When the idea of working from first came about, I’d be lying if I said my inner alcoholic, single mom self wasn’t super excited. Thoughts of sleeping in late, never leaving my pajamas, and snacking all day flooded my thoughts. The truth is, I never actually thought about the reality of being isolated at home all day. In the wake of COVID-19, the entire world and our recovery community has been affected. The introverts and night owls were eager to begin life in total isolation, while the extroverts like me began to slowly lose their minds. Above all else, we all have discovered that there are challenges and benefits to working from home.
No matter what stage of recovery you are walking through, stressful situations like COVID-19 and quarantine can provoke anxiety and an onslaught of messy thoughts. Addiction is often referred to as the “disease of isolation.” As you can imagine, these aren’t ideal times – for any of us. However, whether you are new to recovery or a veteran, it is essential to remember that these feelings are normal. The total disruption of our routines and being forced to work from home can feel like total chaos. If your household dynamics look anything like mine, raising two kids, homeschooling them, all the while trying to work from home, can be mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. I have been missing my friends, my support, and my community. Much like many things in life, I am reminded how powerless I am each and every day.
Tips for Excelling at Home
Understanding that I am not walking through these unprecedented times alone gives me hope to come out of this pandemic stronger and able to conquer almost anything. Here are a few ways I have watered and fed my sobriety while working from home.
- Maintaining your routine.
Structure is one of the most critical components of any recovering addict’s routine during COVID-19. As I’ve shifted into working from home, I’ve found that going to sleep and waking up around the same time I would for work has helped me begin my workday day on a positive note. I still wake up and squeeze in my morning meditation and prayer, while also doing the things I would for my kids on any normal morning. Maintaining these aspects of my routine has helped me establish a sense of normalcy.
- Boundaries, boundaries, and more boundaries.
Setting boundaries has never been my strong suit. Adding in the component of being stuck at home has given permission to all of my old codependent, perfectionistic ideas. I have found myself thinking, “I’ll work tonight after the kids go to sleep, and then I’ll do some more work this weekend.” The invasion of my work life into my home life has created friction between remembering that it’s okay to separate the two. Discipline has helped me to take a lunch break, even if I’m not actually eating lunch. Sometimes, I’ll sit outside for an hour and read my daily reflections. I have realized how important rest truly is. Take the time to set boundaries by only working during work hours and taking your scheduled time off – away from work. Our bodies and brains need to rest, especially for those of us who are playing teacher, mom, and full-time employee.
- Stay connected
Even the most introverted alcoholics and addicts I know require human interaction. I’ve found this to be especially true during this pandemic. I personally have a coworker that I call to engage in small talk, just as we would if we were in the office. I am also fortunate to be working with a group of other sober individuals, and we check in on each other regularly. If one of us needs to tackle work with our head down, it’s not a problem. However, having the option to chat on Slack about what we had for lunch or exchanging the next ludicrous news headline. I have found these small interactions to make me feel much less alone. Don’t be afraid to suggest a video chat with a coworker at the beginning of the week to plan the week ahead and catch up on your personal weekend ventures. Communication and community are everything.
- Discipline cultivates accountability
Without the expectation of showing up to the office to begin the workday, many of us anticipated the lack of accountability – until the work started piling up. I am the real deal alcoholic (as we love to refer to ourselves). This means, if you give me an inch, I might just shoot for a mile. Lack of discipline and accountability is a dangerous space for me to be in. What I have found is that decision fatigue is very real and can be overwhelming. Should I change into real clothes or wear my pajamas today? When should I start and end work today? Is it okay to leave my tv on while I work, or should I stick to Spotify? How long is too long spent scrolling through Instagram? These seemingly small choices eventually add up. Without discipline and accountability in these little areas, it wouldn’t be too hard for unhealthy choices to flow into the larger parts of my life – such as not drinking alcohol. I have found that planning my day ahead, checking in with my coworkers, and setting goals for the day has helped eliminate the overwhelming load.
- Self-care is vital
Over the last year of my sobriety, I have begun to truly understand the importance of self-care. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” This quote rings especially true during a stressful time such as working from home during a pandemic while also maintaining my sobriety. When I am stressed, I do my best to look at my personal needs and I try to meet them. The truth is, when I am happy and my needs are met, I am much more productive at work and, overall, much more content. Here are a few of the self-care hacks that I have implemented during COVID-19:
- Making lunch or a snack
- Going for a walk
- Texting a friend
- Facetiming my family
- Playing soft music while working
- Taking an actual lunch break – away from working
- Taking a hot bath
- Working out at home on your break
- Going to get a massage
- Gratitude list
- Lean into grace and compassion, avoid self-judgment
One of the most difficult parts of working from home while in recovery is being alone in your own thoughts. I don’t know about you, but I am my own worst enemy. Lack of community and isolation is a recipe for disaster for an alcoholic like me. I am a perfectionist and notorious for judging myself before you can cast your judgment onto me. Addictions and negative behaviors commonly present us with secondary gains. In other words, some of my negative defects meet my needs in some way but are harmful in the long run. During stressful times in recovery, it is essential that we allow ourselves to relish in kindness, rest, grace, and freedom from judgment. I have accepted the fact that I am merely a human, trying to figure this new routine out the best I can. I try my best to avoid self-judgment and do the best I can with what I’ve got.