Dealing with COVID-19 Anxiety While Protecting Your Sobriety

Sober woman at home
Photo by courtneyk/

Right now, it’s understandable if you feel more anxious than usual. Just look around. Many people are suffering from a loss of income because they’ve been sent home from their employment or their employer has suffered losses due to COVID-19 concerns. Other people have had to shut down their businesses completely. Add to that the fear of suffering a debilitating or fatal disease, and for a person who has previously suffered from addiction, the challenge can be daunting.

Some people are coping by purchasing alcohol from online stores and having it delivered to their homes. By April 2020, online sales had increased 500%. And more Americans are contacting their healthcare professionals with complaints of increasing anxiety. While alcohol may seem to help dull the pain, ultimately solving problems, like anxiety, with a quick fix is exactly where addiction gets its start.

Can a person in recovery from addiction manage to stay sober in this time of increased anxiety? After all, in their former addicted lives, it’s very possible that they found refuge in alcohol or drugs when life became too stressful. The temptation can be very strong to seek the same refuge again.

At this time, recovering addicts may not have their usual access to meetings or counselors. Their religious services may be discontinued. Their family members may be fearful of face-to-face meetings. And then there is financial stress.

What Can a Person Do to Successfully Cope?

If you are struggling with your own sobriety at this time, you’re going to need to establish some new habits, actions and patterns that help you cope with not only your sobriety but also the world surrounding you at the moment. It might help you to realize that the stress you are feeling is pretty normal, given our current circumstances. Now, let’s look at some of the habits you can develop and some actions you can take.

Online meeting
Photo by VioletaStoimenova/
  • Limit your exposure to bad news. It is easy to get sucked into watching sensational news and alarming events from city after city. When you do watch or read news, make it a policy to get just the information you really need and then shift your attention to something more positive.
  • Especially important if you are not working or your activities are limited, maintain a good, healthy daily structure. Work out what goals you might be able to achieve, especially ones that you might not normally have time to pursue.
  • Are you suddenly working from home? Not everyone finds this easy. Consider working closely with co-workers you normally associated with on a daily basis. You might be able to keep chat windows open on each of your computers so you can touch base on projects. This also maintains the social aspect of a work environment that most of us enjoy and value.
  • If you’re not particularly computer-savvy, you might want to break down and learn how to place video calls on your cell phone or computer using FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, or many other services. There’s no charge for many of these. And they can bring your adult children, grandchildren, best friends or even members of your church into your home in living color. The more you miss these people being in your life, the more you can benefit from a regular schedule of video phone calls with your loved ones and valued acquaintances.
  • Contact support groups you have relied on in the past and find out how you can maintain this vital channel of support in the current environment. Can you attend socially-distanced meetings in your state? Can you set up group video calls with other members? Is counseling available by phone or video call?
  • If you normally attend church services, it’s vital for you to continue. Check with your church to see if their services are available via the internet. If your church is not set up for this, you might be able to find another church of the same denomination that makes these services available.
  • Give some thought to others who might feel even more isolated than you. Do you have friends or acquaintances who have had an even harder struggle than you to stay sober? Have they relapsed recently? You can reach out by phone or video call to lend them some of your strength. I bet you feel even stronger after doing so.
  • Don’t forget to participate in activities that make you feel good. Walks in the park, just sitting in the sun, having a good meal, listening to music, gardening, watching a funny movie, playing the guitar, writing letters to people you have not been in touch with for a long time—all these activities can make us feel good.
  • Do you have a particular talent to share? Some musicians are setting up in their garage or on their front lawns to play music for their neighbors. Others share their skills with online videos. If you have a special skill, you can share it via video. You could teach painting, quilting, cooking, dog training or any other skill you possess. It takes nothing more than a smartphone to make a video that can then be shared on YouTube. Or you can simply email it to friends.
  • If you have grandchildren you miss seeing, you could even make videos of you reading some of their favorite books and send them off so they can be played at bedtime.
Happy man painting at home
Photo by eclipse_images/

Yes, it’s a challenging time for all of us. Once you acknowledge that, it’s time to work out how to rise above it. The most positive and productive your life, the better your chance of reducing your anxiety and temptation to resort to drugs or alcohol.

Human beings are amazingly resilient. Have faith in your own abilities and innate strength. Rely on the tools that have historically enabled you to remain sober. They are more important now than ever before.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, MCAP, LADC


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.