Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all been pushed to the end of our ropes. So much of the news media has focused on the detriment COVID-19 has been to the recovery community. Don’t get me wrong, there have been – and will continue to be – devastating consequences. However, those in recovery also have an advantage that those who don’t struggle with addiction don’t.
For many of our clients, addiction is a response to some sort of trauma they’ve experienced. When the body goes through trauma, the brain takes control by activating its built-in survival mode. In the moment, this is good. It allows a person to live through the trauma. But when trauma is not dealt with or healed, the brain gets stuck in survival mode. Being in this mode creates a sense of constant anxiety, of not knowing what’s next, of always waiting for something else to go wrong.
Sound familiar? It’s what a lot of us have felt during COVID-19.
So what do we do? How do we survive when we’re constantly on edge and waiting for something else to go wrong? This is where coping skills come in. For our clients, the coping skill they are most comfortable with is using a substance. The effects of the drug or alcohol allow a woman to forget the anxiety or feel numb toward it. We’ve seen an increase in people using alcohol as a coping mechanism during this pandemic. Just look at your Facebook newsfeed. It’s filled with memes about drinking wine at noon.
A coping skill that is effective no matter what you’re struggling with is mindfulness. Mindfulness is just a fancy word for staying focused on the present moment. Essentially, it means taking things one day at a time. When we take the focus off the future, we can concentrate on the task in front of us, whether that task is your job, answering the question “why” from your child for the millionth time in an hour, staying sober, or simply surviving.
Those in recovery have known this for years, and those of us who are not are finally catching up. Recovery is about surrendering the things that are out of our control to a higher power and accepting the idea that we can’t control everything. These are conscious, daily practices for someone in recovery. The general public would do well to take a note from our sisters in recovery on how to do this.
As we continue to struggle through surges in COVID cases and questions about going back to school and the office, it’s easy to be overcome with anxiety and a list of things we don’t know and can’t control. Each time you find yourself spiraling into “what ifs,” repeat this to yourself: one day at a time.