April 1, 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected every aspect of our daily lives. For fire service personnel in recovery from an alcohol or substance use disorder, public restrictions imposed by the current state of emergency can pose unique threats and challenges to an established recovery plan.
To support your continued recovery from addiction during these unprecedented times, be proactive by anticipating challenges and having a plan.
Stay in Control
Relapse is not inevitable. If it has already happened, it’s not too late to reset. If you are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, you probably already know what people, places, things and experiences trigger your cravings to drink or use. While the COVID-19 outbreak presents a range of new challenges, personal awareness is half the battle. Take time today to be proactive, explore your areas of vulnerability and develop a plan you can stick to.
- If you have a sponsor, call or video chat with him or her today. Express your need for extra support and check-ins during this time.
- Participate in online recovery meetings during times you would normally attend in-person meetings.
- Identify stress-relieving activities you can do on or off shift that help you disconnect from anxious or negative thoughts. These may include physical activity, a guided meditation app or watching funny videos on your phone.
- Ask your mental health provider for virtual sessions. If the office or clinic is closed, now is the time to clarify if your provider can transition to telemental health and use that technology.
- Secure needed medications. If you take medication for a mental health or substance use disorder, make sure you have enough to last until your next visit. Call your doctor now to determine how the office will handle refills if they are closed.
- Establish solo breaks from family. If you find being home all day with family stressful, find a way to take a break while maintaining social distance. A 30-minute walk outside or closing the door with headphones on can go a long way.
- Communicate needs to your partner. These are unprecedented times. Do not expect your spouse or partner to know exactly what you need to stay sober right now. Clearly communicate needs, wishes and expectations.
- Don’t forget the basics. Whether you have been sober one month or one year, the age-old recovery acronym, H.A.L.T., should stay front and center at this time. Anticipate times of the day or week that you are likely to become Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired during this time. Have a plan to cope.
- Be aware of rationalizations to drink or use. During these unprecedented times, you may notice attempts to mentally justify or normalize just one drink or dose. For every justification you can think of to drink or use, write down a reason you are committed to recovery. Keep this list accessible in your pocket, at your bedside or on your phone. Review it regularly and read it to your spouse, partner or sponsor for accountability.
Find an Online Meeting Today
Online recovery meetings provide critical social support and accountability:
If you or a loved one is struggling with sobriety, the IAFF Center of Excellence can help. Contact us today to learn more about specialized treatment for fire fighters.
Lauren Kosc, M.A., LCPC is a behavioral health specialist, clinician and blog writer for the International Association of Fire Fighters. The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery is a residential behavioral health treatment center for IAFF members struggling with addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other co-occurring mental health problems.