WESTCHESTER COUNTY — Match 18, 2021 — A year into the pandemic, COVID-19 has touched everyone’s lives in one way or another, whether it’s working from home or losing a loved one to the virus. However, a nearly invisible epidemic has been lurking under the surface as the world battles the pandemic: addiction. High levels of stress and lockdowns keeping everyone at home drives many to seek solace in substance use. Emergency medical services have reported an overall 50% increase in overdose deaths in 2020 from baselines in 2018 and 2019. For addicts, in particular, COVID-19 has made it much more challenging to maintain sobriety. Social isolation, job insecurity, and financial stress are all difficult to face, let alone all at the same time. If you’re struggling to cope with COVID-19’s impact on your life in healthy ways, consider these six tips to stay on the sober path.
Explore recovery-oriented programs
Inpatient rehabilitation facilities are known to be the most effective way of treating addiction. Unfortunately, the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 has made it difficult for rehabilitation facilities to care for their patients in the same way they did pre-pandemic. Rehab centers must follow extensive precautions to avoid outbreaks of the virus.
Luckily, outpatient (OP) rehab Services are still available for those wary of checking themselves into an inpatient program during a pandemic. In outpatient programs, you’ll receive daily treatment at a facility but continue living at home. While OP services tend to take longer for results, it’s more affordable than inpatient programs and allows you to maintain a more normal routine. You’ll also be able to benefit from being able to contact your usual social support circle of trusted family and friends. OP rehab isn’t a good fit if you have a severe addiction, but those with mild addictions can find outpatient services highly effective.
Establish a day-to-day routine
The pandemic has disrupted nearly everyone’s daily routines. Before COVID-19, you likely had a daily commute and structured work schedule. Now, you’re probably waking up and sitting down at a laptop in your living room. Anyone in recovery knows how important structure is, so creating and enforcing a new daily routine can be helpful during recovery. Consider scheduling times for waking up, doing work, eating meals, and exercising. Though it’s not necessary to schedule every second of your day, creating a loose timetable can provide some semblance of organization to your life.
Stay in touch with loved ones
Social distancing and lockdowns make it challenging to see your friends and family in person. While it’s hard to gather physically, everyone you love is a simple phone or video call away. Everyone is struggling with feeling isolated during the pandemic. Your social support circle will likely be just as happy to hear from you as you are to catch up with them. Get creative with your virtual catch-ups. Throw watch parties for your group’s favorite TV shows, or find virtual board games to play together. Being physically distanced doesn’t mean being emotionally distanced, so find ways to connect with loved ones that make you happy.
Avoid doom scrolling
It’s no secret that the news cycle is relentless. In this pandemic-ridden world, updates on vaccination rollouts and COVID-19 outbreaks are pinged to everyone’s smartphones every few minutes. It can be easy to feel hopeless about your situation when you’re being inundated with bad news. Overloading yourself with constant news updates will only add unnecessary stress to your daily life. Stay conscious of how much media you’re consuming and limit the amount of time you spend on news apps or social media.
Make time for self-care
Under times of extreme stress, taking care of yourself is more important than ever. Make it a point to spend considerable time outside, whether you’re taking a walk or basking in the sun. Regularly exercising can keep you physically and mentally healthy. While your gym might be closed, free virtual workout videos are always available online. Additionally, set a goal to make balanced, nutritious meals when you can. However, if putting considerable effort into your food feels overwhelming, eating simple comfort foods is better than missing meals.
Ask for support when you need it
Everyone is struggling right now in one way or another. If you notice your thoughts drifting to alcohol consumption or if you’re developing drug cravings, tell someone you trust. If you feel that you’re in danger of relapsing, there is no shame in seeking professional help. Many mental health providers are offering telehealth services in lieu of in-person appointments. Support groups are also still meeting, both virtually and in socially distanced formats. Seeking out those who can relate to your struggle can help you feel less alone.
The bottom line
COVID-19 has been a globally traumatic event. Feeling tempted by substances doesn’t make your recovery any less meaningful during these stressful times. Though staying sober has no doubt been a monumental struggle for many people, the light at the end of the tunnel is visible. Staying hopeful and sticking to these tips can make it easier to maintain sobriety.