The drug counseling community has reported an increase in relapse since the beginning of the global pandemic, so we know isolation is affecting those suffering from addiction. Regardless of COVID-19, engaging in addiction treatment and the recovery process can be difficult. There may always be issues with motivation, time management, or financial resources that prohibit you from seeking or completing treatment. But how do you deal with recovery during a global pandemic? More importantly, how do you prevent relapse after treatment with the potential to not be able to engage in a structured aftercare program or in-person therapy?
Here are 3 ways to deal with urges and unwanted emotions while in social isolation:
- Create a Group Message for Support – Many people who are in some form of addiction recovery have met others dealing with the same issues. If you attend group therapy treatment, it may be a good idea to start a group message with those involved in the group because it will help to deal with feelings of isolation you may experience and provide support when you need it. Similarly, if you are involved in 12-step recovery, you can also create a group message with your peers where you can offer each other support. The key to staying on track on your recovery journey during this time, is finding a way to stay connected during these times of social distancing and potential isolation.
- There are also many online forums that you can join, which provide a community of peers who can give you support when you need it. Facebook has several addiction recovery support groups that you can join, and they seem to be very positive communities with which you can interact. Even if you are not experiencing cravings, you may be dealing with difficult emotions that are exacerbated during this challenging time in the world. These communities can help support you with a non-judgmental perspective because they recognize that isolation is hard for anyone, especially those who suffer from drug abuse or mental health disorders.
- Practice Mindfulness Meditation – Meditation is scientifically proven to help relieve stress, manage difficult emotions, and gain self-awareness. The self-awareness you gain during mindfulness is important in dealing with addiction because it helps you become aware of your triggers and what comes up emotionally at those times. Professionals have been using Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for several years to treat depression and anxiety, and they have now carried over into addiction treatment because of its effectiveness to treat addiction.
Mindfulness meditation is helpful because it is simple and can be practiced anywhere that you find comfortable and peaceful. Once you have found a quiet, comfortable place, you can just sit and be still. This practice of sitting quietly is the cornerstone of most meditative practices. Sitting and being still helps us cement ourselves to the present and gives us time to contemplate our emotions and what we need. Breathing exercises are also important to your meditation practice because they help reduce stress and anxiety. It is not necessary for you to close your eyes during meditation. In fact, some forms of meditation practice like in the Zen Buddhism tradition, they practice Zazen which is an open eye meditation. The important thing is that you do whatever type of practice that makes you feel comfortable and fosters relaxation.
- Start Exercising and Eat Healthier – A common suggestion for people dealing with mental health disorders or substance use disorders is to become engaged in physical activity to help cope with any anxiety and also to just start committing to a healthier lifestyle. You don’t need a structured exercise routine or expensive equipment. Merely taking a walk can be quite effective. Any form of physical activity is helpful because it causes the brain to release “feel good” chemicals called endorphins that improve mood and help fight depression. Physical exercise is a form of self-care which is an essential component of addiction recovery to make sure both your body and mind are being taken care of. Yoga is another form of physical activity that has been proven to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and promote overall increased wellness and health.
While eating healthy may become harder during a pandemic, especially with limited quantities of food items and worldwide shortages of food, it is important to be conscientious when making decisions while eating and shopping for groceries. Rather than buying the quart of strawberry ice cream, buy a pint of strawberries and some low-fat Greek yogurt. It may have the same emotional effect as the ice-cream but will be better for you in the long run. Many food habits may be associated with drug use, so it is worth it to understand that eating better is part of getting rid of the addiction-associated behaviors that we may still be experiencing.
Stay Aware of Yourself
Being in isolation while trying to maintain addiction recovery may prove to be more difficult than expected. You may have felt that peer-influences were the leading cause of substance abuse or experimentation in the past. Be aware that your own emotions may influence you more than others’ emotional responses to you and your behaviors. Feed your soul with positive affirmations like “I can fight my cravings,” “I will eat better,” “I can heal”, and many others that provide you with words of self-love. You can even write them down and put a new inspirational message on your mirror everyday. There are also many apps that can send you daily positive affirmations. All of these tools provide positivity and wellness which are great catalysts for making change and preventing you from falling back into harmful behaviors.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has limited access to services and curtailed social activity, making the recovery process challenging. Many addiction treatment centers are developing ways to combat the isolating effects of social distancing. Some have transitioned to telehealth for individual and group therapy. But other therapies have not been as easy to adapt to the changes many people have had to make and it is difficult to receive the support needed in the recovery process. This is a challenging and frightening time for those with mental health and substance use disorders. However, there are ways that you can combat your urges or negative emotions that may trigger you to relapse while being unable to attend in person individual or group therapy. At Avalon Malibu, the well-being of our patients and staff is a high priority. We have put policies in place to ensure everyone’s safety. If you feel that you need help with your substance abuse issue or mental health issues but are unsure of the COVID related policies in place, please call us at (844) 857-5992.