developing more wholesome eating habits and exercising on a regular basis.
When you’re in top physical condition, you’ll achieve greater emotional stability and feel more empowered to resist temptation. Your moods will improve, your depression, anxiety, and insomnia will ease (if you’ve been experiencing any of these), and your energy levels will rise and increase your capacity to maintain your fealty to your post-care recovery regimen. Your immune system will also function more effectively, which will make you less vulnerable to serious illness regardless of its source.
These are the natural benefits of a good diet and exercise, and you can experience all of them if you stick with your new wellness routine for the duration.
#7 Avoid Complacency
Intellectually, you might accept that recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders involves constant diligence and a lifetime commitment. But when things are going well, and you’re distracted by other events, you might slack off on your participation in your aftercare program just a touch, believing you don’t need the extra help as much as you used to.
It is inevitable that this will happen from time to time. That’s why you have to train yourself to be on the lookout for even the slightest signs of complacency, so you can nip it in the bud before it blossoms into something perilous.
You don’t have to be alert to the potential pitfalls every single moment of each and every day. But the depth and nature of the challenge you face should never be very far from your mind. If you stay conscious of the risks, they won’t be able to catch you unprepared.
#8 Eliminate the Influence of Toxic People From Your Life
Rejecting toxic people can be one of the hardest things to do because oftentimes, those who cause you stress or undermine your self-confidence are people you can’t avoid altogether. They may be parents or siblings, or childhood friends, former spouses, adult children, or co-workers or bosses. You may still love or be fond of them, despite their potential to influence you negatively.
Ideally, you’ll separate yourself permanently from those who could subvert your resolve or otherwise threaten your dedication to sobriety. Friends or family members who enabled or encouraged your drinking or drug use should be the last people you’d want to spend time with unless they’ve also found sobriety.
When contact with toxic people is impossible to avoid, you should be sure to set strict boundaries that let you control the nature of the interaction. Let them know, politely if possible but more directly if necessary, that you won’t put up with behaviors that make you feel anxious or under attack. Your sobriety is too important to have it undermined by those who are unsupportive.