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Dealing With Anxiety Without Drugs or Alcohol

During the current world situation it is safe to say that many people are going through times of anxiety and stress. In recovery it is good to know that you can reduce your stress and anxiety without needing the help of drugs and alcohol. While looking around at sober blogs (here is a list of some good ones), I found a post on the Sober Girls Guide by Jessica about relaxing without the need for alcohol. This sparked my idea to write this post about dealing with anxiety without alcohol or drugs.

Photo from A Sober Girl’s Guide.

Jessica talks in her post about different ways to relax without alcohol such as talking on the phone with a friend, physical exercise, self-care, creating things, making mocktails (alcohol-free cocktails), and taking a bath. I personally believe all of these things are also important in reducing stress and anxiety.

Is there better way to de-stress than putting on a nice face mask and sitting in a bubble bath? No! All of the things that Jessica talks about are also ways I lessen my stress and my anxiety. As soon as I sit down, and take my mind off of everything going on, I can lessen my stress and anxiety.

Anxiety and Stress Reducing Activities

1. Physical Exercise

Physical exercise is not only a good way to keep healthy and fit physically but also a good way to lessen stress and anxiety. I often use physical activities such as dance or yoga to take my mind off of the things that are giving me anxiety. It is important to keep moving because when we sit in our stress (sometimes literally by just sitting on the couch and ruminating about life), we can potentially just make things worse.

2. Self-Care

Self-care is another go to that I use to get my mind of my anxiety. Doing my nails, washing and styling my hair, taking a bath, putting on a face mask and even just washing my face. These things all help me to feel more calm and present in the moment.

3. Arts and Crafts

Some crafts I like to do are knitting and crocheting, scrapbooking, and painting. I also like to look up different activities on Pinterest in order to find some new creative ideas. Being creative and taking part in crafts is also time consuming and super relaxing. The other day I broke a flower pot with a hammer and glued it back together! And it actually was SO FUN!

4. Connect With Others

One of the most important parts of recovery is connection with others. Learning how to connect with family and friends in a healthy manner is the basis to a new healthy lifestyle. During low times and times of anxiety talking to friends and family can be the most comforting.

Is That It?!

YES! Well, maybe not… there are many ways we can work to reduce our stress and anxiety without the use of drugs and alcohol. The best part of being in recovery is that I have the tools I need to get through ups and downs in life without needing drugs and alcohol. I can use my strategies to better myself and to improve any emotional discomfort that arises such as stress and anxiety. Come back next time for more tools and tips on how to maintain a life of sobriety one day at a time!

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Recovery Outdoors

As the restrictions on social gatherings start to loosen up, outdoor AA meetings are starting to popularize. One meeting in Old Orchard Beach, along with others across the US, is opening it’s doors again as the outdoor gatherings are now allowed. Along with the sober house residents, and local treatment center residents, all recovering alcoholics and addicts are allowed to attend. This new setting for meetings could be a good way for people in recovery to get back into a more normal schedule.

Sober homes and treatment centers can now start taking their residents to meetings again for the first time since mid March. This means more exposure to the 12-steps and possibly longer sobriety outcomes for all residents. In light of Coronavirus, many treatment centers and sober houses decided to stop letting their residents go to outside meetings, and many meetings decided to close their doors. As residents continued to be admitted into these type of programs, many have not had experiences with AA meetings because of the world wide pandemic. With the opening of outdoor meetings, this now can change. The outdoor meetings can improve the treatment of addiction and alcoholism as AA has been shown to increase chances of longterm sobriety. In my own life, I have seen AA help hundreds of people, including myself.

Personally, I have experienced a new outlook on life thanks to the help of the 12 steps and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. It has been hard to watch many residents come into the treatment center that I work at and new AA members on zoom formatted meetings not be able to have the full experience of an AA meeting. With the added stress of the current world situations, AA is an even more necessary resource for people in recovery to be using. Denise Royal adds to this in her article discussing how AA members have expressed that there is so much more to a meeting than just the meeting itself. This includes the socializing and connecting you can have before and after AA meetings.

When I go to AA meetings, I often arrive early, fill my cup of coffee, and chat with fellow members about how things are going. This connection is SO important for my sobriety and for the part I play in the fellowship. I get to talk to newcomers about the hope that they will see, the help they can receive, and how they can help others too! I also get to talk to the “old timers” about how I can be of more service to the community. Connection is at the core of AA, and these seemingly small, “unimportant” aspects of meetings, are actually what adds to the healing that occurs in AA.

Now that new AA members have the chance to experience this, we can expect to see larger amounts of people staying in longterm sobriety. These outdoor meetings will be of extreme help to the community. Many more exciting resources are starting to become more available as Coronavirus gets tackled by our STRONG nation!

Search here for outdoor meetings in your area!

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Caring For Yourself- Spiritually and Physically

Some of my first steps to feeling better during the Coronavirus quarantine was doing a virtual yoga class, guided meditation, and simply getting out of bed and getting ready for my day. Keeping these things in my routine, helped me to stay on track with my recovery. Simply having a routine everyday was beneficial to the continuance of my 12-step practices. Continuing to reach out to my friends and family, writing my 10th step inventory, and keeping a spiritual practice are all part of my daily schedule.

As Timmen L. Cermak puts it, only we have the choice to continue our recovery. As a recovering alcoholic, I am the only one who can decide to call my sponsor weekly and continue my daily practices. During the Coronavirus Pandemic, people in recovery have to realize that just because the world has stopped the majority of “normal” life, it does not give us the right to stop our recovery practices. This is the time to be stronger in our recovery, to maintain our spiritual fitness, and to grow with our step work.

A good way to keep our minds calm and present is to keep up with meditation. Meditation helps to slow our breathing, relieve anxiety, and bring us back to the present. One meditation application, Insight Timer, has made all their playlists and meditations free to be of service during these times.

I was able to keep practicing yoga through zoom yoga classes. There is a multitude of yoga studios who are currently teaching online. Another great source for good yoga is youtube. One of my favorite yoga classes was from a video on youtube called “Yoga with Adriene“. Yoga can be a great way to keep exercising while staying home. It is important to stay exercising and keep your body moving because when we spend to much time laying down, negativity can overcome us. It is so easy to just sit on the couch and watch television all day. Instead of this, take part in a quick guided yoga lesson and feel the energy being released from your body.

Here is a quick Yoga class with Adriene!

Keeping up with our normal lives while staying home will be the best way to stay on track with our recovery.

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Zooming In Recovery

Since the present restrictions on social gatherings, 12 step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous have moved to online formatting such as Zoom. In an effort to keep the message of hope alive, I have taken part in joining these meetings and have shared my message to others.

On April 22, 2020, I received my 4 year medallion in the mail from my AA sponsor. Through the help of some friends, I was able to be the main speaker at a zoom AA meeting that had almost one hundred attendees. The best part of it was that my entire family was able to join from all across the country. My two sisters in California, my parents, aunts and uncle in New York, and my fellow friends here in Maine were all able to attend my special evening.

Through the help of Zoom, recovering alcoholics and addicts are now able to attend meetings all across the world. At first it seemed uncomfortable letting everyone “in my home”, but after the first meeting I attended, I saw that it was possibly to still connect with others even though we could not be together in person. After trying the AA zoom meetings, I realized that it is a great opportunity to learn and connect with people in different AA communities.

Pippa Raga mentions how recovering alcoholics and addicts can still find support through the online Zoom platform. There is no reason people in recovery should be staying stagnant. As Raga explains, AA is built in helping others and this was the perfect opportunity for it’s members to reach out and support those in need.

A list of online meetings can be found at the AA intergroup website. Here, recovering addicts can chose from thousands of meetings. There are meetings in different languages, different times of day, different days of the week, and different style of meeting. Style of meeting can be big book step study, speaker, discussion, beginners, open meetings (anyone is welcome), closed meetings (those who refer to themselves as alcoholics only), and various other styles.

Recovery is always a journey. Do not let being stuck at home let you fall behind. There are many ways we can work on ourselves and so many resources to better our self care during these hard times.

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Tested Into Recovery

In 2016, I signed myself into a drug and alcohol treatment facility. My first few days were filled with meeting new people, filling out paperwork, going to different meetings and groups, and connecting with staff members. Unfortunately, and fortunately, this is no longer the case for new admissions who wish to enter drug and alcohol treatment centers during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Admissions into alcohol and drug addiction treatment centers has drastically changed since the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Many treatment facilities are testing new admissions prior to or during the first few days after admissions. Facilities have done further measures such as sanitizing all surfaces each hour, not allowing visitors, taking the temperatures of each employee at the start of their shifts, and having employees wear the appropriate PPE in order to keep their residents safe and healthy.

Haley Hudson speaks out about how drug and alcohol treatment centers are using the proper precautions while admitting new patients. These precautions include looking for symptoms of COVID-19 during intake, testing for COVID-19 prior to intake, and keeping patients in quarantine until their results from the COVID-19 test come back.

All of these precautions help patients long term and will keep current patients’ health protected. Instead of refusing new admissions, when treatment programs add these precautions it makes it possible for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction to get proper treatment. While it is important for treatment programs to add new policies in regard to the safety of patients’ health, some of these policies add more difficulties in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.

3 Difficulties Arising From Restrictive Policies

1. Refusal to Treat Patients with Symptoms or Positive Test Results.

In order to maintain safety for current residents and staff members in treatment facilities, some facilities are turning away new intakes who are testing positive for COVID-19. In addition to positive test results leading to discharge, a high fever can be an immediate turn away for a new admission.

For these people, this refusal of admissions can lead them to a relapse that can kill them. It only takes one time for someone to overdose on Opioids. I know that when people are turned away from treatment, they often go right back to drinking or using drugs. Drinking alcohol or using drugs for an alcoholic or drug addict can be extremely dangerous.

2. Disconnect because of isolation policies.

On top of possibly being turned down the opportunity for treatment because of a fever, or positive COVID-19 test result, having to be isolated for up to 48 hours while awaiting results from testing makes it harder for patients to adjust to their new setting.

Ordinarily, new patients in drug and alcohol treatment centers are surrounded by the care and support of staff members and other clients, and can start their journey into therapeutic treatments. Now, everything is pushed back by a few days. To a NON ALCOHOLIC this may seem like NO…. BIG….. DEAL…. HOWEVER, the first few days of recovery can be determinate of whether one stays in a treatment program or goes back out to drink and use drugs.

In my first attempts at achieving sobriety, I went in and out of rehabs and hospitals. My first few days in rehabs often determined whether I wanted to stay or leave. I often would enter a rehab with all the will in the world to stay for good and get sober. Within a few days, I would be off running and drinking again. This last time, the connection I made with my staff members and fellow residents helped me get through the urge to leave treatment which helped me stay sober long term.

3. Lack of 12 Step Recovery Meetings.

In addition to connection with others, 12 step meetings helped me recover from the obsession to drink and use drugs. I gained tools that I could use when I have any cravings, and tools to use in my daily life that help me be a better person. In reality, 12 step meetings changed my life. Without them, I would not have become who am I today.

Because of my experience, I worry that current residents in drug and alcohol treatment centers will struggle gaining the proper tools that come from 12 step meetings. Since COVID-19, patients in drug and alcohol treatment centers are no longer able to go to outside 12 step meetings. In some cases, 12 step meetings are being held inside the treatment facilities so that clients are able to see the format of meetings and learn about the 12 steps.

These meetings may seem great although many patients may feel fear of going to a public meeting and without exposure to them, they may never try to go after they leave treatment.

For many people, the society we currently live in makes it a little more scary to get sober. But despite the overwhelming changes to recovery, there can still be hope….

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The Consequences of COVID-19 on the Recovery Community

Since the stay at home orders have been put in place, recovering addicts and alcoholics have faced MAJOR changes in their journeys. Before the Coronavirus Pandemic, recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction relied heavily on in-person Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step recovery meetings.

A main focus of recovery in the 12-step community is connection with both a higher power and other alcoholics and addicts. Lots of meetings are now using tools such as Zoom to spread the message of hope.

An article by Nicole Sganga points out how not only have meetings moved online, but many residential programs treating alcoholism and addiction have closed their doors to new patients. Moreover, the programs that have stayed open are seeing a new high in intakes and are scrambling to meet the safety guidelines recommended by the CDC.

Liberty Bay Recovery Center in Portland, ME is one of the drug and alcohol treatment centers that is staying open and currently accepting new admissions.

Despite more people searching for treatment, concern HAS to be raised about the people who rely on medically assisted treatments for drug addiction. Many centers that offer medically assisted treatment, such as methadone clinics, have closed leaving recovering addicts who usually go to them at high risk of relapsing, and possibly overdosing.

With new social distancing measures, isolation can be another cause for relapse amongst alcoholics and addicts.

A blog posted by Timmen L. Cermak discusses how isolation can be a tempting proponent in someone’s active addiction. Often, alcoholics and drug addicts try to hide their addictions. When exposed, they isolate from family and friends in order to get away from criticism. For someone in early recovery or active addiction, isolation can look like a great time to drink and use without the judgement of others.

In addition, it is no help that all around the world, addicts and alcoholics are losing easy access the places they can go to for help and support. Many meetings have moved to different online formats. Instead of people being able to walk into recovery centers at various times of the day to find a meeting, now people must search for web formats. Although the online meetings consist of the same message that was told at an in person meeting, many people are having difficulties with them.

On top of not being able to stay present because of the distraction of being in your own home, and following meeting guidelines has also become harder. At in-person meetings you are held accountable by the people around you and it is much easier to stay present.

Although these times are hard, it is important for those in recovery to know that help is still there. Online formatting may prove difficult at times, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

As a recovering alcoholic myself, I know that I can always reach out to a fellow 12-stepper. Moreover, I schedule my days, implement different self care routines, and stay in contact with my support system. Even though we may be separate right now, know that connection is still there.