The coronavirus pandemic provides a particular set of challenges for those suffering from alcoholism. Many individuals have seen their daily routines upended by the restrictions posed by lockdown rules – making self-discipline even harder.
Meanwhile, social distancing rules continue to make people feel isolated. Some will have lost loved-ones to the virus. While it’s somewhat easy to measure its impact on physical health, measuring COVID-19’s effects on mental health is not so straightforward.
Despite the challenges it undoubtedly poses, there are coping strategies which can help keep you on the road to recovery.
1. Create a structure for your day
With your usual routine disrupted, it’s time to create a new one. This will help create a sense of purpose and ensure boredom doesn’t set in.
Here are some ideas to include as part of your daily routine:
- Wake time
- Wash and dress
- Phone calls/online meetings
- Gardening (if you’re lucky enough to have a garden)
- Hobbies (perhaps start a new one?)
- Work (if you have any)
- Watching a film
- Relaxation time/meditation
- Bed time
Be sure to write down your daily schedule and consider tweaking it for each day. The rest of our top 10 tips on how to stay dry during the COVID-19 pandemic will help you fill this schedule.
2. Keep in touch with your support network
Create a schedule for checking in with your support network – and share it with them so that they can help hold you to it. While physical face-to-face meetings might not be possible, virtual online meetings are now easy to arrange.
Whether it’s talking to supportive friends and family, or qualified professionals, arranging (and maintaining) these conversations can help alleviate the sense of isolation and keep you on track with your recovery goals.
3. Use online resources
While alcohol support groups are unable to provide the usual in-person support, there are a variety of online groups and services to help fill the void. You can use your smart phone or computer to join a variety of free virtual groups which offer a friendly ear and ongoing advice on staying sober.
Among those available are:
- Alcoholics Anonymous: Alongside the usual phone service, they are offering a free live chat service on their website.
- Smart Recovery: Smart Recovery are providing free online alcoholism support meetings on this link.
- We Are With You: Free confidential support and advice is offered in this live chat feature.
Your daily routine should be full of activities which help provide a sense of wellbeing, as illustrated above. Eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, exposing yourself to sunlight, taking time to relax and talking to those people who will provide you with positive support.
If you have a difficult day, try not to beat yourself. Instead just consider the reasons how or why you slipped up, and what measures you might be able to take in order to avoid a repeat. Self care is an important element of how to live sober and happy.
5. Keep in touch three times a day
Whether it’s friends, family or others on the path to sobriety; it’s important that you stay in touch with people regularly. One call may be to a supportive friend or family member who has a healthy relationship with alcohol, another to someone who is new to sobriety, and a call to somebody who has achieved sobriety.
By spacing them out during the day, it gives you something to look forward to.
6. Mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness is about being present. It’s your chance to put thoughts about the future and rumination on the past to one side. Instead, you can just ‘be’. The exercise is useful because it helps you to simply accept yourself in the purest sense of the word: as a living and breathing human being.
The simplest way is to just sit down and listen to your breathing. Feel the rise and fall of the breath. If thoughts come up – which they will – just let them drift away.
7. Practice gratitude
Those who are grateful – and find things to be grateful for every day – are happier and healthier, according to research. These people instinctively see the positives and ignore the negative aspects of their daily lives. This makes them more likely to see opportunity. While the reverse is true of those who only see the negatives, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Try practising this by writing down 5 things you are grateful for, in the morning and/or evening. It’s okay if you find yourself repeating the same gratitude.
8. Go outside
Getting outside is very important for good health. The sun is a natural source of vitamin-D which is great for the bones, while fresh air is great for the lungs.
From a psychological perspective, it can help boost feelings of positivity – particularly when combined with walking. And exposure to natural daylight – particularly in the morning – helps us to sleep soundly in the evening.
At the end of a long walk, you can return to your home feeling refreshed.
9. Stay busy
The purpose of creating a daily schedule is to ensure you stay busy. It’s one of the most important among our tips for how to stay dry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who are alcohol dependent tend to have increased cravings during idle time. Boredom represents a real threat.
So, an important part of your daily relapse prevention is to have plenty of things to do – and to ensure you are not faced with large chunks of time where nothing is planned. It’s an incredibly important part of how to stay sober from drugs and alcohol during this unprecedented time.
10. Set boundaries with your family or housemates
You may be stuck in a house or flat with other people. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may feel irritated by those you are living with. This is natural: everyone has probably felt that at some point during the lockdown.
However, it’s particularly important for those trying to avoid an alcohol relapse to set boundaries. This is particularly true if you live with someone who drinks alcohol (they ought to drink out of your sight), or in any way behaves in a manner which undermines your attempt to remain alcohol-free.
We hope these tips on how to stay dry during the COVID-19 pandemic will help you during these challenging times.