If you found yourself drinking more throughout the pandemic, you are not alone. Per a survey by the American Psychological Association, many people drank more to cope with this year of unprecedented stress. On the other hand, it’s also been a time of reflection, and many people have started re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol and seeking healthier coping mechanisms. I get to see this firsthand as a therapist on the Monument platform. Whether you have recently begun to cut back or abstain, or have been maintaining a goal long-term, it’s natural to feel some apprehension as a post-pandemic world appears on the horizon. You can be excited about turning this corner and anxious about what it will bring. Wherever you are in your journey, know that you’ve already come so far in making it to this point, and there is so much to be proud of. Keep these 7 insights in mind as you continue on into this next chapter.
1. Your boundaries are invaluable
Develop a clear understanding of what changes you want to bring with you out of quarantine, including your goals for sobriety or moderation. Communicating these boundaries at home, work, and with friends will help you honor your needs and progress. Boundaries are also instrumental to establishing a sense of safety, and developing trust in yourself to not revert to old patterns. It can be difficult to speak up for our needs at first, but it significantly reduces the likelihood of them getting overlooked or not addressed. Chances are, others will greet us with empathy, grace and open dialogue.
Take a pacing approach and begin practicing this now. Start reaching out to a friend or coworker about your new drinking habits (or lack thereof!). Read these tips about going to your first party sober. Join one of our free, therapist-moderated alcohol support groups to talk through your feelings about the world reopening. Taking action now will help reduce the looming feeling of “I don’t know where to begin”.
2. It’s important to embrace all the feelings
The transition out of quarantine is exciting for many reasons. However, it’s important to appreciate that change can be challenging, and if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, those feelings are 100% valid, too. In a world where we’re often subject to ‘toxic positivity,’ we need to remember that all emotions are valuable. Give yourself space to see the “ands” in your life. For example: “I can be both relieved and worried”. Ultimately, acknowledging and validating your own experience will be the key to exploring the new opportunities of a post-pandemic world.
3. It’s okay to feel worse before you feel better
The effects of traumatic experiences, including the collective trauma of a global pandemic, can be intensified over time if not addressed. Uncomfortable feelings are a natural signal from our body that we are now ready to start processing our emotions and relieving that intensity. Engaging in alcohol therapy is an incredible tool for working through these challenges. You will feel better with time, and you deserve self-compassion and support along the way.
Managing your drinking through quarantine
4. You’ve made more progress than you might realize
Most of the skills you’ve developed or are developing during the pandemic are transferable. A post-quarantine world does not mean “starting over”, it means building on the progress you’ve already made. You’ve likely discovered new things about yourself during this time, and have a richer understanding of what adds meaning to your life. These valuable lessons will help guide you as you navigate the future.
Your body and mind have persevered under unthinkable circumstances. Your accomplishments this past year may look differently than what you expected, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t been making progress. Simply surviving in times of crisis is productive, and working towards sobriety or moderation on top of that is incredibly meaningful.
5. You will discover all new benefits of drinking less
One of the many gifts of sobriety or moderation is that you get to authentically experience every new adventure and feeling. Remind yourself of this during both the highs and lows. You can even say to yourself “I’m doing this alcohol-free”, or “this is the part of my story where I feel more clarity” as a reminder of this benefit. Whatever feelings come up, embrace that you are now more present, grounded, and physically capable to take on the challenges, and fully appreciate the joys.
6. Find your sources of calm, and allow for intense emotions to arise
There are bound to be unforeseen challenges as the world opens back up. It’s beneficial to establish calming practices so we can ride the waves of anxiety and other emotions without getting overwhelmed. This might include breathwork, meditation, yoga, a calming hobby or other practices of self-care in recovery. When we re-center ourselves in the moment, we are more likely to find peace with our emotions and make decisions that align with who we really are and what we really want. That’s why I recommend mindfulness practices to anybody reevaluating their relationship with alcohol, or making any other kind of lifestyle change. When we take time to recognize and accept intense emotions we suffer less, learn more, and clear a path to the other side.
7. You can always cancel plans
Holistic practitioner Dr. Will Cole termed the acronym JOMO, which stands for Joy Of Missing Out. This message is a helpful reminder that you do not need permission to do what you want to in order to relax, process your emotions, and maintain your sobriety or moderation goal. Loneliness and aloneness are two very different emotional experiences. Despite the excitement for socializing again, we may find we need more alone time than expected. Whatever comes up for you, it’s 100% valid. Whether in a group or by yourself, you have the opportunity to cultivate new, authentic ways of relaxing and celebrating.
In quarantine we discovered that we can still find joy, even through fear and sadness. Remember to savor the little things, practice being present when it matters, and share joy when you can. If you find it hard to be compassionate to yourself, start with giving it to others.
We will co-create the post-quarantine society as we go along. It’s not a return to how it was, it’s an opportunity for evolution. We each can play a role in changing the language around alcohol use & recovery, creating sober-friendly work environments, speaking openly about our relationship with alcohol, and celebrating sobriety and moderation in every corner of society. Whatever comes our way, we will navigate it together.
Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.