When the pandemic first hit, many turned to alcohol as a way of coping with the initial isolation, boredom, and financial stress. Zoom happy hours and “quarantinis” quickly became all the rage, and no one questioned it because everyone had a “good reason” to be drinking.
However, some individuals found that the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders helped them recognize that they had a drinking problem. As a result, many decided that this was the perfect time to try out sobriety.
How the Lockdown Helped Some People Stay Sober
COVID caused increased drinking to be more common during lockdown. Staying at home made it even more difficult to stay sober, but in other ways, it should have made it easier. After all, most bars and restaurants where alcohol is served closed up shop.
Shouldn’t that have made it easier to abstain?
For some, the lockdown did prove helpful. Social influencer Christina Kimbrough got sober during the pandemic and has been sharing her journey on social media.
“Bars being closed in the beginning helped me gain a strong foundation for sobriety,” Kimbrough said. COVID lockdowns were the start of her sober journey.
Many others have documented their sobriety during the pandemic. People like Jenna McPhail said that the lockdown removed the temptation to go out on a weeknight with friends or head to bars for dates, which can trigger binge drinking.
Those who got sober during the pandemic didn’t have to worry about how to say “no” to an alcoholic beverage on a night out. However, there are fears that it will be difficult to maintain sobriety as the world begins to reopen.
Fears About Returning to Normal Life
Having the fear of drinking again is healthy, it's a sign that you're taking your sobriety seriously, and you know that you are not invincible when it comes to temptations to drink.
- Your friends haven’t met the sober you yet. There may be fears about how your relationships will look now that you are no longer drinking. You may need to restructure the activities that you do together, and you may find that some people you considered close friends, you no longer have anything in common with.
- It’s harder to avoid places where alcohol is served, as bars and restaurants are vastly re-opening with the pandemic’s decline.
- There’s no easy “excuse” to stay home. Let’s be honest, COVID has become an easy excuse to stay home if you don’t feel like going out. However, what’s the reason not to go hang out with friends at a bar now?
Remember that your health comes first, so it’s perfectly fine to say that you’re not going to places where alcohol is served, or that you’re staying sober and won’t be drinking any time soon.
Tips for Returning to the Post-COVID World
Here are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself from a potential relapse.
For further reading: Learn more about 5 common relapse triggers and how to avoid them.
- Unfollow people on social media who promote drinking, and hide social media ads for alcohol. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings by unfollowing or muting them - what’s important at this time is that you do what’s best for your own wellbeing.
- Tell your friends and family members about your sobriety, and have them check in on you frequently, even with a simple text message. Remember that honesty is a crucial part of recovery, and being honest with your loved ones about your journey will help them understand how they can support you.
- Set boundaries with friends/family members who may pressure you to drink. Sobriety will shine a light on which of your friends are truly looking out for your best interests. If you have friends who have to be drinking every time you spend time together, you may need to reevaluate your relationship, and make it clear to them that you will not be drinking.
- Have a plan for what you will say when offered a drink. Practice saying “no” to alcoholic beverages, and be prepared to give a reason as to why you’re not drinking. Some people will not be able to fathom why you would ever give up drinking, but don’t allow their opinions to get in the way of your recovery.
- Be firm in your “why” of why you got sober. If it helps, write it down. You know that you got sober for a reason, and you’ve likely seen many improvements in your life since cutting out alcohol. If others don’t understand why you made this decision, that’s okay - what’s important is that you are secure in your decision.
- Try out new hobbies to keep yourself occupied. Creativity is highly beneficial for mental health - try learning a musical instrument, painting, writing, or joining an acting class. Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress and it releases endorphins which produces a positive feeling in the body. Try taking up an activity like pickleball, boxing, or bike riding.
- Find a sober community. There are so many amazing online communities available - check out these Instagram accounts: @sobermovement, @sobersaturdayz, and @1000hoursdry. Also join Facebook groups, such as Be Sober - Quit Drinking & Enjoy Life, and Recovery From Addiction & Alcoholism.
It may seem daunting to return to the “normal” world, but as long as you prepare yourself for what’s to come by knowing what to realistically expect and learning to combat your triggers, there’s no reason that the world’s reopening has to get in the way of all the sobriety goals that you have accomplished so far.
If you need guidance on how to continue down the road of recovery post-COVID, we are here for you.
Contact an Aquila counselor who would be happy to help and talk with you about any questions you may have.