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Addiction recovery during the coronavirus outbreak

Whether you are just starting your recovery from addiction or have been in recovery for some time now, it is likely that the coronavirus outbreak is causing you to experience an unprecedented set of challenges. It is a time of high emotions and stress for many people, and a number of the activities and events that you were using to manage your abstinence may now be on pause. It is so important for you to take the time to plan carefully for the months ahead so that you can stay grounded in your recovery.

Pamela Roberts, Addiction Therapy Manager, and her team at Priory Hospital Woking have put together advice and information for people in addiction recovery during this time.

Stay in touch with your peers

We understand that a lot of the meetings that you were previously attending may be on pause for now as people are urged to stay indoors where possible. But don’t think that you’re alone – there is help and support available to you.

Make use of online meetings, which is something that Alcohol Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-Step fellowships offer. Prioritise time so that you can attend these, as this can help you to maintain structure when a lot of our normal routines have been disrupted. Also, when taking part online, treat these meetings like face-to-face meetings, where you give them your undivided attention and are actively involved, so that you can get the most from them.

There are also helplines, which fellowships have been working hard to keep manned. It’s worth keeping their numbers close to hand as another link in your support system.

  • AA: 0800 9177 650 or
  • NA: 0300 999 1212
  • CA: 0800 612 0225
  • Gamcare Helpline: 0808 8020 133

You can also access the AA Big Book online for free, either as a website or to download as an app.

Your peers and your support system understand addiction recovery and will be able to offer you valuable support at this time. Stay in touch with them, whether that is over the phone, over video calls or through WhatsApp or Facebook. These people understand your challenges, and can provide you with a non-judgemental space to talk through your issues.

Make a COVID-19 addiction recovery plan

It is important to plan for and maintain a new routine. Getting organised and having well-structured days can be way for us to keep safe. If you have attended an Addiction Treatment Programme, think about the recovery plan you made when you were discharging from treatment and which parts are still possible, and which may need to be edited.

For your updated recovery plan, think about the following:

  • Keep a dry house – this is more important than ever, especially at a time when we are in our homes more than ever. Make sure you keep your environment alcohol-free to put one more barrier between you and a relapse
  • Prioritise your daily disciplines – make time every day to do a daily recovery-related reading or to write a gratitude list, as this can help to keep your mind focused. If you are working from home or home-schooling children, it can be easy for these to fall away, so carve out a moment in the day to allow yourself the time to do this
  • Reflect on how to take care of yourself – while most of our time is spent at home, it may seem easy to stay in our pyjamas, abandon exercise and possibly forget about showering for the day. But, this probably won’t leave you feeling great. Stick to a normal routine and take this opportunity to improve your self-care rather than abandon it
  • Remember to HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) – staying at home can lead to some people abandoning regular meal times, or staying up an extra hour or two later. Proactively take steps to keep normal routines, like going to bed and waking up at the same time, staying in contact with people, and eating healthily and regularly
  • Be aware of cross addiction – being at home all day can leave you with a lot of time to act out certain behaviours. Be aware of what feels like healthy boundaries and what doesn’t, and if you’re unsure, check in with someone
  • Think about your social media use – scrolling through social media can cause people to feel negative, regardless of whether or not they are in recovery. If you are finding that certain accounts or posts are making you feel this way, unfollow or mute them. And try to limit the amount of time you spend on social media every day
  • Plan out a daily schedule – many people may be feeling bored, with activities and social events paused for the time being. Keep busy – staying active is a great tool for your recovery. It can help to distract you from your thoughts and stop you feeling stressed or anxious. Think about the hobbies you’ve wanted to take up for a while, or the skills you’ve wanted to hone. Now could be the opportunity to do so. Plan these activities around your recovery resources and your essential daily routines
  • Be realistic about your triggers – it is understandable for you to feel frustrated, irritated or annoyed with someone when you see them 24/7. Communicate and plan for this. Could you take 10 minutes away in another room or could you work from a different room in the house?
  • Be aware of your emotions – people’s emotions are running high at this time, and that is completely understandable. If you are worried about any thoughts or feelings that you are having, reach out and gain strength from your peers or support system online or over the phone. Remember, that while you may be physically distanced from people you are close to, and your peers in recovery, you are not alone. Talk to people, not only for your sake, but for their wellbeing too

If you are concerned about your recovery, and would like to speak to our addictions team, please do get in contact to find out how we've adapted our treatment. We can speak to you over the phone and determine the best way for you to access any support that you need at this time.

Further information for Priory Group Addiction Treatment Programme alumni

Remember that our team are there to talk to you, and support you in any way that they can. If you have attended an Addiction Treatment Programme at Priory Group, you also have access to Priory’s Thrive app, which you can download on your phone. On the app, you’ll find ways to help and manage stress and anxiety including meditations, and links to other resources.


Blog reviewed by Pamela Roberts (BSc (Hons), Fd Systemic/Family, Dip.Addictions Therapy, Dip.Sex Addiction, PG Dip.Group Facilitation, PG Dip.Trauma Therapy), Addictions Programme Manager at Priory Hospital Woking

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