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May 17, 2020

Five daily tips to help people in early addiction recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic

Addiction Coronavirus
Addiction recovery COVID-19 Toimetaja tõlkebüroo/via Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time for those in the early stages of addiction recovery.

The coronavirus outbreak has had a unique impact on every resident of the Philadelphia region. With stay-at-home orders and bans on all gatherings in place, people have resorted to social distancing and quarantining to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 for the last two months.

The pandemic is having a significant impact on people with a substance use disorder who are in the early stages of addiction recovery, says author and motivational speaker Eric Gremminger. A recovering addict himself, Gremminger has been sober since August 2010 following a release from jail for “another DUI conviction” and realized that he had to turn his life around while sitting on a bench outside City Hall in Philadelphia.

Gremminger, who is a native of Kennett Square, Chester County and a current resident of Fishtown, said that stress is the primary indication of relapse for a person with a substance use disorder. He also said that times of crisis and social separation—like the COVID-19 outbreak—are when strategies for reducing risks of relapse are of most importance.

People in the early steps of addiction recovery depend upon the support of peers and groups to stay sober, and those support measures are threatened during a quarantine, Gremminger said. That stress only multiplies when one is unable to work and struggles to make ends meet financially, as well as being isolated in a home with a family that doesn’t understand the needs of someone in addiction recovery. 

Negative self-talk and constant thinking about the benefits of drug use are the first steps towards relapse—even before a drink or drug is picked up, Gremminger said.

But Gremminger has provided guidance to help prevent a relapse of people overcoming a substance use disorder during the coronavirus outbreak. Here are his five daily tips to help those in early addiction recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they can navigate these times and become stronger.

  1. Control your content: While it’s important to remain informed about the COVID-19 pandemic, Gremminger says that it’s not necessary to be inundated with negative information all day. He encourages people to stay informed by reading news from credibly-sourced outlets once a day in the morning and limit time on social media. He also recommends starting the day on a positive note with something inspirational or motivational to read or listen.
  2. Stay Connected: The opposite of addiction is connection, Gremminger says. Gemminger said one of the positives of the pandemic is that he has connected more with his family. He encourages those in addiction recovery who are alone to check in with their families once a week, reach out to people in their network on a daily basis, and attend virtual meetings. For those who are at home with family, Gremminger encourages having meaningful conversations and preparing meals together.
  3. Move Your Body: In-home exercises—such as yoga—and one long walk per day outside will help keep spirits up, Gremminger says.
  4. Focus on the good: Gremminger recommends making a gratitude list daily and using journaling time to capture one’s experiences during the pandemic. He says that putting pen to paper is a great way to release negative emotions, get one’s thoughts out of his or her head, and reflect back at how far one has come in their recovery. It’s a productive way to expend energy by getting one’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions out of his or her head, Gremminger said.
  5. Stay Centered: Gremminger recommends a 10-minute guided meditation every day because being mindful and focusing on one’s breathing is a strong stress reliever. 

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