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Coping With Isolation

Four tips for those managing addiction during the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo by Shane on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Shane on Unsplash

Everyone is struggling to develop new skills and options for managing day-to-day life in these trying times. The unknown factors and the known issues with the coronavirus create a lot of stress, challenges, and uncertainty about what to do.

Most group activities throughout the country, and especially in the larger cities throughout the USA and abroad, have been restricted or eliminated. In some areas, this is more of a voluntary choice at this time, while in others, it is mandatory.

Regardless of the voluntary or mandatory isolation and social distancing requirements, the lack of group meetings can be very challenging for those in addiction or alcohol recovery programs. It is also difficult for those working with addiction recovery, such as counselors or therapists, or those waiting to get into addiction recovery in-patient or out-patient treatment programs.

While self-isolation is a challenge for most people, it often poses additional issues for those in recovery. Not only is there the same sense of being disconnected as others are experiencing, but this is often a trigger for alcohol or substance abuse. Coupling this isolation from friends and family and a lack of routine can be particularly problematic. Boredom and the loss of accountability in going into work are also additional issues that can trigger a relapse and lead to increasingly risky behavior or relapse.

To help address the boredom, stress, and social isolation that is a part of life during the COVID-19, here are some practical tips for those self-isolating or on work-at-home or shelter-in-place orders:

  • Look for online meetings – many recovery groups, including 12-Step Programs, have moved to an online format. This allows group members or new people interested in joining a recovery group to do so from the safety of their own homes. Members can use smartphones, tablets, or computers to attend live meetings or to gain access to recorded information, print information, or online articles and blogs.
  • Reach out to your support network – this is a time to connect with those around you through phone calls, emails, text messages, or even video chats through programs like Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or any of the other free apps that provide live streaming and audio. Set regular times to reach out and talk about stressors, challenges, and issues, timing them throughout the day to avoid long periods where you feel more isolated and alone.
  • Stay active – get outside if you are physically able to do so and go for a walk, maintaining social distancing from everyone you meet. If you can't get out for a walk, look on social media for free workout videos, yoga classes, and even fun dance classes. Physical exercise promotes relaxation of both the body and the mind, and it can also be helpful for those who are having difficulty in getting to sleep at night due to lack of physical exercise.
  • Use social media wisely – there is a lot of misinformation on social media. If you are overwhelmed with negative information in your feed, focus on just visiting with friends in groups that are positive, supportive, and geared towards helping each other rather than creating more confusion and stress.

This is not a time to be emotionally isolated. Proactively reach out to those around you and rely on virtual interactions and support if you experience thoughts of alcohol or drug use.

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