These are uncertain times that may provoke feelings of insecurity, anxiety and depressive moods. Those unsteady and stressful emotions are triggering for many who are living in sobriety. New social and economical restrictions are hindering sources of social support, meetings and therapeutic communities.
Why are coping skills important to sobriety? Coping refers to your response to stress. There are healthy coping responses and unhealthy forms of coping. Maladaptive coping is often avoidance of the issue. Responses may change depending on the trigger of stress but typically, individuals can identify patterns of behavior. An example: emotional eating in response to sadness or breathing exercises to calm anxiety. Coping skills can be employed consciously or subconsciously. Mindfulness is a helpful tool for awareness which allows for identification of coping mechanisms. Listen to your body, pay attention to your thoughts and evaluate decisions and triggers regarding substance misuse. You will likely find patterns of behavior following stressors, however, not all substance misuse is triggered by a negative action, event or thought. It can be learned or conditioned behavior. Here are some techniques to help you cope with time in lock-down/quarantine, as well as identifying triggers. Keep in mind, these are suggested approaches. Coping is what works for you and is not limited to physical activities.
Pay attention to your thought processes in order to avoid negative self-talk. Your body hears what your mind says which can cause both physical and psychological stress, usually unintended. If you find yourself self-doubting or downing, it's useful to replace that thought with positive and/or useful feedback. You cannot be overly positive and that's alright. This technique can also aid with anxiety. Stress and anxiety may lead to urges, so get used to this sort of mindfulness.
CALL SOMEONE FOR SUPPORT- Remember the power of reaching out. It's okay to need or want support. Having a strong support system is nourishing to your sobriety. It's good to have diverse support, people who understand your journey and loved ones who may not. I often hear from clients that they do not want to be a burden. Please understand that those who love you want what's best, but the beauty of a well rounded support system is that you can allow for emotional boundaries by having multiple people to reach out to. AA is not for everyone but if you have a sponsor, utilize them. And employ modern technology! A video chat can be more comforting than you realize. If you feel that you do not have adequate support, try one of the included resources as listed below (all with online serves), or reach out to us!
Time management is essential in goal setting, completing tasks and creating stability. Lists go a long way for those who have issues focusing. Write out your goals or simply create a to-do list for daily activities. Investing in a physical planner can void the distraction of technology. Time management is also important for sleep hygiene. Getting reliable sleep and practicing a bedtime routine (ways to relax, specific times, etc.), allows your body to adapt to a schedule and transition more easily into a sleeping pattern. Time management is self-care.
Try something new. Alternatively, practice stillness. Being in lock-down does not mean that you are required to learn a new skill or account for every hour of your time, but stability is important.
A vital part of sobriety is CHANGE. The same routine and environment may be a setback. You don't have to quit activities that you're already engaged in, but if those activities previously involved drug use, create a sober way of engaging (which could mean a new group of friends).
Isolation can feed urges. If you have struggled with depression, depressive moods, suicidal ideation, or have a history of drug use during isolation, too much time alone is a red flag. These times are difficult because you may not have many options. This is where your support system comes into play. And if you feel yourself slipping, a walk in the sunshine can be uplifting or a chat with a loved one. It is also a good time for sober activities. Consider the resources available to you or that are accessible online.
Consider your nutrition. How are your responding to your regularly ingested foods? Are you an emotional eater? Pay attention to urges. I often see clients using food or other substances to cope with urges to use. You may find yourself binging or over-indulging, creating a crutch. We provide services such as guidance in intuitive eating. The first step to countering such behavior is awareness. So please continue practicing mindfulness.
Practice breathing techniques for anxiety. Here is one example to help calm your breathing:
Relax your jaw and shoulders.
Take a long, slow inhale into your nose, imagining your breath filling your lungs.
While holding your inhale, count to four.
Exhale slowly through your mouth, and feel the tension leaving your body as your slowly exhale.
Repeat several times throughout the day to avoid anxiety build-up.
We are currently offering free weekly (virtual) substance abuse support through the end of May 2020. These are one-on-one sessions, not classified as counseling (unoffical). It's available to individuals nationwide and are carried out using Zoom. We do offer substance abuse counseling to TX residents and our sessions are virtual via doxy.me (HIPAA compliant platform). Our online tele-wellness is not ideal for those who are needing detox or treatment. It is catered to those seeking to maintain ongoing sobriety. See the bottom of this article for additional resources.
Online Recovery Resources
AA Alcoholics Anonymous
CA Cocaine Anonymous
Food Addicts Anonymous (FA)
Heroin Anonymous (HA)
International Doctors in Alcoholics Anonymous (IDAA)
PA Pills Anonymous
NA Narcotics Anonymous
NA Nicotine Anonymous
Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)