Wellness

Finding Sobriety Support during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Finding Sobriety Support during the
COVID-19 Pandemic

For people in recovery, people who are sober, and people who are questioning their relationship to alcohol, finding a source of support is paramount. Sobriety and recovery communities rely on support groups for connection. When things get hard, a smile, a hug, or a pat on the back can be grounding and provide a sense of relief. It helps us feel we’re not so alone. And if isolation is the antithesis of recovery, then connection is the foundation.

Ruby Warrington, the author of Sober Curious, says this moment in time might feel like the marathon sober communities have been training for—when the world feels like a mirror to addiction, one grappling with uncertainty and lack of control. We asked Warrington and two other women—Veronica Valli of Soberful and Holly Whitaker, founder of Tempest—about managing different levels of sobriety and drinking behaviors right now. They talked about opening up to newfound sources of support, taking it a day at a time, and trying to embrace the experience as one of solitude.

For more, read our Q&A on the sober-curious movement with additional resources and listen to our chief content officer in a special episode of The goop Podcast with psychiatrist Judson Brewer on mindfulness and addiction during COVID-19.

If you or someone you know has a substance abuse problem, call the Addiction Resource Center at 833.301.HELP for free, confidential twenty-four-hour treatment information and referral help or visit the website.

Holly Whitaker

Holly Whitaker

author of Quit Like a Woman and
founder of Tempest and The Temper

BE GENTLE

Meditating, keeping a morning routine, and running on a daily basis have kept me grounded. I’m also using the extra time at home to try new things and do more of what I love but rarely have time for. This includes planting, being barefoot, cooking, and feeding myself (lots of first chakra stuff). I’m currently rereading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and a lot of spiritual books, practicing yoga at home with Stephanie Snyder on glo.com, connecting with my family on Zoom, and spending as much time outside as possible. And I’m reminding myself that we are not supposed to be okay right now. We do not have to be keeping it all together and “thriving” in a pandemic. This doesn’t mean we need to be panicking; it just means that we need to be gentle and know that we are doing the best we can with what we have at this moment.

NURTURE YOUR BODY

A meditation practice is crucial when dealing with difficult emotions and anxiety. I meditate every morning and evening for twenty minutes, but even three to five minutes of meditation— guided, Vipassana, meta—works. I also use a lot of breathing techniques. Doing one minute of left-nostril breathing can shift you entirely. Accessing breath opens you up and gives you control over your emotional response. And it’s free!

DON’T DO IT ALL

Tempest provides free virtual meetings as well as free and paid programs for digital recovery, such as our Recovery at Home program. Other great resources include Real (free therapy this month), Chani Nicholas (astrology helps me make sense of it all), and In the Rooms (free recovery meetings). I also recommend not trying to do all of the wellness things. We need to give ourselves some allowance that it’s okay to check out and be a sloth for a minute. The point is to be kind to yourself. People drink to escape feelings of unworthiness, not-enoughness, and perfectionism. So be imperfect and celebrate it.

CALM THE MIND

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since my early adolescence, and the key to my recovery was becoming aware of the story I was feeding myself. I use lots of mantras—positive affirmations written on sticky notes—to reframe fear-based thoughts as open, loving ones. So if I’m feeling overwhelmed and then I read, “How can I choose a loving thought right now?” I can remember, at that moment, that I can choose a different thought based on love, not fear. The point isn’t that we are sober and abstaining. The point is to learn to love ourselves and to create an internal environment we don’t need to escape from. If we are creating a soft-landing spot in our minds, we can stay there even when it gets hard.

Ruby Warrington

Ruby Warrington

author of Sober Curious,
journalist, and speaker

STAY PRESENT

I’m trying to not spend all my time on various screens and am practicing staying present in my body instead. This is a skill we are tasked with relearning, as we live in a world that’s constantly trying to pull us out of ourselves. Tuning out external noise grounds me in the reality of the here and now, where I am able to focus on what’s happening in my own universe—in my home, with my family, with my close circle of friends—rather than getting lost in the anxieties and agendas of the wider world.

FILL YOUR CALENDAR

This is a time when many “normal” drinkers may find themselves drinking more or slipping into “vacation drinking” mode. While it might seem like an easy way to manage boredom, it could be dangerous, swiftly morphing into problem drinking, where alcohol becomes the thing you lean on in a time of crisis or uncertainty. Get ahead of the urge to drink by filling your day with healthy and uplifting activities that you really enjoy or that make you feel good—reading a novel, cooking, getting outside for a walk, reading to your kids, or calling your best friend. Pepper your calendar with feel-good moments so you always have something to look forward to. Plus: This is a perfect time to catch up on your sleep by going to bed early.

MANAGE ANXIETY

Allow yourself to fully feel. Pushing down or ignoring emotions will only give them more power, especially for anxiety. We can process emotions through journaling or embodiment practices, like yoga, breathwork, and dance. Having a meditation practice will also help you become the observer of your feelings. It is a healthy way of detaching from them and lessening their intensity while staying connected to whatever it is they are trying to tell you.

CONNECT MORE DEEPLY WITH YOURSELF

You are your own best resource, followed closely by the people you feel safe to be yourself around. Use this time to work on strengthening your connection to yourself and to the important people in your life. Learn how to be present and okay with whatever you are feeling, to help become more resilient when facing the triggers of the external world. Quitting or questioning your drinking—alcohol is a substance that helps us escape the reality of who we are and what we are experiencing—can be a huge part of this, as can deepening your spiritual practice. Many people in the sober and sober-curious communities feel that they have been in training for what we’re experiencing emotionally with the pandemic, as the work of quitting alcohol is essentially the work of confronting the realities of your life, while being okay with not being able to control what’s happening in the world around you.

Veronica Valli

Veronica Valli

recovery coach, author, and
founder of Soberful

PRACTICE CALMING TECHNIQUES

We can’t control what is happening around us, but we can choose our response to it. Consciously taking care of our mental health is an investment in how we come out of crisis. Take care of your mental health one day at a time. I do this through movement and getting fresh air, tapping to regulate the buildup of anxiety, and listening to fun music because my mind can’t absorb information from podcasts or audiobooks very well right now. There’s no need to push yourself to do things the way you used to: If there is resistance, then that is a sign to do things differently.

ACCEPT YOUR EMOTIONS

Our external environment is giving us so much negative stimulation that dealing with difficult emotions can be challenging right now. Accept your feelings, because resisting or stuffing them down is not going to help. Do the best you can and notice when you are numbing out too much on TV, food, etc.

CREATE STRUCTURE

I started a 9 a.m. club where I go live on Instagram and Facebook and do EFT (emotional freedom techniques) to help calm people. More people join each day, but I am primarily doing this for myself. Because I made this commitment to be on video and serve my community, it means I have to be up, dressed, and organized every day. Commit yourself to being up and ready at a time that feels right for you. Make a small list of things that need to be done on that day and start on the first task.

FIND SUPPORT ONLINE

There are online twelve-step sobriety meetings and recovery groups, such as SMART Recovery and She Recovers, and support is easy to access any time of day now. These groups are where people can share their feelings, connect with others online, and feel less alone. Soberful Life has daily support groups that are led by addiction professionals, and you can find me online every morning on Instagram or Facebook.

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