As we are hearing so often these days, we are living in unprecedented times. Many of us will be spending a lot more time inside, not being able to do the things we are used to and love. While this might just be an inconvenience – or perhaps even a welcome respite – for some, the situation can be particularly challenging for people who are in recovery for alcohol addiction and concerned about the impact this could have on their recovery and where to get support.
Melissa Rice, co-presenter of the BBC podcast Hooked, advises: “As an alcoholic in recovery and someone who is currently self-isolating, it can feel quite a daunting prospect to be disconnected from services and recovery meetings.
“Usually, ‘isolating’ is a behaviour and symptom of my alcoholism. Towards the end of my drinking, I was unable to leave the house and cut myself from society. Whilst in rehab I was taught that ‘the treatment for addiction is connection’, and for me, I find that connection in meetings and with other alcoholics.
“It is important for me to reframe this current situation, particularly, if I feel triggered. I have been telling myself ‘this self-isolation isn’t your alcoholism, this is an act of self-care’ and although I may be unable to leave the house, it is vital that I don’t emotionally disconnect or distance myself from my support network and from my recovery.”
While a lot of services have stopped face-to-face meetings, many of them have moved to online meetings via skype, zoom or similar, and offer support online, by phone or text.
Tips for staying connected
Although we need to keep a physical distance, social contact is now more important than ever. To keep connected, Melissa recommends switching from texts or messaging to phone calls: “Human connection is imperative. With less meetings I am ringing my support network more to check in on each other – being of service to others gets me out of my own ‘head’ and negative thoughts.”
She adds: “If I do ever feel as if my recovery is slipping, I play the tape forward and imagine how my life would be if I was to have a drink.”
In addition to ensuring everybody still receives the support they need, here are some other tips how we can look after our mental health:
- Have a structure and plan for the day: Even if our normal lives have been put on hold, it is important that we stick to routines: getting up at our usual time, making the bed, getting dressed and having set meal times helps to bring structure to each day. Making a plan for the day and writing up a list of activities or to-dos can help to break up the day.
- Limit our news intake: The near-constant stream of news from across the world, can cause anyone to feel worried or distressed. To counter this, the World Health Organisation has advised to limit our news intake, and to only seek information updates at specific times during the day. Having regular TV breaks, and listening to music, podcasts and the radio instead can also help. Melissa further recommends following positive instagram accounts that are focused on mental health and recovery.
- Keep active: When we are staying at home, it can be easy to become bored, which might increase the urge to have a drink. So, it’s important to stay active. Whether it’s learning to play the guitar, baking, sewing, or finally making that photo album from your last holiday – now is the time to get around to all those things we didn’t have the time for before. A lot of places are offering online classes and various universities are offering online courses for free.
- Go virtual: If you prefer to stick with what you love, be creative and think about how you can adapt it. Perhaps there are already virtual meetings or classes you can join from your living room? A lot of religious places are now livestreaming services, and actors and musicians from around the world are coming together (virtually) to create virtual plays, concerts and festivals. If you can’t find anything already, can you set something up? Instead of your weekly meeting at the gym, ask your friends to meet virtually for a work-out session. One unexpected benefit of this is that friends who live in a different city or country can join you as well.
- Exercise if possible: There are plenty of home workouts that people are posting for free, and even 15 minutes of home exercising can really lift our mood – even if that is throwing on some music and having a dance.
- Ask for help: It’s simple but often very difficult to do. If you feel like your mental health is deteriorating or get the urge to have a drink, pick up the phone and ask for help. Likewise, if you need support with your shopping or other essential tasks, ask your network or have a look at your local Covid19 Mutual Aid Group which can help.
And finally, remember, these are early days and the situation will continue to change.
As Melissa says: “Throughout it all, I have to take this situation one day at time and make a decision each morning to put my recovery first. I remind myself I am not alone, I may be inside my house, but I have resources and technology to keep me connected.”