Staying Sober During A Pandemic

Dealing with everything that is happening in the world is a lot right now. Life is stressful. It’s easy to want to escape and fall back into “what’s the point, I need a break from all of this.” For those of us that have some unhealthy coping strategies this can create the kind of excuse we need to fall back into old behaviors. The “what difference does it make” kind of attitude.  Staying sober during a pandemic brings some new difficult challenges.

Why Not Give Into The Urge

There are no paper products at the grocery store, the meat supply is dwindling and overpriced, I can’t find hand sanitizer. I’m over it, I just want to forget about life for a while. So why not give in?

Reasons To Stay Sober

Using will increase your stress level

Let’s face it, it’s difficult to not be stressed out a little right now because you are human. If you are in recovery, why add to your stress level by engaging in a behavior you have spent a fair amount of time trying to stop? Stress lowers your immune system, drugs and or alcohol can add toxicity to your internal system as well as your mental and emotional health.

Do you really want to open Pandora’s box?

Brendan Behan coined the expression “One drink is too many for me and a thousand is not enough.” My experience has shown me it is the same with most addictions. You may be able to do it in moderation for a minute, but do you really want to take the chance of opening the floodgates?

Do you want to deal with a hangover or other withdrawal right now?

Aren’t you dealing with enough right now, do really want to add to your misery by putting yourself through a hangover or other withdrawals. I know with behavioral addictions the withdrawal isn’t physical, but the mental and emotional misery you put yourself through whether it’s spending, overeating, gambling, can be pretty awful.

Probably not the best place to spend your money right now.

There is so much uncertainty about the financial future of our economy. Questions about job security are on most people’s minds. What is the best course of action for your current finances. Once you’ve opened the door to your addiction, what now? Are you really only going to use once? What are all the costs of using going to be? Use the technique of playing the tape through to the end. From that first ahhh of relief to the Oh shit, what have I done.

It is likely that you can relate to the idea that engaging in your addiction has never made a problem you’re facing better, and the reality is that it probably made it worse.

So choose you, choose abstinence during this time.

What To Do Instead

This might be a good time to remember the serenity prayer

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”
Reinhold Niebuhr

One of the posts I read online stated that we are collectively grieving the loss of our old lives. I believe that is an accurate statement, there is a huge sense of loss, sadness, anger, and fear right now. Add to that the stress of uncertainty not only in our personal life with fear of financial insecurity, but what the new normal will look like. We are concerned with whether or not we might get the virus and what that would mean, worry about our friends and family, it is all overwhelming.

That is why it is so important to take some time for yourself right now.

How do you cope with so many unknowns, feeling powerless in your own life? Whether you are new in recovery or have been sober for years it is okay to feel a little thrown off balance by what is happening right now. Maybe going back to basics is the answer.

The now is where you have some power.

Come back into the current moment when you catch yourself feeling anxious or worried about what might be. Where are you right now, are you safe, is the mortgage or rent paid, is there food in the pantry and fridge, are you healthy right now? Is there anything you can do right now to help your situation, or is there anything you can let go of such as fear or anxiety that is not currently helping your situation? Just take some time to stop and breathe, notice your surroundings and ask yourself what do I need right now?

Be a little selfish

Nurture yourself, have a cup of tea and a cookie, take a bubble bath, a walk in nature if possible. Are you getting enough sleep, do you have any fun and creative outlets. Are you taking time to meditate and practice stress reduction techniques daily, like yoga, or tapping. Nourish your body with good food, get exercise, and sunshine, drink lots of water. Talk to yourself in a kind and loving way

Keep in touch with your support system

Keep in touch virtually with your tribe, get online and find more outlets, there are a lot of chatrooms, online meetings, use zoom or other online platforms to feel more connected. Make sure you are reaching out to others if you are feeling lonely or bored. If you live alone it is especially important to feel connection at this time.

It is okay not to be productive every minute of every day.

As I’ve worked with clients through the pandemic it has been interesting to see the shift from having to be productive all the time to allowing themselves to binge watch Netflix, pull out the crafting supplies, or just relax with a long walks. The longer this goes on the more I see people realize that it is okay to just be with whatever feels good at the moment. I think that is a positive shift for many.

If you are dealing with depression or a lot of anxiety it might be important to maintain some structure and maybe even have a few things that you want to accomplish each day. Having a plan for the day and a sense of purpose can be helpful with so much uncertainty. Pay attention to self talk, be gentle with yourself.

Allow yourself to be human and have emotions.

Whatever you are feeling is okay. It is human to feel some sense of sadness and loss right now. Some fear of the future. The goal is to honor the emotions, allow them to be and then remember they are just feelings. There is no way of knowing how this will unfold for you and worrying about it won’t change it.

Allow yourself to sit with the feelings and the thoughts, notice them and then do your best to let them go. Try not to get to immersed in them so you get stuck. Set a timer and then get up and do something else. Sit down and journal them and then close the book on them and do something that feels better. Talk to a friend, sometimes it helps to know others are feeling the same way.

Put your hand on your heart and allow yourself to breathe through the discomfort until you feel calmer.

Find the gift in the situation

I used to hate that saying “it is what it is” until I heard the second part. It is what it is, but it becomes what you make of it. The first part felt like moving into a place of victimhood but when I heard the second half of it, it felt more empowering. It reminds me of the sentiment that we have the choice to see each moment as a gift or a problem.

I know it might be difficult to see the gift in the current situation. And overall right now it feels like a huge problem. There are small gifts though, hopefully you have found some. I love my home and the gift of working from home and having the freedom to take long walks in the park near my home during my workday has been great.

This time has made me so grateful I stopped when I did. If I was still active in my addiction my finances would be horrible, and right now I am able to pay the mortgage, put food on the table and know that I am good. It feels pretty amazing.

I have no idea what the new normal is going to look like. I also know I have very little control over most of it. The one thing I do know is that we will need to be flexible, and at least to some degree go with the flow. The other option is to create much more stress in our life than is necessary.

Managing the world sober can be daunting, especially during times like these. But also in times like these, it’s good to have a clear head.

I hope some of the above ideas were helpful.
Be safe, stay healthy.


Peace and Joy to you on your recovery path!






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