Oh the times we are living in… We’ve got the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid/drug epidemic, racial justice issues, return to school for children & parents, economic uncertainty and lest we forget the start of the election season. No one has ever lived through all of these things at the same time; any one of them alone could make headline news. All pose unique challenges as each comes along with certain difficulties within them. Any yet, here we find ourselves.
For those of us living in recovery we know we must protect and take care of our recovery at all times lest we falter and return to using alcohol or other drugs or begin consuming them at dangerous amounts. And for many, to drink or use is to die. The isolation, fear, economic uncertainty, loss of connections, loss of jobs and loss of hope adds to the accumulation of our stress and poses a tremendous risk to our ongoing recovery.
Despite each of these considerations all is not loss. There is hope and there are solutions…
Here are 10 key strategies for those in recovery to focus on to stay grounded and maintain their recovery:
1) Stay connected to other people and not through just technology. You may be utilizing technology to stay connected, which is important, though remember that technology is a means to an end, connection to other people is the end.
2) Utilize whatever program or pathway that works for you. Many people have particular recovery pathways, designs for living, etc. These may include approaches such as mutual support groups, recovery support services, medication, counseling, therapy.
3) Get good rest. Sleep hygiene is very important. Regular bedtimes, no devices in bed with you. Cell phones do not make good bed partners.
4) Maintain brain hygiene. Mindfulness plays a very important role in brain function and is as important to your brain as brushing your teeth is to your mouth. And both extend to overall health and wellness.
5) Create structure for yourself. Healthy routines provide stability and ongoing organization to our lives especially in times of stress.
6) Stay connected to a spiritual source. This could be your faith or your religion or nature or creation, whatever helps you maintain hope, and fosters transcendence is a relationship to keep.
7) Utilize ways to manage or reduce your stress. Activities such as exercise, yoga, prayer, meditation, and many others have been shown to help people in acute situations to manage their levels of stress and stress response.
8) Maintain your recovery network. We do not recover alone, be of service to others, call and talk to at least one person in your network every day.
9) Reduce, restrict or limit intake of sugar and other addictive substances. This is not most people’s favorite thing to hear, and it really matters. Try reducing or going without (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, other drugs) to see how much better you feel, though in some instances you are going to need to withdraw from them before you notice a positive difference.
10) Read or listen to inspiring literature, books, music and films. Focus on things that are uplifting and life giving. Now is not the time to go dark or do things that bring you down. Stories of hope and healing, things that will make you laugh, music that brings you joy and overcoming stories are some powerful, not to mention literature that is relevant to your pathway of recovery.
Most assuredly there are more and I’d love to hear them. What are you doing during these very trying times to support your recovery? These strategies are for all people in recovery, not just the person with the addiction. Family members, friends, and others who are concerned about someone who has substance use issues.
We can and will get through these times. We know how, as we have been to hell and back dealing with our substance use disorder and addiction and managed to realize recovery. We may have to double up, triple up or otherwise intensify our strategies. In the end it will be well worth it, because we will have extended periods of serenity and peace of mind. And most assuredly we will maintain our recovery.
Rev. Jan M. Brown is the CEO of the Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation and has been an addiction educator and public speaker for more than 20 years She is also a certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist, a Recovery Coach, an international scholar on addiction studies.