Stressed and Sober

By The Fix staff 12/10/19

Learning how to deal with unexpected circumstances is key to sobriety.

Woman refusing a beer
© Pavelzhuravlev92 |

“I could sure use a drink.”

It’s a popular saying, an easy way to blow off steam after a stressful day or week. But for people in recovery, dealing with stress isn’t as simple as turning to alcohol (or drugs) for substance-infused relaxation. 

Once you’re living sober, there’s no easy way to mask your stress. Instead, you have to deal with it head-on. Unexpected emergencies or events, like the ongoing wildfires that are devastating California, can really challenge your recovery, no matter how long you’ve been sober. Personal tragedies or challenges can have the same affect. 

However, your recovery experience can also be a source of strength. The lessons you’ve learned in sobriety can help you get through other dire situations. With that, you can also help others. 

Here are some tips for staying sober, even when life is throwing curveballs. 

Be Honest About What’s in Your Control

Most people in recovery are familiar with the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

No matter what your higher power, the lessons in this prayer are important throughout recovery, especially in time of stress. When you’re dealing with an unexpected event, take a moment to decide what’s in your control. You might feel better after packing an emergency bag if fires are near your area, for example. 

Exerting control where you can is empowering. However, what’s even more important is to remember what you cannot control. Trying to manage things that are uncontrollable, like hoping the fires do not come your way, can be exhausting and frustrating. It’s best to acknowledge where your limits are, and not waste time on things beyond your control. 

Lean Into Your Recovery Community

If you’re living sober, you can’t unwind with a drink at the end of the day. However, you can do something much healthier: go to a meeting, or go for a walk with someone who is also in recovery. Having open conversations about your fears and worries can help you process them, rather than just masking them with a chemical high. 

This can be especially helpful when you’re dealing with a local disaster. Most 12-step meeting are hyper local. That means that many people in your meeting are dealing with similar anxieties and fears, and can understand what you’re going through. Plus, they’ll understand navigating difficulties while dealing with the day-to-day of life in recovery. 

Watch for Relapse Signs

Any time you’re dealing with increased stress, you are more at-risk for relapse. That’s why it’s important to be self-aware during times when you’re dealing with the unexpected. Be on the lookout for relapse warning signs that indicate that you’re struggling in recovery. For example, you might stop going to meetings, or start spending more time with the people who are unhealthy for you. 

If you notice that your recovery is faltering, reach out for help. Talking to a sponsor or trusted friend can help you get back on track before you really slip up. And, if you do end up using, remember that relapse is a normal part of recovery. The important part is getting help to get back on track as soon as possible. 

Remember, You Are Resilient

In recovery, we’re told to take things one day at a time. This is good advice for dealing with unexpected emergencies as well. Sometimes, when it seems like you can’t go on because of stress of uncertainty, remember that you just have to get through today. Everything is much more manageable when you’re only thinking about the next 24 hours. 

That’s one lesson that recovery has taught you, but the truth is that your whole recovery experience can fortify you in trying times. You’ve already overcome the odds and changed your life. You now know from experience that you can cope with whatever comes your way: even if it seems entirely overwhelming right now. 

Asana Recovery offers residential and outpatient treatment in Costa Mesa, California. Learn more by calling 949-438-4504.

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