How to Put Your Sobriety First During a Pandemic

By Renee W.

One of the key things we learn in recovery is acceptance.

We learn to accept what we cannot change, to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference (straight from the Serenity Prayer).

That’s great and all, when we are making meetings, practising self-care, and connecting with others in recovery, all while putting our sobriety first. 

However, then something chaotic comes along, seemingly out of the blue, and rocks everything we think we know. In this case, the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus (not to be confused with the drink!) Sorry, that may have been a bad joke. I’ve been confined inside the walls of my house for far too long. 

I am in recovery too, and I know how the first few weeks of being confined not just to my house, but to my head messed with my peace. 

Why bother staying sober? I don’t have my recovery network anymore. And no, I’m not logging onto meetings online. That’s too strange, and there are far too many hackers and weirdos online.

No one will care if I get drunk. No one will probably even know since I’m home all day, well except my family, and they’ve seen me like this before. They will be mad, but they will get over it. 

I am so anxious that I can’t stand it. I need to drink to help that. Anyone would understand. 

I will probably end up with the Coronavirus anyway, and may even die from it. I should be able to drink if I’m going to die soon anyway. 

All of those thoughts ran through my head throughout the day, and with each one, the urge to give in and drink became stronger until I nearly convinced myself it would be just fine, not only fine but helpful. 

Every single one of them is a lie of addiction

addiction during covid-19

I did not give in and relapse, and I’m proud to say I didn’t, but after a few miserable days of fighting the way-too-persistent voices of addiction in my head, I knew something needed to be done and fast. 

I pulled out my sobriety tools, one by one: connecting with others in recovery, practising gratitude, praying, meditating, exercising, and writing.

I found AA meetings online to “attend,” and yes, this was strange at first, but it got better.

I called my sponsor and told her how I was feeling. I connected with my higher power.

I went running (exercise is a great sobriety tool, by the way!).

I started to feel more like myself, more in control of my thoughts and feelings, and it all boiled down to one thing: acceptance

This pandemic is a rough time for all of us for different reasons. Some have lost jobs. Some have lost family members and friends. Some have lost peace and sanity.

However, the first thing we can do is accept what is. No need to blame, point fingers, or ask “what if?” 

It’s happening, and there’s nothing we can do about the circumstances. 

Even though we may not be able to control our circumstances during the pandemic, we can do something about what we are thinking, how we are feeling, and how we are behaving.

We can put our sobriety first no matter the circumstances, even during the tumultuous COVID-19. 

Here’s how. 

Accept what you cannot change and change what you can (but know the difference between the two!) 

As I said before, acceptance is key here.

You cannot have true recovery without accepting what is. Then, change what you can: 

  • You can change your thoughts. 
  • You can change your behaviours. 
  • You can change your daily activities. 

You may not be able to change your feelings right away, as they stem from your thoughts, but if your thoughts change, your feelings are sure to follow. 

Make a daily schedule and stick to it

Hands down, making a schedule has been a game-changer for my sobriety during this pandemic.

Back before the pandemic struck (wow, that seems like so long ago…), I made one every day, so there’s no reason to stop now. 

I set my alarm each morning (I won’t tell you how early; let’s just say I enjoy mornings very much, which is something that started after I got sober). I wake up, feed my dog, drink my coffee, and start the day with prayer and meditation. 

After I feel peaceful and content (which could take a while, haha!), I write down my schedule for the day, sometimes even hour by hour, depending on what I need to accomplish.

In addition to work from home tasks, I make sure I schedule an online AA meeting, a phone conversation with at least one recovery buddy, exercise, and time with my family. 

Then comes the challenging part: sticking to it. This is where things can start to spiral. 

I don’t feel like calling my sponsor right now. Ozark on Netflix is just getting good. 

I may just skip this online meeting since I haven’t brushed my hair in a few days. And when was the last time I showered? 

I don’t really feel like meditating right now. My anxiety is too horrible to focus anyways. 

Again, the ugly voices of addiction creep in, like a slithering snake. Again, it’s time to stand firm on sticking to the schedule, knowing it is best for my recovery. 

Take your life one day at a time 

take one day at a day

It’s a corny AA slogan, or at least I thought so at first. But, think about it: One day at a time simplifies everything, and I do mean everything. 

Those of us in recovery are often overthinkers who worry excessively. We worry about how we will stay sober tomorrow or the next day and forget about staying sober right now in the moment.

“One day at a time” is a game-changer when you think about it. 

I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I also don’t have to worry about yesterday. All I need to focus on is today and staying sober today. Then, tomorrow, I can worry about it again, because it will be “today,” yet again. Funny how that works. 

Each day at either noon or 7 PM, I log into my Zoom account to see 20 of my recovery buddies.

I watch their ceiling fans, their Golden Retrievers or Poodles that try to join in the meetings (Hi, I’m Buster, and I’m an alcoholic!), the bananas on their kitchen counters or even the weeping willow trees blowing in the wind behind them if they are outside.

I roll my eyes when they forget to turn off their audio, and I can hear their kids whining, their dishwashers roaring, or a random car buzzing by. 

Then we start the meeting, and I listen intently until I decide I want to share my heart with these life connections who have helped save me from myself so many times and continue to do so today. 

recovery meetings

For these connections, I am so grateful. 

Let me go back to the questions I started with, Who cares? Why bother? 

I could come up with many excuses why maintaining my sobriety is not important during this pandemic, but they would all be just that – excuses, and ultimately they would lead me back to the irrational, dysfunctional thinking of my addict mind, which would lead me back to that hell I lived in for way too many years of my life. 

Not today.

I only have today, and I choose NOT to go back down that road.

I have my tools, and I will pull them out today, one by one, and use them to save my life. Because they continue to save me, time and time again. And I can’t argue with a proven track record. 

You, too, can put your sobriety first during this pandemic. Accept what you can’t change, change what you can, and ask for the wisdom to know the difference. 

Acceptance is the answer to all our problems today, and that’s a fact. 


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