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COVID-19 and Addiction Relapse: What Steps Can You Take Now to Support Recovery?


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COVID-19 and Addiction Relapse: What Steps Can You Take Now to Support Recovery?

The COVID-19 crisis affects us all in different ways. Some worry about their jobs and their ability to support themselves and their families; others worry for themselves or their loved ones, for those who may be at elevated risk should they contract coronavirus. For others, it’s the big picture stuff—how this global pandemic is affecting our world as a whole, and how it will change it now and in the future—that keeps them up at night.

For those of us walking the path to recovery, the greatest worry of all may be that this growing weight on our shoulders will cause us to stumble and fall back into addiction. The same is true of the friends and family whose loved ones are in recovery, and for whom they want only the best.

It is easy to feel helpless in the face of a global pandemic, but do not let this feeling fool you. There are many things you can do, whether you are in recovery yourself or supporting someone who is, to help minimize the chances of the situation surrounding COVID-19 triggering a relapse.

Preventing Relapse While Sheltering in Place

Recovery can be a rocky road during the best of times; during a crisis, it can seem nearly unnavigable. The key to finding your footing and keeping steady during such times lies largely in practicing excellent self-care.

Continuing addiction treatment is, undoubtedly, an essential service. And you can be sure that options are still out there to reestablish or reinvigorate your recovery journey. Even during these uncertain times, New Choices Treatment Centers remain open to support clients with our responsive continuum of care. You may even find more healthy freedom in our facilities than you do sheltered-in-place at home. Contact us to find out more about how we are taking a proactive approach to COVID-19 and relapse challenges in recovery.

Below, we’ll outline some steps you can take, for your own benefit or that of a loved one, to cope healthily with the potential relapse triggers presented by COVID-19. The more of the following you can reasonably incorporate into everyday life, the better your chances will be of heading off a potential relapse.

Practice Mindfulness

Stress is one of the most common triggers of relapse, and the COVID-19 crisis is nothing if not stressful. Mindfulness practices such as yoga or meditation have been shown time and again to lower stress and promote wellness, both physically and psychologically. Thanks to the internet, such activities are easily practiced at home.

If you are the one in recovery: Begin where you feel comfortable. While extended meditation sessions or more intense yoga can certainly be greatly beneficial at this time, even a short guided meditation or a few brief stretches once a day can help build resilience and bestow a sense of calm.

If you are supporting someone in recovery: Do not try to force your friend or loved one into a mindfulness practice. Rather, encourage them to try it at their leisure. You can even offer to join them in their new practice, and enjoy some of the benefits of mindfulness for yourself.

  • Guided meditations like this jellyfish meditation from the Monterey Bay Aquarium combine beautiful visuals with soothing voice-overs to help guide listeners to a place of calm, quiet focus.
  • The San Antonio Zoo has been regularly posting free yoga videos that even beginners can follow along with on their Zen Zoo playlist.

Get Moving

Like mindfulness, exercise can offer a wealth of physical and emotional benefits to anyone, but especially to someone struggling to cope with addiction triggers and cravings. While developing a regular workout routine can maximize these benefits, simply getting moving in general is the important thing. Taking a walk around your block can be a great way to work some movement into your day. Or, if you’re stuck inside, you might try playing a safe indoor game (like table tennis or a VR game), engaging in some heavy-duty house cleaning, or simply dancing like no one’s watching to your favorite tunes.

If you are the one in recovery: If you’ve never exercised regularly before, start small, with a walk or an easy workout routine, before pushing yourself harder. If you are an active person but feel restricted by being stuck at home, push yourself to think outside the box to come up with creative new ways to get moving at home.

If you are supporting someone in recovery: Offer to work out or play games together so you can both benefit from exercise—and have fun while you’re at it. Turn it into a friendly competition if you are at similar levels of fitness, or simply be there to cheer your friend or family member on while they work toward their goals.

  • Smart Barre is regularly hosting free workout classes live on Instagram; all you have to do to join is sign up at least 30 minutes before the session you would like to participate in.
  • Dancing Alone Together is a digital dance online platform providing access to a wide variety of online dance classes, performances, and even prompts to inspire new routines.

Keep in Touch

While practicing social distancing and sheltering place is critical to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, the unfortunate side effect for many people is an increased sense of isolation. However, while it may not be as appealing as meeting up in person, modern technology offers myriad ways to keep lines of communication open, even when doors are closed. Maintaining this sense of connection and support can play a vital role in maintaining motivation and coping with the stress and other negative effects of the current situation.

If you are the one in recovery: Call your friends and family now and again. Even if you would rather not discuss your recovery experience, simply catching up with loved ones can help brighten a bad day. Texting, video calls, online messaging, playing games together online, and even writing good old-fashioned emails, letters, and postcards are all great options too. If you need a different kind of support, online forums, support groups, and online therapy and other telehealth services are all available, many for free.

If you are supporting someone in recovery: If you live in the same house as your recovering friend or family member, simply spending time together can be incredibly valuable. At the same time, take care to maintain healthy boundaries; crowding someone struggling to cope can be just as stressful as leaving them to cope completely on their own. If you live apart, bridge the gap of social distancing with your phone or with the internet. Try to check in regularly, perhaps once a day or once a week, to remind your loved one that you care and that they are not alone.

  • Visit our Recovery Resources page to find hotline numbers, reading recommendations, and other valuable tools for healing from addiction, or contact us online or by phone at (726) 888-7003 with any questions or concerns you may have about addiction, recovery, and our available treatment programs.
  • For COVID-specific support and resources, check out this detailed guide published by NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Take Action

Boredom is perhaps the most insidious of relapse triggers. With “cabin fever” setting in for many folks already, it may come as no surprise that addiction becomes an easier trap than ever to fall back into during times when life can seem limited and mundane. Luckily, there are many ways to stay active from the safety of home. Finding something fun to do or something fulfilling to work toward goes a long way toward beating boredom and overcoming cravings.

If you are the one in recovery: Try taking up a new hobby, or getting back into one you used to enjoy but dropped somewhere along the way. Take an online class, or start up a new DIY project. Remote volunteer work can bring a great sense of fulfillment if you’re feeling a little lost or directionless, as so many people are right now.

If you are supporting someone in recovery: Suggest activities you can try together, something you both enjoy or something you’ve both always wanted to try. Or try teaching each other something new—maybe one of you can teach the other to cook in exchange for a crash course in gardening. If they are open to suggestions, offer to help them find online classes or other opportunities to learn and grow.

  • If you’re looking for a way to give back to your community, keep an eye out for local virtual volunteer opportunities, or join in the 100 Million Mask Challenge from home by sewing face masks to donate to hospitals in need, as well as sending in any other PPE (personal protective equipment) you can spare.
  • Free online classes like this fun CrashCourse lecture series on psychology hosted by Hank Green provide both educational and entertaining opportunities to learn a new skill or dive deeper into a subject of interest.

Get Some Sleep

If you’ve been struggling to get some quality shut-eye lately, you’re not alone. However, good sleep is key to fighting off both viruses like COVID-19 and addiction relapse. Now, more than ever, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene.

If you are the one in recovery: Having a set bedtime every night and a standard nighttime self-care routine can make a big difference in helping your brain recognize when it’s time to calm down and prepare for dreamland. Dim the lights, change into your nightclothes, and turn off your electronic devices. If you find your mind is racing through the night, journaling can help get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper to promote restfulness. Should sleeplessness develop into full-blown insomnia, consider consulting with a doctor—again, online services are available in addition to in-person visits, should you need them.

If you are supporting someone in recovery: While nobody likes to be told to go to bed, you can help your friend or family member start or maintain a good PM routine by refraining from providing distractions that may keep them up too late. Don’t start a movie or ask them to join in an online game at midnight, and try to call or text earlier in the day if your schedules allow for it. Consider setting a good example by practicing good sleep habits yourself—if you don’t already.

  • Mindfulness practices like this short bedtime yoga routine can be especially helpful in winding down at the end of a long day.
  • Ambient sounds or soft music can also help promote restful sleep. Try searching for free sound mixers like A Soft Murmur to create a customized sleep soundtrack.

All of the steps above, particularly taken in tandem, can be hugely beneficial to someone struggling with the COVID-19 situation and its inherent relapse triggers. However, should a relapse occur regardless, do not panic or place blame. Instead, focus on how you or your loved one can get back on the right track again—the sooner, the better.

Coping with COVID-19 and Addiction Relapse

Should relapse occur, it is important to address the issue as soon and as safely as possible. In this case, staying at home is not the best option. While it is understandable to worry about COVID-19 exposure, the right addiction treatment facilities already have processes in place to prevent the spread of the virus and protect clients and clinicians alike. In truth, many treatment centers offer an even greater level of comfort and personal freedom than staying at home, with access to private quarters as well as communal rec rooms, yoga classes, meditation areas, and more.

Most importantly, addiction treatment centers can provide you or your loved one with round-the-clock support from medical professionals with years of specialized training and experience. This quality of care helps ensure both short-term safety and long-term success—not to mention, peace of mind.

In uncertain times like these, this is for certain: you are not helpless, and you are not alone. With the right practices in place and the right support network, recovery is possible.

At New Choices Treatment Centers, we are committed to protecting the safety of our clients and our staff—always. As such, we are currently taking extra steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus within our facilities while still providing the highest quality of addiction treatment possible. If you or your loved one needs addiction recovery or relapse support during the COVID-19 crisis, don’t try to wait it out—please contact us or call us at (726) 888-7003 today.