With so much uncertainty in our lives because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to feel isolated and unsure of what do. For those working on their recovery journey outside of rehab and trying to avoid relapse, these feelings – coupled with boredom, agitation, or anxiety – can make for an environment and mental state that promotes risky behavior and relapse.
To reduce the chance of this happening, here are seven tips to help you avoid relapsing while remaining socially distant.
1. Stay aware of how you’re feeling, emotionally and physically
Physical and mental self-care are more important than ever with the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing the common signs of relapse and being able to identify your own triggers are crucial in staying sober.
Mood swings, poor nutrition, and fantasizing about substance use can all be potential precursors to relapse. Addressing these feelings and taking preventative measures to deal with them will lead to greater emotional and physical wellness, as well as decrease your chance of using.
2. Make use of your free time to avoid relapse
Boredom and detachment are major culprits in relapse. They make the pull of substance use that much stronger. If you find yourself with a lot of free time on your hands, it’s important to keep yourself occupied to avoid falling back into old behaviours and risk relapsing.
Practicing a favourite hobby or investing time into a new one are great ways to enjoy yourself and feel productive. Exercising and creative outlets like writing, painting, or playing an instrument are great ways to distract oneself while keeping one’s mind and body engaged.
3. Incorporate holistic wellness practices into your daily life
Spend time on building out a proper nutrition plan to ensure you’re eating well, too, and make space in both your schedule and your home that is dedicated to exercise. Even spending a short time each day on holistic wellness practices can make a great difference in one’s physical wellbeing and mental outlook, as well as the cravings that are brought on by restlessness and apprehension.
4. Don’t be hard on yourself if cravings arise
Cravings are an unfortunate and almost universal part of recovery and rehabilitation. Getting down on yourself for feeling them is not only unproductive but dangerous.
Indeed, feeling guilty or ashamed for cravings can wind up leading to an unhealthy emotional state that makes it hard to avoid relapse. Accepting that cravings will occur and learning how to manage and move beyond them, however, is an incredibly valuable step in your recovery journey, and in turn it helps reduce your desire to use.
5. Maintain communication with loved ones and those you trust
Even if you can’t go out and see them, it’s important to connect with the people in your life who mean the most to you. Make a list of emergency contacts whom you can reach out to if you’re suffering from cravings, or notice symptoms of emotional relapse such as anxiety, poor sleeping patterns, and mood swings.
Be it family, a sponsor, or support group members, having positive individuals to talk to during this period of isolation will provide much needed encouragement and help to keep you accountable on your recovery journey.
6. Identify your enablers and avoid high-risk scenarios
Especially during times of uncertainty and loneliness, the desire to see old friends who still abuse drugs and alcohol can be strong.
Avoiding these enablers and the high-risk scenarios they present is hugely important to staying sober and to help you avoid relapse. Instead, if you feel overly secluded and in need of personal connection, reach out to supportive and positive forces in your life, such as sober friends and family members, sponsors, or counsellors.
Know that it’s okay to ask for help
No matter the circumstance, it is important to remember that it’s always okay to ask for help. Recovery is a process, not a single event, and your path to sobriety will, at times, be complicated and difficult.
If you ever feel stuck in a situation you can’t deal with alone, or need help navigating negative thoughts or severe cravings, reach out to those you trust or seek the advice of a treatment specialist.
Relapse prevention and aftercare programs exist to help those who are struggling with life out of rehab and encourage you to make positive steps on your recovery journey. Knowing when to ask for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and can make the difference in staying, and keeping, sober.