A year ago, we were all reeling from the adjustments to pandemic life. Wearing masks felt confining and absurd; our tongues were still wrapping around new words like “social-distancing” and “quarantine.” And yet, over the past 12 months, pandemic life, with its social isolation, remote work and six-foot distances, has become our new normal. Now, as vaccines become more widespread and the world opens up, some people are finding that transition to be challenging and uncomfortable as well.
This can be even more so the case for people who are newly in recovery. If you were newly sober before the pandemic, you might have found comfort in the fact that no one was out drinking and socializing — the world, for a year, hit pause, and that may have allowed you to focus on your recovery. Now, you might find yourself struggling to adapt to being sober during more normal times, or even concerned about relapse.
If that’s the case, don’t worry. If you could stay sober during the pandemic, you’ll be able to maintain that during the reopening phase, even if your approach might need some adjustment. Here are some tips for staying strong and sober as the world reopens.
- Decide what stays and what goes.
The past year has taught us that the world can keep turning even when we step away from our norms and routines. That was true as things shut down, and it will be the same as they reopen.
Use that idea as a way to empower yourself. While there are some things we’re all eager to get back to (hello, restaurant dining) there are other changes during the pandemic that we’re loath to give up (like working from home). Take some time to decide what worked well for you during the past year, and what you might like to hang on to in the future.
- Set goals for the year.
Sure, we probably all already set our New Year’s resolutions. But as things continue to open up, we’re facing another new beginning. Think about what you want to get out of this period of time, and set goals for it.
Maybe you missed being of service, and are looking to utilize in-person volunteer opportunities. Perhaps you have enjoyed a particular online meeting and want to maintain your connection to that group. Write down your goals in order to stay focused on them through the transition.
- Recognize that change is tough.
For months we’ve all been waiting for the end of the pandemic. But now that things are returning to normal, we’re also faced with the loss of the past year: the lives lost, the time apart from loved ones, and the milestones that we’ve missed.
Because of that you might find yourself grieving, even during a time when you thought you would be celebrating. Recognize that this is a normal response — it’s understandable to be overwhelmed at a time when everything is changing, just when you’ve gotten used to the way things were. Practice self care to keep on track with your recovery even during this transition.
- Set the tone for the rest of your recovery.
This year has hopefully been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Right now you’re adjusting your recovery to post-pandemic life, but that will be the norm for the rest of your life in recovery. Right now is a great time to think about what you want your routine to look like long-term. Identify your priorities for your recovery, and begin implementing those in your life today. By doing that, you can guarantee that you have the recovery that you want.
Getting through the past year with your sobriety intact is no small feat. If you’ve done that, congratulations. If you need support during this transition time, don’t be afraid to reach out to your rehab team, your recovery group or any friends and mentors that you have made in the community. Everyone is going through a transition right now, and by opening up to others you can surround yourself with the support that you need to make your recovery successful.