We’ve been sheltering in place for a month now, and that’s an entirely different experience than when we thought this would only last two weeks. We don’t know when this will end, and we all face challenges whether we have addiction issues or not.
Tolerating a situation for a set period of time is one thing, but slogging through a situation that has no end-date takes a different set of skills. Emotional intelligence experts call this “grit.”
If you’ve been through a treatment program or succeeded at being sober for any length of time, you’ve developed grit. You’ve been tested and you’ve persisted. Your
Grit: A Key Skill in Treatment and Recovery
Grit is your ability to persist through hard times. You can already see why it’s important in recovery. Grit is what gets you through the cravings, the challenges, and learning new skills. It’s one of the key traits we work on daily during active treatment.
It’s why AA emphasizes living life “one day at a time.” It’s why we call the times we mess up “relapses” and not “failures.” If you learn from a relapse, that’s grit, not failure.
Persisting through every day and then the next… That’s grit.
Maintaining grit in your recovery and in COVID
There are certain skills that make a person “gritty:”
- A positive sense of self -- A realistic sense of who you are, recognizing what you can control and what you can’t.
- Planning ability -- The ability to make realistic plans and also make them happen.
- Communication skills -- Including being able to reach out and tell people what you need.
- Evaluation skills -- The ability to size up problems and figure out how to resolve them.
- Adaptability and cognitive flexibility -- Being able to adjust to changing circumstances.
(Source: American Psychological Association)
Recognize the Grief Process in All of This
You may have already lost a friend or loved one to coronavirus. You may have lost your job--either temporarily or permanently.
Even if you haven’t lost your job, you’re either working from home or in extremely different conditions. You’ve lost your work community.
If you’re an essential worker, you may be working a ton of extra hours.
If your kids are at home, the way you interact with them has suddenly changed. Staying home all day together or guiding their education is a huge change. And your kids are probably grieving, too (and they don’t grieve like adults do).
You’ve lost your routines and your freedoms. Those mood swings you, your partner, and your kids are all experiencing… That’s grief.
The 5 Stages of Grief
- Denial - “This is only going to be for a short time. It’ll be over soon.”
- Anger - “I’m angry at this situation, at others, at life.”
- Bargaining - If I do this, it’ll be better. This may happen in our relationships, in our recovery, or with our higher power.
- Depression - “I’m having sadness, anxious thoughts, and bad dreams. I can’t seem to keep up my regular routines. I’m sleeping (or eating) too much or too little.”
- Acceptance - “I’m figuring out new ways to cope.”
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first described these stages over 50 years ago. They don’t just apply to death, but to any sense of loss. We always lose something when there’s a big change, even when we achieve something good. When things don’t return to normal quickly, grief begins.
So while the two week “shelter in place” order might have been okay, when they started canceling school years and laying people off, how we experience sheltering in place changed. Grief entered the picture.
We grieve many times in recovery and crisis
This isn’t a chronological “one-and-done” process. You don’t finish Anger and move on to Bargaining. There isn’t a point where you should be over this and in Acceptance. People move back and forth through these stages. You could be doing all right and then find yourself back in Anger and Depression on an anniversary or when you’re lonely.
You might be finding it hard to concentrate on your work, even without constant interruptions from your kids and your spouse. When you’re trying to find a new normal, you’re under more strain. Brain fog, exhaustion, and confusion are more common. Make time for rest and enjoyable activities. Get outdoors and get vitamin D. Go for walks. Play your favorite video game or watch a movie. Give yourself more breaks. You’re running a marathon, not pushing through a sprint.
Knowing All This Helps You Maintain Your Grit in Your Recovery
Knowing about persistence and grief helps you be resilient in your grief. People who persist through pain don’t experience less pain, but they have self-knowledge, gratitude for the gifts they do have, and hope that things will get better.
Look at your situation and evaluate where the problems are. Talk with your sponsor, family, or trusted friend. Plan for the challenges you’ll experience as you shelter in place.
There are times where you’ll definitely feel kicked in the gut. But do you let this experience block you from your recovery goals, or do you keep going -- working hard to be the kind of person you want to be through this crisis.
What if I Need Help Staying Sober or Need Treatment?
If you need help staying sober, we’re here. We can guide you in a direction that will help, and point the way to the resources you need. If you need an active treatment program, we’ll assess whether travel to our treatment center in South Florida is safe for you at this time. We’re taking active precautions to provide a safe environment for our staff and our patients, including you.
If you do need treatment and help to get through this process, click the phone number button at the side of the screen. You can also click the “For Yourself” or “For Your Loved One” button.
Grit doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Healthy, strong people reach out for help. Reach out to those you love and find what you need from your community, your higher power, and us.