During the initial onset of shelter-in-place orders, many of us were forced to make drastic changes to our daily routines. Activities we once participated in and how we interacted with those in our community transitioned from in-person interactions and group activities to video-based communication systems, like Zoom and FaceTime. While we were able to adapt to COVID-19 regulations, many interruptions created a fracture in the entities that best support early recovery for those struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
Soberlink, a remote alcohol monitoring system, combines a breathalyzer with wireless connectivity and is easy-to-use in quarantine for those recovering from alcohol addiction. It utilizes technology to document sobriety in real-time and sends results to an individual’s Recovery Circle. Christina Ash is a Soberlink user who is currently three and a half years sober. She recounted her experience being sober when stay-at-home orders were first announced, saying, “I’m so grateful that I was not drinking [when lockdowns began]. I was just grateful I wasn’t at the place where I was dependent [on alcohol] anymore…but I saw how it affected other people.”
Although lockdowns impacted everyone differently, there are a few key ways quarantine greatly affected those in early alcohol recovery.
Social distancing regulations left many feeling lonely and isolated, ultimately leading to triggers that could potentially cause a relapse. Boredom, unprecedented stressors, a lack of control of one’s surroundings, and a decline in overall mental health can all produce feelings that could challenge recovery for those who cope with AUD. Recognizing your triggers is half the battle. Once you identify the physical or physiological cues that cause the urge to use, you can seek ways to avoid or overcome your triggers.
Isolation can be a breeding ground for deception, but connecting with those who understand what you are going through is often vital in sustaining sobriety. “You tend to bond and become friends with other people in recovery because you’ve all been to that place…and you support each other in a way that other people can’t.” Says Ash. Reaching out to a sponsor, a loved one, or those who support your recovery can help you feel less alone.
Accountability is essential for long-term lifestyle changes. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other recovery programs can be an excellent community to sustain recovery. Ash says that her Zoom AA meetings have been a wonderful, positive side to quarantine. “I’ve made friends over Zoom that I’d never met in person, but now I’ve known them for a year and…there’s a core group of us who text every day. I didn’t realize how vital it was to my sobriety…to form connections and nurture them.”
She has also utilized the help and accountability of sponsors to sustain her sober lifestyle. “I’ve had sponsors over the years,” she says, “five women who I’m still friends with. They were, at different times of my life, exactly who I needed.” A sponsor is someone who understands what it’s like to attain or maintain sobriety and will check in on you through daily communication. Ash said, “Most sponsors will ask you to call them every single day, even if you leave a message.”
Sponsors and recovery programs prioritize regular check-ins, and Soberlink can be used as a supplemental accountability tool. Christina Ash says that using Soberlink throughout quarantine has been an instrument she incorporates into her recovery wheelhouse. “Even with sponsors and meetings, there still was not 100% accountability, which is a big deal. The accountability factor was always a little bit in the back of my mind.” She says.
When shelter-in-place orders were first announced, the schedules we once leaned on were dismantled and, for many, daily itineraries drastically changed or vanished altogether. For those in early recovery, a consistent schedule is an essential part of remaining sober. The uncertainty throughout the last year has shaken the stability that often aids in the recovery process, and it is imperative to have an array of tools to maintain sobriety. Cultivating a regular schedule can be a useful resource, as well as “getting into healthy lifestyle routines, and now, Zoom meetings.” Says Ash, who attends AA meetings daily.
Soberlink can also provide regular daily check-ins that can be a resource for preserving a schedule. Users can opt to use Soberlink reporting twice or three times a day, allowing independence and flexibility. “Soberlink was there for me twice a day,” says Ash, who began using the device before lockdowns started, “I set my testing windows purposely around my own lifestyle.”
Although there is an increasing amount of information available to the public, there can still be a stigma surrounding AUD. Ash describes Soberlink’s alcohol testing device as only “as big as a sunglass case” and “discreet and very portable.” With its compact size and adaptive facial recognition technology, Soberlink can be a tool to keep a consistent schedule during a time where consistency is not always something we can count on.
Christina Ash uses Soberlink by choice because of the peace of mind it gives her family. “If you want to be serious about recovery, you have to be all in. Not just for yourself but for the ripple effect with family and children that drinking creates.”
Initially introduced to the device by a friend, Ash has found that Soberlink continues to be a tool to aid in her sobriety throughout lockdowns. Although she initially decided to use it to give an extra layer of comfort to her family, Ash realized that
“As [she] used it more, the benefit for [her]…[is that] it’s just another safety net, and you can’t have too many safety nets.”
The Soberlink system helps rebuild trust by documenting proof of sobriety and keeping you connected with those closest to you. “It’s about choice,” says Ash, “When I got sober, I got my choices back, and Soberlink is my choice.”