Very few people expected quarantine to last as long as it has. The news came about pretty suddenly, and within the same week, states were shuttering down non-essential businesses across the country. But while “non-essential” speaks to the physical necessities of nipping a virus’s spread in the bud, it certainly doesn’t cover the human necessity of having others to rely on for support from our social network. Even simple things like going out to see a movie, we are now learning, did wonders for our mental wellbeing and sense of connection. Some people have been able to adjust to this change fairly well, as they can rely on themselves for direction and can be relatively self-sustaining. But for those who are vulnerable to addiction, they often rely on the external world to keep them distracted from using. That creates a big problem during quarantine. So how do people vulnerable to addiction practice self-care without access to outside support?
Being alone can be very uncomfortable. If you’re used to being constantly distracted by obligations, friends, and family, being left with yourself can feel like all of the air has been taken out of the room. You’re left with your own thoughts and expected to provide your own entertainment without the help of others.
People vulnerable to addiction should manage their expectations of having access to constant distractions. Part of self-care is finding ways to deal with the discomfort of being alone with yourself. It requires reframing your mindset to accept that discomfort is just part of reality. Once you understand that this as a normal part of everyday living, that acceptance alleviates the need to try and silence discomfort with substance abuse.
Learn to Understand Yourself
How do you identify yourself? Many people quantify who they are by external measures: their profession, a sport they play, their relationship to family, and so on. But what happens when you can’t engage in the activity that creates this distinction? Knowing who you are outside of external factors can help build the mental fortitude required to weather times of extended solitude. That way, when circumstances prevent you from being (for example) a basketball player, you still recognize and accept yourself without a second thought.
So how do we find out who we are outside of what we do? Self-discovery requires having an honest awareness of your own personal strengths, limitations, values, and desires out of life. Certain activities can help to look closer at this process and have a better understanding of yourself. This could be the simple act of meditation, taking a walk, or journaling. These activities are most helpful when practiced regularly and made into a habit. By simply adding a daily time to focus on one (or more), self-discovery slowly builds and being alone becomes more comfortable and familiar.
Taking Care of Yourself
Self-care is not entirely psychological. Maintaining a healthy body through nutrition and exercise are two other levers to help adjust mood levels. In treatment, counselors often encourage HALT checks, as the body can trick the mind into thinking either (1) problems are bigger than they actually are or (2) there is even a problem to begin with. HALT checks ask recovering addicts to stop themselves and consider these questions as explanations for how they’re feeling:
- “Am I Hungry?”
- “Am I Angry?”
- “Am I Lonely?”
- “Am I Tired?”
If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” those issues are low-hanging fruit to resolve before trying to tackle more complex problems like “who am I?” or “how do I be okay with myself?” While it’s important to consider these questions when you’re in a stable, productive state of mind, there is no need to get existential and possibly relapse if what you really need is just a snack or a nap. Leave the self-reflective heavy lifting for when you’re well-rested and well-fed enough to focus.
You’re Not Actually Alone
Although self-acceptance is a critical part of living a successful sober lifestyle (particularly during quarantine), it’s not the only resource available to you during moments of crisis. You don’t have to rely on only your own willpower to avoid relapse if those temptations start coming around more often than you can handle.
Though many addicts in recovery find it most ideal to have meetings in person, there are many online alternatives during these times of duress. Your sponsor also hasn’t disappeared from the earth, although it may feel like it sometimes with how isolated we’ve all been. Giving your sponsor a call is always an option if you’re feeling the temptation to relapse.
If you or a loved one is seeking help for a substance abuse problem, our addiction counselors are available 24/7 by phone: (833) 433-0448