It’s a grim reality, but the lockdown has been particularly difficult for people struggling with addiction. Someone with new sobriety is especially vulnerable, as chances are they haven’t developed an adequate number of healthy coping skills. For those vulnerable folks, quick fixes and the attitude of “nothing-matters” have become a response to the stressful situation of the pandemic. And because everything seems to be on hold and it does sometimes seem like nothing matters, people with addiction might fall under the delusion that taking a drink or a drug won’t really have a lot of consequences. And even if it will—the world has ended anyway, so who cares?
The world hasn’t ended, and we must try to use this time to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. There’s no benefit in despairing; it only makes things direr. I know some days it seems almost impossible to go on in this new reality, but like everything in life, this too will pass, and none of us know what the future holds. At the same time, we have the potential to master our futures by staying healthy and grounded. Picking small, achievable goals, having dreams, even planning a party or a trip can be enough to inspire us to go on.
But what’s even more important is that if you do slip—whether by breaking your abstinence streak or engaging in some other self-harming behavior—please don’t let that define you. Recovery is not a competition, and it’s different for everyone. Some people are able to stay sober from the first day they decide to quit; for others, it’s an up-and-down journey. Some people can abstain from drugs and/ or alcohol but continue to engage in harmful behaviors (such as overeating or gambling). There’s really no formula.
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And now, especially, is not the time to beat yourself up if you have slipped. The feelings of guilt and shame over something like taking a drink are the fuel for full-blown relapse—in isolation, those feelings can feel even more significant and overwhelming. Sitting in those feelings is harmful; focusing on them is dangerous as well. Letting go and having hope is where the success lies. Accepting that it happened and consider that it might not happen again is where the success lies. And if it happens again—again, let it go.
I’m not saying to ignore a relapse, but I’m saying to leave it in the past. Don’t give it energy, don’t treat one or a few hiccups as a failure. Reflect on what happened, feel compassion for yourself, and talk to someone you trust about it—it’s crucial to have the support of others during this trying time. Please don’t ever think of yourself as a let-down; don’t ever stop trying to save your life. You have a story and wisdom and your experience is human—persevere and you will succeed.
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