Shelter-in-place. These words are quite scary in the world of addiction and recovery.  For those dealing with active addiction or are in recovery, this translates into:

  • isolation from support groups
  • a removal from the familiar patterns of recovery
  • possibly job loss
  • idle time
  • anxiety and/or depression

Oh, maybe this will keep dealers away? Let’s not forget that the dealer’s deliver better than Grub Hub and they don’t charge a convenience fee.  Nope, they do it from the goodness of their little dealer hearts.  In addition, just walk through your house. How much is readily available in your medicine or liquor cabinets?

For the family, we find ourselves sheltered in place as well alongside our addicts.  We are worried about them, worried about our jobs, worried about home schooling, elderly parents, not to mentioned being unable to escape endless hours of newfound family time…OH JOY.  Think tensions might run high?  All this added anxiety is experienced by the addict as well.

This is a ticking time bomb.  On a recent FAMILY MATTERS CALL, we were asked what can be done.  Great question! We took to Google to see.  Interestingly enough, we couldn’t find a lot of readily available helpful information. So, we dug deeper and came up with our list.

Top 12 Things to do to Maintain Recovery

But before we list our TOP 12, we need to preface this by saying it all starts with the boundaries you set in your own home.  That’s right, even during COVID-19, you determine what you are willing to live with or without.  BUT WAIT, if we have them leave, they could catch COVID?  Yes, that is very true, so let them stay!  As always, your choices are yours, your boundaries are yours and if you choose to adapt them because of COVID-19 that is perfectly fine.  But is that a green light to accept bad behavior?  Only y you can decide for yourself.

Now, here’s the list:

  1. Go Outside  

    Take a walk, sit on the porch or overlook the garden.  Get outside and breathe in fresh air and natural light. There is a world outside the four walls of the house.  Right before sunrise, you’ll hear the birds chirping. Get yourself up and go outside to witness amazing sun rises. At night, sit and admire the brilliant sun sets and nights filled with stars and constellations.

  1. Remove Temptation   

    Lock up, hide, get rid of all the tempting medicines and beverages that might easily cause a relapse.  You can’t have the temptation in front of a dopamine charged brain and expect good things to happen.

  1. Have a Plan STRUCTURE   

    Staying up until 3am and waking up at noon is not productive.  Add structure to the day.  Get up at a certain time, go to bed at a good time, get some sleep and be charged up each day.  Schedule things that need to be done and that you want to get done and get this…DO THEM!!!  Unstructured days = lot’s of TV.  Even structure your meals. That’s right. Being shut in can mean bad eating habits.  Plan for that as well.

  1. Exercise   

    WHAT? That’s right! MOVE THE BODY.  Walk, jog, go on You Tube and look for home work outs.  There are tons of things you can do to get moving at home. Facebook and Instagram both have talented yoga instructors, HIIT classes, boot camps and more that you can watch for free. This could be the best time of your life for you and the fam to get into shape.

  1. Learn Something   

    Stimulate the brain and learn something new.  Read, study, watch, call experts.  What interests you?  Great chance to start learning a new language or improve your drawing skills. BTW, if you say you can’t draw, check out the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. My sister-in-law went from hardly being able to draw a stick figure to drawing with skill. The author teaches you “how to see.” If she can now draw, anyone can!

  1. Positive Input   

    Music, motivation, meditation, prayer.  Positive input will equal positive output.  94% of the news is negative…is that what you want to flood your brain with? There are mediation and calming apps, great smooth jazz playlists on Spotify, and apps like Pray as you Go that gives you tools for contemplation and imaginative prayer.

  1. On-line Meetings   

    Yes, that is correct, on-line meetings.  Both AA and NA are offering on-line meetings to maintain recovery.  The ability to participate in a group or just to hear voices of recovery is very, very powerful.

  1. Re-connect with family   

    Set up family time with positive conversations.  Create a conversation guide, share positives, share interests, share what you learned that day.  Wait now…share your feelings about shelter in place. And listen with kindness and appreciation.

  1. Re-connect with friends   

    Pick up the phone and chat with old friends (clean friends), members of your home group, and those you just plain like and just talk.  You might get to know people a little better since we don’t have sports to blur real conversations!!  Play those on-line word games and stimulate the brain and have some fun! Download the Houseparty app (it’s clean!) and invite friends to join. Pop in anytime you see your friends “in the house” and play a few virtual trivia games and more. It’s a blast for young and old.

  1. Avoid Stress   

    This isn’t about how we avoid it. It is about how we manage stress.  Turn off the news, the smart phone notifications and alerts. Set up safe places in the house to go to when things get hot.  Suggest that maybe behind closed doors for the addict is bad, but separate rooms.  Call for time-outs, set a time for the break and then come back and try a hug…that’s right! Watch the ice break!  Healthline explains What are the Benefits of Hugging. The average hug is 3 seconds long. Did you know that during a hug, we release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes us and lowers anxiety? It’s often called the “cuddle hormone,” and when it’s released during these 20-second hugs it can effectively lower blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone norepinephrine.

  1. Hobby Anyone?   

    Have a hobby before addiction? Reconnect with it. No hobby, time to get a new one!

  1. Craft/Game   

    Set up time to do crafts or play games as a family. May sound corny but I guarantee there are some laughs coming.

  1. BONUS   

    Write thank you letters to Police, Fire, EMS, Doctors and Nurses, Truck Drivers, Grocery Workers, all those that just have to be at work for us! Pick flowers from your garden and deliver them to a neighbor. Bake cookies and anonymously drop them off at a friend’s doorstep. There are endless ways of meaningfully bringing to joy to others at this time. Post shelter-in-place, you may not want to quit.

And don’t forget to reach out for help. A counselor, mentor, sponsor, friend. You are not alone. You never are. In fact, you can reach out to me anytime. Please.

Well, there you have it.  The RV Bakers Dozen of how to handle recovery while sheltering in place!  Oh, one last note – notice how these might not just be for the addict.  Let’s not forget that most of us are also co-addicts and the rest of us are, well, just plain human!

Rob Brandt