As a specialist in the area of chemical dependency, over the last two weeks, I have had more and more patients feel at a loss about what to do to stay clean and sober during the Coronavirus pandemic with all its restrictions. Many have told me that their “stinkin thinkin” has returned, and to pass the time, they are entertaining the idea of “zoning out” via relapse. If those thoughts are passing through your mind, I support you in moving to a different “box of thought.”
What is a “box of thought?” I envision two types of “boxes of thought:”
1. The box with every relapse using, self-denigrating, rationalizations, not good enough thoughts you have ever entertained. You know all of them. You have practiced them over your years of being in active addiction. As an exercise, you want to write them all down in your journal. Let’s consider a few of these thoughts that are fairly typical for my patients who relapse frequently. See if they are in your “Relapse Box of Thoughts.”
a. I’m a failure.
b. I should be further along than I am now.
c. I can’t attend meetings ‘cuz they’re all closed. So, what if I drink/use? No one will know.
d. I feel so sorry for myself because ……
e. I’m just no good.
f. I’m so overwhelmed.
g. I’m going to use this time to play video games!
h. If I drink lots of caffeine drinks, I’ll feel better.
If any of these thoughts are circling around in your mind, especially now while your sober alone trying to get through the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s time to leap – as fast as lightening – into the “I am awesome as long as I’m sober” box. How?
- Discover a new Podcast. Here are some to consider that will support your recovery while you are sober alone, trying to get through the coronavirus pandemic:
This Naked Mind
Editing Our Drinking and Our Lives
The Bubble Hour
He Unruffled Podcast
A Sober Girl’s Guide
Recovery Happy Hour
Take a Break from Drinking
a. Participate in online meetings. Here are a few:
recoveryzone.org (complete audio version of the Big Book)
https://www.intherooms.com (also every Monday a Coronavirus Support meeting hosted by a Ph.D. at noon, PDT.)
b. If you have a therapist, coordinate appointments on the phone or via video. Currently, I am having some daily telephone sessions with a few of my chronic relapsing patients. They are thriving. It provides us an opportunity to discus topics that they are reticent to discuss in their usual groups.
c. Schedule nutrition. When are you going to eat? What are you going to eat? Are you getting enough water? In my experience, it has helped many people to have a nutrition sponsor who works with recovering folks to re-design their food intake. It helps with accountability. What about those highly caffeinated drinks? Those will amp you up and let you crash. If you are telling yourself, “I need some energy! I know, I’ll have a Monster!” – move those back into the “Relapse Box of Thoughts.” Find a new thought that supports your evolving self.
d. Discover a new Podcast. Here are some to consider that will support your recovery:
- Seltzer Squad
- This Naked Mind
- Recovery Rocks
- Editing Our Drinking and Our Lives
- The Bubble Hour
- Recovery Elevator
- He Unruffled Podcast
- Mother Recovering
- A Sober Girl’s Guide
- Recovery Happy Hour
- Take a Break from Drinking
- Home Podcast
Try these. Each and every one is a gift to your staying clean and sober.
e. Fur babies are for calming and soothing. If you don’t have one (even a hamster) can you get one? Can you rescue a furry pal? I have a patient who was not allowed to have pets in her apartment. She got a goldfish and named her Fiona. She loves her fish and keeps the bowl on the coffee table in her living room. She feels like she has company during the COVID – 19 restrictions. I have another patient who bought a new plant. She gave it a name – Fleur. It’s on her coffee table and every now and then she touches it. Sounds corny? Does it Matter? Create soothing company for yourself.
f. Invest in yourself. Learn something new! A few of my patients are enjoying online classes. They have told me learning something new leads them to feel accomplished. They have new information that’s interesting and keeps them interested. If you are stuck at home, what have you always had a passion to learn?
g. Set up drug tests and send them to a trusted family member (not one who has an ongoing repertoire of negative comments about how your addiction has “ruined” their life.) Or, have the results sent to your sponsor, your therapist or physician. Remember, those people are all on your side. Drug test results keep us out of our addict BS and keep us on the path of accountable recovery.
h. Try a sun lamp if you are feeling depressed. Talk to your physician about trying a sun lamp. They are also available on line.
2-What awaits you in the “I Am Awesome as Long as I’m Sober” box?
Your authentic self awaits you. The person you were born to be. That person who has been drowned out by mind altering chemicals. The true you awaits you with respect, anticipation, admiration and adventure. In this time of restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic and economic insecurity, enjoy your authentic self and the knowledge that the investment you make in your true self (not the altered one) will bring you happiness and your heart’s desire in the long run. Remember, we can live in fear or we can live in faith, but we cannot live in both places at once.
Dr. Ann Schiebert has spent 25 years working with families who have unintentionally turned over control of the family to a teen or young adult’s drug-using behavior. She is currently a psychologist in the Emergency Department at the medical center of one of the country’s most respected major HMOs. She also works in the medical center’s Chemical Dependency Department where she treats patients challenged by trauma, chemical dependency, codependency and dual diagnosis. She is host of Dr. Ann’s Relationship Radio Show on America’s Web Radio, aired weekly. Ann is the mother of three children.