At the start of the pandemic, all non-essential businesses had to close their doors, leaving only health centers, grocery stores, eateries (take-out only), home repair shops (Home Depot, Lowes), and few entertainment companies (Best Buy, Barnes & Nobel) open to the public—and of course liquor stores. Liquor stores being deemed “essential” in most states could have been a dangerous decision, but as studies show, it can prevent other medical emergencies, mainly for people with alcohol use disorder (AUD). If liquor is unavailable, they may find alcohol from other unsafe sources, such as mouthwash, hand sanitizer, or rubbing alcohol, which will require emergency attention. A lack of alcohol could also make a person with AUD irritable, leading to domestic and/or child abuse. While clinicians already had their hands full of COVID-19 patients, hospitals had to save all the ICU beds they possibly could.
That spiel was not promoting the positives of liquor, instead highlighting the severity of alcohol abuse. Shutdowns brought a wave of stress, boredom, and loneliness for those with and without a substance use disorder (SUD), urging them to lean on said substances. The pandemic led to a 34% and 13% increase in alcohol and tobacco sales, respectively, between April and June of 2020 compared to a year prior.1 If you are one of those individuals who have an alcohol addiction or developed one due to COVID-19, don’t worry; there is still hope for recovery. In honor of National Recovery Month, here are 7 tips for getting and staying sober.
- Work on relationships with friends and family
By now, you are aware of the risks associated with drinking, smoking, etc., and you know that continuing its use could potentially lead to serious health complications. Not only are friends and family good support, but rebuilding relationships with loved ones can help you realize that the people in your life are too important to lose over a bad habit. Time spent with family is also time not spent doing drugs or at a bar.
- Recognize triggers
Although it is not the end of the recovery process, relapses can physically and mentally set people back. In the first few years of sobriety, it’s essential to avoid drug- and alcohol-free occasions to avoid all temptations. This may also involve cutting out or ghosting old acquaintances that initially influenced your past behaviors. When the time to go out with your friends feels right again, you should volunteer to be the designated driver and substitute alcohol with soda or a “mocktail.” Even one sip could send you down a destructive path.
- Pick up a new hobby
Boredom and loneliness are two of the most dangerous triggers to relapse. Family and friends will not always be around, so you must learn how to do fun things alone to get your mind off your former addiction. Learning a new instrument, taking a class, reading, binging a television series, signing up for a gym, or adopting a pet are all good options to keep you busy.
- Make amends for past mistakes/give up resentment
If you feel these options are not working, it may be time to address past mistakes and make amends. Acknowledging the wrongdoings and apologizing to the people you have hurt can help move you forward. Forgiveness is not guaranteed, but you must ensure that these missteps will not happen again.
- Celebrate milestones
Getting sober can be both physically and mentally exhausting, and hard work accomplished deserves rewards, right? People trying to get sober should set small goals such as “one week without a cigarette” or “one month without alcohol” to build confidence and encourage them to keep going. Get loved ones and others who have helped along this journey involved in these celebrations as well. The more people are participating, the more motivated you become.
6. Don’t harp on a relapse
People expect recovery to be a straight line shooting upwards when it’s more like the second graphic above. Statistics show that between 40-60% of people relapse within the first year. In most cases, everyone should ignore statistics and write their own story, but if you are a statistics person, suffer a relapse, and get depressed, remember that 60% of people remain substance-free after two years, and the chances of relapsing after five are only 15%! There will be ups and downs throughout your journey, but you cannot let that halt your goal: complete sobriety.2
7. Get help
It’s challenging to admit your deepest fears and emotional insecurities to anyone, but most people cannot solve addiction alone. Everyone wrestling with a SUD should seek help, whether personal or professional. If aid from friends and family isn’t enough, talk to a therapist or join a support group, like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. Many recovering addicts find this sense of community especially important. Hearing other people’s struggles may put you at ease and help you realize you are not alone in this battle. Rallying behind other members and celebrating achievements can be a great source of inspiration.
Addiction is a disease that needs to be treated as such. Recovery is not a destination but a voyage. There will be ups and downs like any story, but we recommend following our advice if you want to remain at the top! Happy Recovery Month!
- Forster, Victoria. “Soaring Pandemic Alcohol Sales Cause Concern for Doctors.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 18 Mar. 2021, forbes.com/sites/victoriaforster/2021/03/17/soaring-pandemic-alcohol-sales-causing-concern-for-doctors/?sh=58516f6925db.
- Mendelsohn, Tyler. “What Are the Relapse Statistics?” Amatus Recovery Centers, 14 Dec. 2020, amatusrecoverycenters.com/rehab-blog/what-are-the-relapse-statistics/.