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FOMO, COVID, Spring Break and Recovery: What’s the Connection?

Spring Break season is officially here, and…yeah…there’s a lot to unpack this year. Between COVID-related cabin fever, the collective need for stress relief and the basic need for human interaction, it’s entirely reasonable to expect people to “bust out” in 2021, and for people in recovery, this series of possibilities can bring a unique and distinct set of problems, not the least of which includes a rabid and scorching case of the dreaded FOMO.

For almost a year, people have been cooped up in their homes, limiting their social interactions to talking-head, on-screen, interview-like conversations with their friends, and it’s perfectly natural to expect them to use Spring Break as a pressure-release valve, even as many states continue to enact restrictions.

But if you’re in recovery, it’s important to be mindful of these special circumstances and the toll they can take on your sobriety and mental health. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has written extensively on the relationship between FOMO and these diseases, and there’s a direct correlation between persistent mental health issues and the threat of relapse.

With that in mind, let’s examine how FOMO can impact recovery and what you can do to cope during this higher-pressure Spring Break Season.

Dealing with FOMO in Recovery

Spring Break plus recovery is the perfect recipe for FOMO (fear of missing out), but the condition is a threat to long-term sobriety throughout the entire year, as well.  It’s very easy for people in recovery to feel like they have their faces pressed up against the glass every day, even if they’re living their best lives, and there are few situations that bring this to bear like Spring Break, where alcohol and other substances are freely used…and practically customary. Data from Carleton University illustrates multiple scenarios in which FOMO is prevalent in everyday life, including daily well-being, self-esteem levels, anxiety-related experiences and more.

Throughout life, FOMO has the potential to change our behavior for the worse, from the way we treat our peers in school, to our willingness to neglect important responsibilities to have a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience with our friends to where we choose to live our lives and raise our families. In recovery, however, FOMO can have even higher stakes and manifest through multiple circumstances, including but not limited to:

  • People, Places and Things – Just because you give up using drugs or alcohol, doesn’t mean you’re giving up the people and environments associated with them. Few people can completely uproot their lives immediately, and permanently remove themselves from the communities in which they started using. Navigating old friendships in old environments with a new identity in recovery can easily lead to FOMO-related pitfalls.
  • Stigma, Shame and Embarrassment – FOMO, recovery and stigma are more closely linked than many realize. While recovery is certainly something to be proud of, not everyone wants to brandish their experiences during every social interaction. They may be afraid of being judged for their past or looked at differently…like they’ve “changed”.
  • The Sense of Otherness – Within the specific context of alcohol recovery, the concept of “not being able” to casually drink creates an inherent sense of “otherness” that can be particularly destabilizing. The urge to feel “normal” or “part of the group” is often where FOMO takes root, and it’s important to recognize these feelings as they come up.

While treatment and ongoing therapy can help you overcome FOMO through behavioral coping mechanisms, it can still be hard to be at ease in every social situation. While the FOMO phenomenon may lead to temporary disruption and difficulty in the lives of others, it can have a lasting impact for those in recovery.

Managing Your Spring Break FOMO in Recovery

Let’s consider some of the factors that drive FOMO so we can identify coping mechanisms:

FOMO? Phone-NO

Let’s face it: social media is designed and built to be a FOMO factory. It’s an environment where people take painstaking efforts to create idyllic representations of their experiences, from the food they eat to the places they go and everything else. This can, and often does, create the illusion that you’re missing out on something.  Limit the time you spend on your phone so you don’t have to look at what other people may or may not be doing.

Put the FOMO on Someone Else

Plan something fun to do with the people in your COVID pod. While there are still safety concerns to be observed during the pandemic, you can still safely and memorably observe a sober Spring Break. Plan a camping trip or a series of day trips…or just use the opportunity to relax and safely be among people—it’s been a while! There are plenty of ways to celebrate that don’t put you in the line of relapse-fire. Make sure to take plenty of pictures!

Turn a Negative into a Positive

While many people may be “over it”, there’s still a pandemic going on and even in places like Fort Lauderdale (one of the drunkest spring break epicenters of the United States), it’s still important to exercise safety restrictions. There are plenty of other people that will be having a “low-key” Spring Break this year because of continued safety concerns—you’re not alone.

Practice Self-Awareness and Mindfulness

There is not one second of the day when you should define yourself or your quality of life by the actions of others. Recognize your FOMO when it comes, and admit that it exists, but don’t dwell on it. When you feel yourself start to be envious of other people’s experience, distract yourself by doing something fun and enriching.

We’re All in the Same Boat…and It’s Not A Party Boat

Your FOMO is nothing to be ashamed of. The pandemic has forced everyone to be envious of someone else in some way, weather it’s because they got to see their friends and family, they weren’t economically impacted, they were able to get an early vaccine or anything else. We’re all chomping at the bit to return to our lives as we knew them, and that stress can be particularly hard for someone in recovery. Just hang in there…you’re doing great.

What Happens When FOMO in Recovery Leads to Relapse?

As a Fort Lauderdale addiction treatment provider,  Recovery Unplugged is acutely aware of the FOMO-related Spring Break pitfalls that can lead to relapse, and we’re here to help. If you’re trying to “Spring Break sober” this year, but still have a set-back, don’t panic or beat yourself up. Have a loved one or someone in your recovery community help you get back into treatment. Recovery Unplugged offers addiction treatment in Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth to provide a full continuum of care, no matter how severe your relapse might have been. We are fully mindful of the FOMO-related pressures that can jeopardize recovery, and we’re here to help you develop the coping skills you need at our Fort Lauderdale addiction treatment center.

Finally, if you or someone you care about are planning on celebrating Spring Break this year, remember the COVID-related health and safety risks that are still out there. Wear masks, exercise social distancing and be respectful to one another. Recovery Unplugged is ready to take care of you if you need help for your substance abuse…but please also remember to take care of each other.

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