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For most adults, the prospect of losing one’s job stokes feelings of intense anxiety. Unfortunately, in the era of the coronavirus pandemic, job loss goes part and parcel with all the many other distressing effects we as a nation are experiencing. Even with government assurances that citizens who experience a furlough or layoff will be receiving financial compensation, those resources are slow in arriving and inadequate to meet obligations.
The current Covid-19 crisis has people reeling on many levels. Never before has the country had to deal with a multitude of daunting consequences occurring simultaneously, including health risks, job losses, and a global economic crisis. These stressors are potent, and for individuals in recovery the risk to maintaining sobriety is very real. It is not too soon to consider ways to prevent relapse after layoff due to the pandemic, as already approximately 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since late March.
Financial stress is a particularly worrisome trigger for relapse in the best of times. Noting that individuals in recovery are also trying to manage feelings of isolation and loneliness, boredom, and anxiety over the potential health risks of the virus, adding a job loss may be enough to threaten recovery. Instead of taking a passive approach to protecting recovery, right now the best ways to prevent relapse after layoff due to the pandemic is a proactive stance.
8 Tips to Prevent Relapse After a Layoff Due to the Pandemic
If there is one time in history when it is imperative to put to work all the recovery tools acquired in treatment, it is right now. People in general are feeling a lack of control over their daily lives due to something that no one can truly understand, not even the professionals. Individuals in recovery are that much more vulnerable to such a sense of lack of control, which can undermine their ability to remain sober. When they find themselves faced with unemployment anxiety levels rise, along with feelings of despair. To work through all of these temporary setbacks while keeping sobriety intact, consider these tips:
- Realize that everyone is in the same boat. Anyone who has ever been let go from a job knows how demoralizing that feels. The coronavirus pandemic, however, is the great leveler. No one is exempt from the casualties of job loss, as people at every level are being impacted by layoffs right now. By keeping this perspective, it can help you understand that the loss of employment is not due to a personal or professional failing, and can reduce its emotional impact.
- Find some inspiration. Thank goodness for recovery podcasts and YouTube channels that feature inspiring guests who have succeeded in recovery. Without the usual access to hearing such personal success stories live, turning to what is available online is a great option. If you hit a rough patch and just need to listen to someone who has navigated their own recovery challenges, and emerged victorious, can be a comfort to those who are stuck at home right now.
- Apply for assistance. While for many people this will be a temporary disruption in their flow of income, others will experience great hardship. To help prevent relapse after layoff due to the pandemic, be sure to apply for unemployment benefits right away. Other social services, such as food assistance programs, are also available. Be sure to apply for all sources of assistance as early as possible to reduce anxiety over the loss of regular income.
- Access online recovery meetings. For most people in addiction recovery, success relies heavily on social support and accountability. One of the best resources for acquiring both is through 12-step or similar recovery communities. Fortunately, recovery stalwarts such as A.A., N.A., SMART Recovery and others have quickly adopted online video platforms through which to provide meetings. The online meetings are available at all hours of the day, right from your own living room.
- Avoid aimlessness. It is very tempting, while temporarily not working, to stay up later than usual and then sleep in. With no sense of urgency about the day, it is easy to fall into bad habits during the lockdown. Avoid this by sticking to as normal a schedule as possible. In addition to being disciplined about the sleep schedule, set goals for each day to help provide some structure to the days. This can help to avoid getting lazy and bored, triggers for relapse, while at the same time helps carve out portions of the day for completing tasks around the house.
- Connect with friends. Another serious effect of the lockdowns has been the growing sense of loneliness that comes with being isolated physically from friends and colleagues. It is important to maintain connection with friends during the lockdown, and there are several technologies that can make that happen. Video chat platforms, like FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype, provide free services that allow people to gather together, or just to have a one-on-one conversation while seeing the person’s face, hearing their voice, and seeing their gestures. These also help to remove any stigma about job loss, as most likely 90% of those included in the chats have also lost their jobs.
- Set some goals. Everyone hates being bored out of their minds, but for people in addiction recovery boredom takes on a much more significant threat. To avoid boredom while not working outside the home, try setting some “pandemic goals.” Set a new fitness goal, such as running or walking an extra ¼ mile each day or adding one mile per week. Set a goal to produce something, such as creating an art project, starting a blog, or building something in the garage.
- Mind your mind. Relapse rarely occurs out of thin air. Usually, there is a pattern of weakening resolve and commitment toward recovery that slowly but steadily erodes sustainability until the disease takes advantage of a weakened state. Be aware of the threats to recovery, such as feelings of loneliness, depression, boredom, or anxiety, and be mindful of your mental state. If you see cracks forming, be proactive and reach out to a sponsor, a trusted friend, or an online recovery community.
How to Access Recovery Support During the Pandemic
What should one do if a relapse appears to be imminent? The most important thing is to act, versus trying to convince yourself that you are fine. The disease is sneaky and looks for the fissures, so doing nothing is just dangerous. Be proactive and get some professional help if you feel recovery is at risk.
During the coronavirus event there are avenues still available for accessing treatment. Residential rehabs are still accepting clients during the lockdown, and many outpatient rehabs have shifted over to telehealth platforms that provide online therapy and support. These video platforms can be extremely helpful for individuals in need of outpatient psychotherapy, in both individual and group formats. Clinicians can complete assessments through the telehealth technology, and then set up an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for the individual.
Managing a Dual Diagnosis During the Coronavirus Crisis
After just a few weeks since the lockdown was imposed, reports of increased rates of depression and other mental health disorders have surfaced. This should not be surprising, as people are not accustomed to having their lives turned upside down as they have been. Feelings of isolation, boredom, and loneliness are taking their toll. If a loved one has been stricken or has perished due to the Covid-19 virus, feelings of grief and loss may be overwhelming. In fact, according to Yuval Neria, the director of the trauma division of New York State Psychiatric Institute, “The scale of this outbreak as a traumatic event is almost beyond comprehension.”
Many people in recovery for a drug or alcohol addiction will also have a co-existing mental health issue, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression. The stress associated with the pandemic may exacerbate the mental health disorder, which can in turn make the individual more vulnerable to relapse. When recognizing signs of a worsening mental health condition, do not ignore the risk this poses to recovery. Seek the help of a mental health professional through a dual diagnosis provider who can provide online telemental health services, as well as making adjustments to medications if necessary.
Capo by the Sea is an Upscale Residential Addiction Recovery Program in Orange County
Capo by the Sea is a seaside recovery program in South Orange County, California. Our diverse treatment program provides not only top level addiction recovery services, but also offers pet friendly policies, couples rehab, and dual diagnosis treatment. Capo by the Sea has taken every precaution to be able to continue to provide safety to its residential clients, which is a top priority that is taken very seriously. If you are in need of support for how to prevent relapse after a layoff due to the pandemic, contact Capo by the Sea today at 888-529-2114.