In the 7+ years, I’ve been clean & sober, I have never had more of an urge to drink than during quarantine in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic.
My addict mind tries to justifying reasons for drinking with the current circumstances. It's telling me it’s okay to drink, people would understand if I relapsed right now, time would go by much quicker if I drank, or how much fun would that be to join in on wine Zoom nights!
In my addiction, staying home, alone, unbothered, was my life. The only time I went out was to get the essentials…drugs, alcohol, and maybe some fast food. I isolated myself from family, friends, and social gatherings. I mostly just laid in bed and watched television, numb to life but also hurting. Life during this recent pandemic has felt more like my old life.
Since getting sober, I have had urges or thoughts of drinking however, they usually only last a few seconds or minutes before my brain shuts down these ideas and “plays the tape forward”. This lockdown is a new situation, one I have never been in before.
I am trying to navigate through it and be okay with temporarily being uncomfortable. I have had drinking urges and fantasies that last a little longer than a few minutes. I have had to find new techniques and coping mechanisms to help me stay healthy and strong during this difficult time.
Below are some things that have helped me maintain my sobriety during this time:
In recovery, we talk a lot about acceptance and letting go of things we can’t control. I have never felt the need to accept something more than everything that comes along with a world pandemic.
We have ZERO control over what is happening right now and so it doesn’t make sense to sit around and try to control the situation.
Instead of trying to control the situation, I think about all the things I am grateful for. I don’t have kids I have to homeschool, I still have my job, I am not in an abusive relationship, I have a home and enough money to buy groceries. Some of these things were possible because of my sobriety.
I have always kept a journal, even during my using days (very entertaining to look back on now). Journaling helps me to get out my thoughts and then put them away. It is a place where I can be 100% honest about my feelings.
Also, this will be a wild time to look back on in the future.
3. Talk honestly and openly with trusted friends
Since I can’t see my friends in person, I try to call my friends frequently. Mostly all my friends are in recovery and understand this is a difficult time.
I needed someone to talk to about my urges but was scared. It’s hard to admit wanting to drink after 7+ years sober and trying to appear as a strong woman in my recovery.
I finally came out and said it, “I feel like drinking”. My friend, who has been sober for over a decade said, “I have been thinking about this too.”
We then talked through our feelings and pointed out all the pros and cons. Having someone to discuss this with, who gets it, was extremely beneficial. It made me realize, I am not alone. Other people are struggling with this too.
4. Join a Zoom AA meeting
To be honest, I haven’t been to an AA meeting in about four years. It used to be part of my program but it just got to a point where it wasn’t helping me anymore and I found other things to be more effective.
My friend was putting on a meeting and asked if I wanted to join. It was with an inpatient treatment center and it helped A LOT.
Seeing the patients in treatment during this time and hearing them share really made me feel grateful to be in my situation. I also shared a little bit of how I am feeling and to see all those heads nod in agreeance felt like a weight had been lifted.
5. Stick to a routine
Getting sober, I had to create a healthy routine and stick to it. I try to do this as much as possible during the quarantine. Even if my days are not very eventful, I plan my days out.
It looks a little like this:
8:00am-9:00am: Morning coffee. I sometimes chat on my balcony with my neighbor or catch up on the news.
9:00 am-11:00 am: Clean the floors, breakfast, dishes, other chores that need to be done.
11:00am-1:00pm: Take the dog on an adventure.
2:00pm-3:00pm: Reading hour
3:00 pm-5:00 pm: Work on my puzzle
6:00pm-8:00pm: Cook dinner, Eat, Clean
8:00 pm -Bedtime: Catch up on my favorite television shows
I try to stick to this routine or a variation every day. Never sitting on the couch all day binge-watching Netflix.
6. Take a stroll down memory lane…the bad lane
Playing the tape forward has also helped a lot. Thinking about all the dark places my addiction brought me and how it could get there quickly. When I do this, I try to not glamorize it because let’s be honest, there was nothing glamourous about it.
Sometimes on my way to the grocery store, I pass the liquor store. In Utah, the only place to buy hard alcohol or wine is the liquor store. The lines are so long and people I know have to wait 45 minutes to get in and then the shelves are bare. This sounds absolutely terrible. I think about how that would be me…but while waiting, I would have the shakes and be so sick from withdrawals. No thank you.
7. Find new hobbies & projects
Boredom can be a trigger and so finding new activities has been very important to my sobriety. Reading, nail painting, printing photos for photo albums, organizing my closet, and puzzling.
For me, I have discovered how much love doing puzzles. It is so soothing for me and it passes a lot of time. I turn on my favorite tunes or listen to a podcast and get into the puzzle mode.
If you or someone you know needs substance abuse or mental health help, SAMHSA is a free, confidential source that provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Reach out for help at 1-800-662-4357.