For First Responders, COVID-19 Poses a Glaring Trigger: Here’s How To Alleviate the Pressure

Published on May 8, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

While the status quo of everyday life has changed for most Americans in the face of the global pandemic, the exhaustive pressure on first responders in recovery from substance and/or alcohol use disorder presents unique triggers for relapse. The restrictions implemented following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disrupt the typical coping routines for first responders in recovery.

Additionally, those still actively serving as first responders now also face increased stress of extended hours, lack of sleep, and exposure to traumatic circumstances. In order to navigate the new landscape through the foreseeable future, it helps to know you are not alone, and what steps you can take to empower your sobriety. 


Inability to Attend Group Meetings 

Many AA, NA, and Smart Recovery meetings no longer have the capacity to meet in-person. Some have been able to schedule online meetings, and if at all possible, definitely look into attending a virtual group meeting.

However, this isn’t an option for those working extended hours, without access to the internet, or living in environments incompatible with virtual communications


Now more than ever, it is important to be in close communication with a sponsor, or another individual who can identify with what you are going through in order to provide encouragement. Plan to meet with these people over the phone, or from a safe distance, setting a date and time if possible.

Honoring these meetings with people in our support system strengthen our willpower and alleviate surplus stress we may displace onto friends, family, and loved ones who may not know exactly how to support someone coping with an uptick of addictive urges. 


Identify Healthy Alternatives to Alcohol and Substance Use

With the vast closures of restaurants and services, some of the few remaining bastions of consumer society are liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries. Given the limited scope of not only available but positive activities, the temptation to occupy time with drinking or using has significantly increased.

It is natural to feel the pull of these distractions, especially if one finds themself working from home. It is also likely that an addicted individual may begin to rationalize reasons to have just one drink or just a small dose of a substance. 


Try discovering positive ways to redirect these urges, like making a list of one benefit of sobriety for each justification passing through your mind. Keeping this list on your person will help ground you in recovery and strengthen your commitment to sober, healthy lifestyle decisions.

Another method for managing urges is to set reminders in your calendar throughout each at times you may feel overworked, tired, hungry, or otherwise stressed. This will benefit your discernibility surrounding the urge, whether the feeling may stem from some other distress signal in your body.

Oftentimes, the brain will immediately jump to self-medicating a symptom instead of addressing the root problems, such as hunger or sleep deprivation.


Stay Positive, Despite the Tangible Shock, Sadness, and Frustration

This might be difficult to even read, yet it is so vital for mental and physical health. It is more important than ever to remember that the conditions surrounding us do not necessarily dictate the conditions within us.

Even with our sense of stability changing daily as the events we were looking forward to getting canceled and the number of cases increasing at an alarming rate, maintaining our sense of self and positivity is more crucial than ever.


Relapse isn’t inevitable. Everyone has been impacted, some more than others. Isolation can make us feel like we are going through this alone, but this is a rare instance of macroscopic concern uniting humans in our shared feelings. You are not alone in harboring feelings of fear, doubt, stress, anxiety, and exhaustion, just as you need not be alone in feelings of hope, empathy, love, and joy. 


It can be easy to read the news, witness tragedy firsthand, and spiral into feelings of defeat and/or depression. Contrarily, doing things like being proactive about physical health, meditating, and reaching out to those we know who may be in need, may seem impossibly difficult. It’s important to remember, however, how much time we are gifted and we can use it to make changes we’d like to see in ourselves, or in our daily habits. 


If you or someone you know have relapsed, you have the time to make the changes to benefit the future. Getting through this will take all of us, and our lives will undoubtedly look different from how they were before this pandemic. Still, we will get through this with the support and empowerment we give ourselves, and those around us.

If you or anyone you know is wrestling with anxiety or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact First Responder Wellness. Our program, founded in 2014, matches the optimal treatment and therapy for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located nearby our campus in Costa Mesa. First responders are at the frontlines of helping those in dire need of medical treatment, yet they can be the last to admit if they are hurting or in need of help themself. Keep in mind the importance of mental health and coping strategies in the face of this pandemic. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness or anxiety resulting from COVID-19, please call our admissions staff 24/7 at 888-743-0490.