“The courage to accept the things I cannot change…”. If you have any experience with addiction recovery – whether personal or professional – you are likely familiar with this phrase. Although it specifically comes from 12-step literature (The Serenity Prayer), I feel as though it is an affirmation that everyone in the world could benefit from. Especially right now, during the pandemic that is COVID-19.
As human beings, we are experiencing an unprecedented risk to our physical health. But this global event is not just a medical one; there is a direct impact on our mental health as a result of this unique situation we all find ourselves in. The world is more or less in a state of utter chaos, and there is very little we can actually do to control the situation – other than staying at home. And it is both the chaos itself, as well as what we are experiencing as a result (namely that very act of staying at home for weeks or months on end) that’s brining up a plethora of difficult emotions to cope with – social isolation, economic strain, anxiety, stress, uncertainty, helplessness, and hopelessness for many. So what do we do with these feelings? How can we cope with this chaos in a healthy way?
This is a very difficult question to answer for everyone, but I think it can especially be said for anyone who already struggles with mental health and addiction, even under normal circumstances. As someone in long-term recovery, I find myself needing to put more effort than usual in to emotional regulation so that my mental health isn’t compromised by the chaos that surrounds me.
Something that I’ve been finding useful is to look at the current situation – the chaos that is out of my control – and relate it back to the chaos that was my life during active addiction, and what I had to learn to do to cope with this in early recovery. Those same coping skills are applicable in all difficult situations in life, and right now is certainly no exception. The number one thing I know that I can do to cope is to practice radical acceptance. Because until I can accept all people, places, things and situations for what they are, I can find no peace (from another 12-step anecdote that I identify with). I know that if I let fear consume me, my peace and serenity – my recovery itself – is at risk.
So that’s what we can and need to do today: accept the things we cannot change, and find the courage to change the things we CAN. So what do we have control over in this moment? What can we do to maintain order in our lives (externally and internally) during a time of chaos? Here are some things I know are in my control, and which I’m doing in order o stay busy in my day-to-day, and grounded and centered in my recovery:
- Meditation (for me this is key to practicing acceptance)
- Having a daily schedule and have as normal a routine as possible
- Eating regular, healthy meals and exercising (YouTube is full of free, at-home workouts)
- Therapy and mutual self-help meetings
- Staying connected with friends and family every day via FaceTime, Zoom, etc.
- Professional development (doing all the things on my ‘to-do list’ that I’ve been putting off or just haven’t had time for until now)
- Picking up new hobbies (e.g. knitting, learning a language)
- Listening to music and dancing (around my apartment!)
- Self-care and ‘pampering’
- Cleaning and organizing my home
- Sleeping well
- Listening to my body and what it needs (some days that’s showering, getting ready, working for 8 hours straight, and exercising; other days it’s staying in my pajamas and binge-watching Netflix while I drink tea and eat chocolate)
This is my own person recipe for maintain recovery (and my sanity), but it’s important to find what works best for YOU. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like doing all these things on a daily basis is easy, though. An essential aspect of coping with this situation, for me, is reminding myself that it’s OK to not be OK all the time. It’s OK to have some days when it’s particular difficult to cope. When the uncertainty of life is overwhelming, the best thing I can do is lean on others for support. That’s one silver lining I can see through all of this – we, as humans, are all in this together. The more that we reach out and help one another, the easier it will be for us to get through this, to cope with the chaos, and come out at the end of it all still of sound body and mind.
If you are finding it particularly difficult to get through this period of chaos in the world, there are a number of resources available that you can access online from anywhere in the world:
Online 12-step meetings
Virtual counselling, therapy and coaching through individual practitioners
As always, the iCAAD Platform and community is available as a source of support. If you’re bored at home, need a distraction, and want to do something productive towards professional and educational development – there are hundreds of blog posts, pre-recorded presentations, slideshows all available under ‘Resources’ here on our website. Also, stay tuned for some new content that’s on its way – we update daily and weekly. Subscribing to our website and keeping an eye on our social media is the best way to stay connected.