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How do I stay clean and sober while I’m stuck at home?

A version of this article was originally posted on MHA’s Screening 2 Supports site.

One of the most important aspects of recovering from an addiction is finding healthy support systems. What happens when you can’t go outside to meet with those supports in person? Being alone and isolated can be a huge trigger for people in recovery. And that's the exact situation a lot of us are finding ourselves in due to social distancing measures in response to Coronavirus.

The basics of staying clean and sober are the same: learn your triggers, deal with any other mental health concerns you may have, and manage any withdrawal symptoms you might be going through. But there are a few things to keep in mind while you’re stuck at home.

Keep your days structured.

If you’re working from home, it can be hard to keep your time structured. If you’re not working, it’s even harder! Too much free time can give you lots of time to dwell on negative thoughts or think of excuses to relapse.

Try to establish a routine. As much as possible, wake up at the same time every day and go to sleep at the same time. Do relaxing activities to wind you down before bed.

Fill your free time with activities that you enjoy. That could be relaxing activities like taking a bath or doing yoga. Or it could be something that distracts you from the temptation to use, like watching a favorite show or picking up a new hobby.

You might see a lot of social media posts talking about how this is your opportunity to be super-productive. If thinking of it that way helps you, great! But don’t feel bad if all this talk of productivity just stresses you out more. Being stuck at home all the time with stressful events going on all around you isn’t a recipe for productivity. Your goal right now is just to maintain structure and keep yourself sane—not to solve all your problems (let alone anyone else’s).

Stay in contact with your support system.

It’s hard to recover from addiction on your own. You may be used to getting your support in person… but when you can’t, it makes it that much more important to stay in contact in other ways.

If you’re in a 12-step program and you have a sponsor, keep in regular contact with them. You may want to make arrangements to talk more often than you normally have in the past—maybe twice a week instead of every other week.

Maintain your social life as best you can. It’s never been easier to video chat your friends and family than it is now. Take advantage of that! Try reaching out to people you haven’t talked to in a while. This is the perfect excuse to reconnect! You can ask them how they’re holding up, or just chat about whatever. Not every conversation has to be about something intense, like addiction or coronavirus. In fact, it’s important to have plenty of lighthearted conversation to lift your spirits.

Attend online meetings.

If you normally attend in-person support meetings, attending online can be an adjustment. But the basic idea is the same: you still get to hear each other’s voices—and if you’re video chatting, you get to see each other’s faces too.

Online meetings have been available for a long time, but with the social distancing measures related to Coronavirus, more and more local meetings are also transitioning online. AA has a web page with information about meeting online; it also includes information on how to start your own online meeting. If your local meetings haven’t moved online yet, consider being the one to take the initiative and organize them!

Alcohol not your drug of choice? That’s okay – NA and other 12-step programs are also moving their meetings online. Just google “NA (or CA, HA, etc.) meetings online.” If 12-step programs aren’t your thing, check out alternatives like SMART Recovery Online.