Maintaining Your Recovery During Economic and Social Stress

Woman standing in a window

Yes, it is possible to maintain your recovery, even if things around you are uncertain and upsetting. It mostly takes making the decision to start things moving in a more positive direction.

If there’s any influence that’s likely to cause a person in recovery to relapse, it’s stress. For every person, there're certain kinds of stress that are easy for them to cope with and there're others that seem to reach right into the core of them and suck their resistance right out of them. Knowing how to confront and cope with stressors is an essential part of maintaining one’s equilibrium during recovery.

Hopefully, your rehab program provided you with the tools you need to get through a time like the one America faces in early 2020. Economic uncertainty, mandated isolation from friends and loved ones and alarming news on the television or online sources have many people rattled. It would be easy to slip during this time. But you overcame your addiction and started on a new, sober life and you can succeed in getting through this difficult time while maintaining your sobriety.

Try the following actions to brighten your outlook on life.

  • Do you have friends or family who are also in recovery? This is the time to contact them! Let them encourage you. You encourage them. You both need to rely on each other because no one understands the challenge of staying sober right now more than you and your friends or family in recovery.
  • Use any communication medium to stay in touch with friends and family. Email, phone, text, online chats, conversations from one porch to another—what other ways can you think of?
  • Contact people who care about you and are interested in how you are doing. Do you have cousins, uncles or grandparents you have not talked to in a long time? It’s a great time to check up and see how they are doing.
  • Is your business closed down for a while? You might be able to enhance your professional skills while waiting for it to open again. Or you could study for certifications for a new profession or more advanced position you’d like to achieve in your current company. Are there computer skills you’ve wanted to learn but didn’t have time? You can always look for online tutorials for specific programs. For example, Harvard University offers free online classes.
Man takes care of flowers
  • It’s important to keep yourself cheerful, busy and productive. Letting yourself lapse into idleness is easy but it could work against you. You could get so bored that drinking or drug use look like handy ways to escape. Can you plant spring flowers? There's hundreds of gardening websites that would like to help you make your plans. You can order plants, seeds or supplies online. Make a perfect mixtape or playlist? Create funny or helpful cell phone videos? This is even more important if you have kids who need to feel productive too.
  • If you’ve ever wished you had more time for self-reflection, it’s here! But be kind to yourself. This is not the time to nit-pick any of your flaws or faults. EVERYONE has flaws. This is a good time to focus on what you do well and right, and to take a look at how you can utilize your strengths in ways that might enable you to enjoy life more. Let your self-reflection boost your self-esteem and use it to make plans for the future.
  • Distance learning is all the rage these days. Some educational institutions and organizations are making their services free or available at a greatly reduced price right now. Do an online search for “free education” or “cheap or free lessons” and see all the options available to you.
  • If you are enrolled in school already, you have probably already heard about ways to stay in touch with your school. It might take all your discipline to maintain a regular schedule of course work but your morale and mood will be so much better if you do. Stay in touch with other students you’ve been working alongside up to now. Let them encourage you and you encourage them. Your influence might be just what another person needs to stick with their studies during this time.
  • Do you have neighbors who are older? They might really appreciate it if you check on them. Is there a problem in the yard you could help them with? If they don’t walk well, could you take their mail to the porch for them every day? Many rehab programs teach their clients to be of service to others. During this time, small services might make an older or disabled person feel so much better.
  • You might need to be selective in which news media you listen you. By choosing news sources that sound more objective and positive than the others, you can avoid the desperation that can result from hearing bad news all the time.
Cheerful woman works from home

It may seem really difficult to get yourself moving in these positive directions. But the hardest moment might be simply deciding to start. Once a person gets rolling on positive actions, the second one is usually easier than the first, and the third positive action is even easier than the second.

There is not much in your life more valuable than your hard-won sobriety. It’s worth fighting for. Why not look for something positive you can start in the next few minutes? Pick up the phone and call someone you encourages you or who you can encourage. Then follow it with another positive action That’s how to make it more likely that by the time you go to bed tonight, you will be smiling.


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


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.