Controlling the “Control-ables”

Worried woman sitting on a couch
Written By

How do we function in a world that seems to be spinning out of control?  

For anyone dealing with addiction, either personally or through a loved one, navigating life is already a challenge. Addiction forces one to deal with a total disruption of what was once normal in life, upending relationships, home life, finances—the list goes on. It’s hard to imagine something more disruptive to everyday life than the scourge of addiction. 

At least it was, until now. 

With the global pandemic of COVID 19, any semblance of “normal” life has disappeared. Quite simply, every part of the fabric of our human existence has been turned on its head. Add in the challenge of addiction (which is taking no time off during this crisis), and it’s hard not to feel hopeless. So, what to do?

Control the controlables. 

Okay, “control-ables” isn’t officially a word, and I can’t claim it as my own. When posing the question of how to survive this never-before-seen moment in time to a very wise friend, his answer was that: Control the control-ables. But, during days that yawn ahead in sameness, with support systems undone, daily routines vanished and concerns that never were (do we have enough toilet paper?) crowding our minds, what is even within our control?

More than you’d think. And it’s more important than ever to ask the question, before allowing ourselves to dive down the rabbit hole of worry. The key is focus. We cannot solve this crisis for the world, but we can ensure that we are acting responsibly and trying to be of service to others in whatever way possible. So, what exactly is in your control today? What can you do to insure your health and mental well-being in your immediate world? What can you do to help others? How can you help ease the anxiety of a loved one suffering from addiction?

Since all in-person meetings and social gatherings are off the table, seek out online support. The world is operating in the space of virtual reality. Support groups are now meeting online. Find one that you can attend. In fact, this could be a perfect time to ease a loved one into A.A. or N.A. meetings—no travel, no face-to-face contact, and the ability to leave (which hopefully they won’t) with the tap of a button.

Control what you eat. It’s no secret that American diets are woefully lacking in healthy choices. Since we’re all eating at home, make it a point to introduce healthy foods into your diet. Eat an apple or some fruit daily. Pick up some bagged salad during a grocery run. Even though take-out options are available, it’s unlikely you’ll be doing all take-out all the time. Choose your food wisely. And if you find yourself living in close quarters with an addict, make healthy food choices available to them, too. 

Control your media consumption. Yes, we’re all online, but that doesn’t mean we have to drown in bad news. Excessive consumption of bad news is, well, bad—for your mental health. Limit your exposure to negative programming. 

Reach out to someone else. One of the best ways to elevate your mindset is to reach out to others. FaceTime, Zoom and other apps make it easy to “see” friends and family who may be lonely or anxious and can ease your loneliness and anxiety as well. Schedule meet-ups with those you love, especially those who may know of your loved one’s struggle with addiction and will be a source of support during this time. 

Right now, it does seem the world is spinning out of control. But this, too, shall pass.

Until then, control the controlables—and stay well. 

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at

Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.