The COVID-19 pandemic affected all aspects of our lives. From work, to family and friends, to our daily routines, we all had to find new ways to adjust. The lockdowns that defined much of 2020 had major implications for those of us seeking to achieve or maintain sobriety.
It’s no secret that substance use was on the rise during lockdowns and many people struggled to maintain sobriety under the pressure and stress that came with the pandemic. However, for many others, the stay-at-home orders provided the space and motivation they needed to change their lives and get clean. For the first time, many people who struggled with substance dependency were able to avoid triggers and pressures that existed in the real world, and virtual AA and NA meetings and groups offered a newly accessible opportunity to get the support they needed.
There’s no shame in struggling during these uncertain times. As you face the challenges ahead, give yourself the time and space you need to stay on track and put your health first. Whether you’ve managed to maintain long-held sobriety throughout the pandemic, or this is a new journey you’ve undertaken, returning to normalcy will introduce new and familiar challenges for those trying to stay clean after lockdown. Keep reading to learn some important and helpful tips to maintain sobriety as we enter a post-pandemic world.
Set Boundaries & Know When to Say No
All of us need to be gentle with ourselves as we take steps to get back to normalcy post-COVID. This is especially true for alcoholics and addicts. After all, we’ve spent the last year isolated from triggers and social pressures. We haven’t been in spaces where other people are drinking alcohol or using drugs, and reintroducing these challenges all at once can be difficult and upsetting. There’s no reason to rush yourself or push yourself back to activities or social situations until you feel ready. Set boundaries for yourself and don’t be afraid to enforce them.
Start small. If a friend asks you to accompany them on a night out and you don’t feel ready, suggest a night in and watch movies or play board games instead.
Maintain Sober Hobbies
For most of us, the hobbies and activities we love are part of what motivates us to stay sober. They serve as a beautiful reminder that our lives are our own, and we’re no longer controlled by drugs or alcohol. Maybe you love music, photography, painting, or pottery. Maybe you love taking long walks in nature or playing sports with friends. Now that the lockdowns are mostly behind us, it’s more important than ever to maintain the sober hobbies that bring us joy and remind us why we chose to live clean in the first place.
Keep Your Support Systems Close
Humans are social creatures. In order to achieve our goals and find strength through hard times, we need to rely on a strong support system to get us through it. Some days will be harder than others, and having a strong group of people who are invested in your recovery is one of the most vital aspects of staying sober after lockdown. For many of us, the end of lockdown will allow us to be closer to the people that help us stay on track. Whether you find support in your family, friends, or sober groups, take this opportunity to strengthen these relationships and make time to have regular interactions with them.
One of the most helpful resources for support that you can have is a sober sponsor. If you don’t have a sponsor yet and you’re not sure where to begin, check out some of these common questions about finding a sponsor and how the process works. Don’t be afraid if you have to reach out to them a little more often in the face of such major life changes. Everyone has moments where they don’t feel as strong as they would like to, and being free to be honest and open with people you trust is what sobriety is all about.
With the addition of virtual meetings and therapy, many people have support systems that expand far outside of their immediate area. It’s wonderful if you can maintain these relationships through virtual meetings and phone calls. You might also consider seeking out other sober people in your area so you can feel secure having in-person support as well. Group or individual therapy (or a mixture of both) is also a fantastic resource for those in recovery.
Keep a Solid Routine
One of the major struggles people faced during lockdown was disruption to their daily routine. Routine is one of the most valuable assets in staying sober after COVID-19. Having a structure to your day allows your mind and body to get accustomed to life after addiction and stay on track. During lockdown, lack of routine and boredom were some of the main reasons sobriety was so challenging for so many. Now that things are starting to open up again, many people are facing similar disruptions to the routines they cultivated during the pandemic.
As we re-enter society, do what you can to maintain as steady and consistent a routine as possible. Even if you have to make some changes to accommodate work and social responsibilities, try your best to keep your sleep, eating, exercise, and self-care habits as consistent as possible. Keeping these routines, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, can do wonders for the stress and commotion of returning to “normal life.”
Avoid Known Triggers
An important aspect of recovery is rejecting the negative, harmful, or unhealthy influences in our lives — the people, places, and things that encouraged us toward drugs and alcohol and contributed to decisions we regret, blackouts, car accidents, and criminal charges. No matter how long you’ve been sober or how confident you feel in your willpower, it’s important to stay away from the things you know tempt you to drink or use.
In rehab, we’re sheltered from many of the common external triggers that put us at risk of relapsing. For many of us, the lockdowns also protected us in this way. As we go back to work and/or re-enter social situations, it’s important to avoid known triggers and stick to spending time with people who influence us in positive ways.
Common triggers to avoid include:
- Places where there are drugs or alcohol
- Situations that involve conflict
- People who pressure you
- Situations that cause you to feel anxious
OTR Is Here To Provide Post-Pandemic Support & Help You Stay Sober
make staying sober harder, and coming out of lockdown in a post-pandemic world is definitely a big change. By avoiding triggers, relying on your support network, and maintaining the relationships and coping strategies that encourage your sobriety and bring you joy, you can make small decisions that make a big difference. The choices you make in moments like these determine your future. It’s not an easy path, but it’s an incredible one. Don’t give up!
At Oregon Trail Recovery, we’re here to offer support that’s free of judgment and full of compassion to help you make positive changes so you can live a happier, healthier life. Call us at (855) 537-0067. Wherever you are on your recovery journey, we’re here to help you.