Staying Sober When You’re Stressed


Sobriety During COVID-19

Staying sober
You are not alone! Staying sober requires connection.

Staying sober when you’re stressed is dependent on living life on life’s terms. How do we do that when life is turned completely upside down? Coronavirus and shelter at home orders have changed the day to day for everyone- even for essential workers or stay-at-home parents. Staying sober during Coronavirus is a new territory for those in recovery. Isolation, changes in routine, lack of resources, and decreased accountability can be deadly for an addict.

I have been sober for over three years, but the things I need to do to stay sober and healthy change because life evolves. This means finding new ways to meet all my needs and process reality in a healthy way instead of seeking escape. Escaping my feelings sounds great when I’m dealing with four kids alone, 24/7 while doing online learning, chasing a toddler, cooking and cleaning around the clock, and working. Staying sober when I’m stressed can feel like an endurance test.

Lonely mom
Parenting sober when isolated is hard. Take time for you, too.

Here are some things that work for me, based on my life and experience.

If you have other things that you need in your world or your recovery, have at it. I am not a believer in a one size fits all solution.

Watch for HALT signals

Hungry, angry, lonely, tired: locate your nearest child to see the total collapse that happens when they haven’t eaten or had a nap, or, god forbid, didn’t get something they wanted. Adults aren’t that different. Meeting basic needs is a crucial piece to staying sober because it keeps us stable and functioning. I don’t know about you, but it is HARD for me to think rationally when I need dinner. It’s just a thing.


Keep your regular routine or create a new one. Build time into that for self-care, like journaling, yoga, working out, meditation, recovery work, and chatting with friends. Self-care can be ridiculously hard as a parent, especially with schools and daycares closed. Even five minutes to reset, do a quick breathing exercise, 20 jump squats, or cry in the bathroom to a friend on messenger is helpful. Make to-do lists and organize your paperwork. Try getting up and getting ready for the day, even if that means new sweats and a ponytail.

Gratitude and giving

Do a daily gratitude list or focus one or two things every day to be thankful for. Sometimes setting something you’re thankful for in the morning can help to be more mindful throughout the rest of the day. Giving is also an effective way to get outside of yourself. Giving doesn’t have to mean money, if you don’t have it to spare. Giving can take many forms. Send a letter or message to someone who’s struggling. Listen when someone needs an understanding ear. Sit and hug a kid who is melting down. If you can bring groceries to someone who is homebound or pick up medications from a pharmacy for someone high-risk, do that.


No is a complete sentence!

Practice firm boundaries

We cannot be everything to everyone, especially when our kids or partners are home and our workload has increased. Staying sober during COVID-19 is harder, and that means more limits, not fewer.

It is not mean to say no. Saying no is self-care. Repeat that over and over. Practice it.

Saying no gets easier every time. I love this video by Brene Brown. Set boundaries- it can be life-saving. Staying sober when you’re stressed is easier if you delegate and don’t commit to things that don’t work for you. Practice putting your needs first when you can.

Stay accountable and connected 

Being isolated or out of your regular routine can be alarming or triggering. It can shove an addict into a dangerous headspace or old ways of thinking. If you’re finding yourself thinking that this is a reasonable time for relapse, check in with your support system! If you’re triggered by the lack of accountability and the potential to “get away with” a relapse, remember the reasons you got sober to begin with. Connect with other people and say those things out loud.

Give yourself grace

You might mess up. You might make mistakes. Maybe you are yelling more than normal and your patience is short. Perhaps all you can do some days is just stay sober. That is okay. And if you relapse, reach out! There is no shame in needing help. We all fall. Let others help lift you back up. Every single day we have a chance to make new choices.

Let people help you stay sober and healthy. We can do this together.

Need help staying sober when you’re stressed? Here are some links for things that I find helpful for self-care, healing, and intentional sober living:

Sobriety Programs and Resources


Facebook-based Recovery Support Groups




Free Yoga Channels on YouTube

Milwaukee Area Yoga Studios Offering Online Classes

Other Resources

Journaling can be great for getting the big feelings out
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Jess grew up near Madison and has lived in the Milwaukee area since 2013. She's a mom to four small children, who love to make crafts out of garbage, draw on walls, and make creepy, creepy masks. She also has two teenagers who live with their dad in Madison. She loves to watch them all grow to be amazing, unique humans. She spends her time outdoors with her feral little family, hiking at State Parks, camping, or visiting new parks. She also loves helping them make messes and create art... but hates the clean-up. She is a freelance writer, editor, and marketer for a living, and spends the free time she has left working on personal writing and art projects. She's involved in social justice and advocacy work and is particularly interested in LGBTQIA+ issues. She stays involved in politics and her community and is always looking for ways she can help to make a positive difference and spread awareness to inspire change. When she isn't busy with those things, she can be found binge watching Netflix, reading, listening to new music, and wasting her life on Facebook.


  1. Wonderful article on maintaining Sobriety during this unimaginable time of stress and fear and worry and all the -isms that fall into lockstep with the various issues of addiction. Bravo on this article! Love the whole newsletter.

    Thanks from an old, sober, “Auntie” in Florida, whose “God Children live in MKE.
    Stay safe and smart ALL of you.


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