Most of us are experiencing the challenges of adapting to life in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Restaurants, movie theaters, and theme parks are closed; 401k’s are plummeting; and spring break has turned from being a nice vacation into spending weeks shut away from our friends and family.
Working from home and homeschooling our kids has become common place. And many of us are struggling to find some sense of normalcy in a world that has become very abnormal. For instance, I haven’t been a big Clorox® guy in the past, but now I’m wiping down my groceries like crazy and washing my hands every second I can.
Regardless, we are experiencing an historic event in the world – one that most of us in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction haven’t been through before. For those of us who are struggling with substance abuse, this time can be especially precarious.
“Meeting makers” are unable to make meetings. Hospitals, sober living homes, and local treatment centers where we carry the message are now closed to the public, robbing us of opportunities to help others. And since service and community are essential ways for those recovering from substance use disorders (SUD) to maintain their sobriety, this is a big cause for concern.
How is an addict or alcoholic with a few days, weeks, months, or years sober supposed to maintain their sobriety, let alone thrive in the situation we find ourselves in? It seems near impossible to be sober with these stay-at-home orders issued in states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
Fortunately for us, our reliance is on God rather than on meetings, and we know that through Him, we can overcome anything! Being in a recovery program, like the one Stonegate Center provides, helps us become equipped us with tools we can use to strengthen our relationship with God. And I believe that it’s at times like these when I need to look at my program and go back to basics.
Below are some suggested actions that everyone in recovery from substances like alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, opioids, etc. can complete on a daily basis to improve their contact with their Creator. And not just survive this pandemic but THRIVE!
Prayer and Meditation Can Lower Cortisol Levels in the Body, Helping People to De-stress and Feel Calm
Each day should be started with prayer and meditation. There’s no if, ands, or buts about it. Calming the mind and avoiding rushing into self-will is extremely important for my sobriety. Simply praying for my friends and family and asking for guidance throughout the day is crucial for me. It helps me set realistic expectations for myself and others and find a sense of purpose.
Using meditation, or quiet time to listen to God, is just as important as – and works in tandem with – prayer to assist me in beginning my day. For example, reading a morning devotional during this time can be a great addition to this practice.
But meditation isn’t just some feel good exercise with no real substance.
Meditation has been scientifically-proven to lower blood pressure, enhance the immune system, and help with anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia. Plus, there’s been a multitude of studies showing that incorporating meditation into a recovery program yields “superior treatment outcomes at posttreatment and follow-up assessments.”
So, don’t overlook the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation – especially for those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. That’s why I incorporate into my daily routine. Not because it sounds cool, but because the data suggests it truly works in helping people like me maintain long-term sobriety.
Moreover, it’s important to keep in mind that we are not to pray for our own selfish ends or for ourselves only. And in regard to meditation, the only wrong way to do it, is to not do it at all. Use this time in the morning, before you start your day, to improve your conscious contact with God and develop that relationship with Him.
My adherence to this practice, and the effort that I put into it, are often directly related to how my day goes. In other words, poor meditation and prayer life leads to a poor attitude; and a poor attitude ultimately leads arguments with loved ones.
So, do the right thing and spend some quiet time with God before you tackle your day. It certainly doesn’t hurt.
Get Out There and Help Somebody!
Our job as sober gentlemen and women is to be of maximum service to our fellow peers. And it just so happens that service to others is a great way for me to get out of selfishness, self-pity, and fear.
So often I get stuck in my own head, struggling to forget about money or bills and wondering, “How am I going to be okay after this?” or “When is it going to be okay?” Then, frustration and envy start creeping in. However, by giving back and being of service, I allow myself to get out of this negative feedback loop.
Trying to maintain complete control over my finances and health soon turns into arguments with my family – and disappointment with myself. This negative mindset can be stressful for anyone. But for someone in recovery, this thought pattern can be deadly!
And the best way to overcome this is through service.
For instance, a 2013 study by Dr. Maria Pagano found that when people in recovery attended meetings and engaged in helping others, they stayed sober longer and reported a higher interest in helping others for years afterwards.
How does this work? Well, the theory is that being of service to others lowers feelings of entitlement and narcissism, some of the psychological markers of addiction and huge hinderances to sustained long-term sobriety. That’s why service is one of the best tools for someone to thrive during the coronavirus pandemic.
So, find someone around the house to help, either directly or indirectly, and practice contributing to the stream of life. Acts of service don’t have to be some huge gesture; little things go a long way.
In other words, don’t be afraid to take out the trash, fold someone else’s laundry, have a real conversation with someone about how they’re doing during this time and what you can do to make their life a little better, and DON’T forget to call your mom! This is a great way to take our minds off ourselves and our troubles while at the same time giving us an opportunity to brighten someone else’s day.
Give Your Sponsor a Call… NOW
Although our reliance is not on humans, we know that any life run on self-will can hardly be successful. Utilizing a spot-check inventory with help from my sponsor to continue my growth is a key aspect of my program regardless of whether there’s a pandemic or not, and it not only helps me stay recovered, it helps my sponsor stay sober too!
Having a sponsor is recommended by most recovery programs for the simple reason that having the wisdom and experience of someone who’s been through the struggle of addiction, can be incredibly helpful to newcomers.
Mentors help guide patients at residential treatment centers like Stonegate Center, which is just west of Fort Worth, Texas, and help them adapt to their new life in recovery through encouragement, shared stories, and sometimes tough love.
My sponsor, too, has been a huge asset in directing me in my recovery and is always there to lend an ear or give some advice when I’ve hit a wall. But don’t take my word for it…
In a 2016 study, sponsorship was related to more attendance and involvement in recovery, and increased abstinence over time. So, whatever recovery program you work, make sure you have a supportive environment to surround yourself with. And go ask someone you admire for their advice, support, and prayer.
You have no idea how much one person can help when it comes to overcoming substance use disorders (SUD).
Likewise, if I don’t want to fall back into my old way of life, I must make a concerted effort to seek God every day and not rest on my laurels. This means that every day, when something crops up in me that I don’t agree with such as fear, dishonesty, resentment, or selfishness, I pray about it immediately and talk with my sponsor to get a better idea of my fault in the situation.
My sponsor advises me on whether I need to make an amends and then typically gives me some directions to how I can get out of self and start being helpful to others. I can use this simple process to catch my shortcomings before they start running amok and cause me to harm the people I care about.
Obviously when my sponsees call I need to answer and offer them the same help that my sponsor gives to me. Keep in mind that nothing will so much ensure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other addicts/alcoholics.
End Your Day with a Nightly Review Followed By Prayer
Regardless of how well or how poorly our day goes, another suggestion is to take a nightly inventory. In this approach, we constructively review our day, asking ourselves if we were resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid.
You can start by asking yourself some of the following questions:
- Do I owe someone an apology?
- Have I kept something to myself that I should have discussed with another person at once?
- Was I kind and loving towards all?
- Was I thinking of myself most of the time or was I thinking of others and how I could contribute to the stream of life?
After I’ve completed this inventory, I end my night with prayer. I thank God for another day of sobriety and ask for corrective measures to push myself to make sure that every day is better than the one before.
Attend Online Meetings
We are fortunate that we live in an age where technology allows us to still attend meetings and provide experience, strength, and hope online with one another. Here are some links you can use to attend these meetings:
However, please be cognizant of recent hacking and trolling events seen on platforms like Zoom. Although online groups are vital, they are susceptible to privacy issues thanks to reporting by the Daily Mail. In their piece, they highlight an event where an online addiction group was hacked and the users there were tormented.
Regardless, don’t let this deter you from using online video conferencing sources. Companies that host these virtual groups are aware of these issues and are cracking down on issues like that.
For our Stonegate Center Creekside alumni, reach out to our Alumni Coordinator, Dylan, at email@example.com in order to get a secure link to our video conferencing platform. We’re doing our best to ensure your online video sessions are safe, productive, and secure.
Keep Working Your Program
Experts are saying that one of the most important things we can do, during this time, is to try to keep living life as normal as possible. This new norm is a far cry from what most of us are used to doing, and it affects almost every aspect of our day to day lives. I think one of the most important things I can do is not let my program get stagnant.
I must find a way to continue working my program and working with my sponsor with at least the same diligence that I’ve had before all this mess happened. Wherever you’re at in your recovery, don’t stop. Keep reading the books, keep working with your sponsor, push to improve yourself every day, and seek God with the desperation of a drowning man.
Our recovery program was forged on the heels of a pandemic and in between the two World Wars, and we know that our program works, it really does. We just have to work it.
However, let’s not beat ourselves up because we perhaps fall short of our chosen ideals. Let us not forget that our sobriety is through the grace of God and is not deserved. We do not need to drift needlessly into morbid reflection or self-pity. Frankly, I don’t believe that that’s what God’s intention for us is.
So let’s not beat ourselves up if we didn’t get through all of the homework our child was assigned or get upset at our family for not keeping the house how we would like it when we return from our work day.
If I miss an online meeting, or a phone call with my sponsor, or am too rushed to pray or meditate, I don’t need to throw my whole program out the window. Nobody works a perfect program or lives a perfect life. So, let’s focus instead on the positive that we can bring to each other and celebrate the small victories.
How Do I Get Sober Now?
Suppose you or a loved one haven’t recovered from this disease yet… I can imagine what life would have been like if I was still in the chains of addiction during a quarantine, and to be honest, the wheels would be coming off.
My addiction that I’ve been trying to manage and hide from my family is now in the light. The people who care about me are starting to see that I’m not someone who happens to over-indulge from time to time. I have a real problem, and I can’t stop.
Believe it or not, this is probably the best time to go to treatment and find a real solution to your problems. It may seem like you’re in a hopeless situation and that options for getting the help you or your loved one needs are out of reach, but I can assure you that there is hope.
At Stonegate Center we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our clients and our staff, while still providing top notch care to those struggling with addiction. So, if you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and need help, give us a call at (817) 993-9733 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We offer a minimum of 45-days of inpatient / residential treatment and a maximum of 90-days. During that time, we’ll incorporate your spiritual journey into our medical and clinical treatment regimen. You’ll get to attend individual therapy, group therapy, and other fun therapeutic approaches like equine therapy.
Our addiction rehab is located in Azle, Texas which is just 20-25 minutes outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. With over 125+ acres, our ranch-style location offers clients a serene and peaceful escape from any negativity they may be facing in their home. As well, our Clinical Director invites each client’s family to participate in our two-part Family Program, which I really encourage you to take part in.
Regardless, I know insurance coverage, job loss, and other issues may prevent you from attending an inpatient rehab in Texas – like ours. For my friends in that situation, I want to encourage you to not give up. Just because inpatient treatment for substance abuse might not be an option, there are still other resources for you to recover.
For instance, you can go to AA.org and order a big book. Get yourself a sponsor at an online meeting. Read the big book and begin recovering today!
Hope that gives you some guidance during these crazy times! If not, give us a call and ask for Zach 😊.
Zach Gerrity is the Lead Recovery Advocate at Stonegate Center. He has struggled with addiction for more than 14 years, but has found a solution by actively working the 12 Steps. Zach has proudly been sober since July 21, 2017 where he soon started working the addiction treatment industry. Since then, he has spent his free time carrying the solution to others who also struggle as well as spending some much-needed time with family and friends.