Although many of the nationwide stay-at-home orders may soon be coming to an end, the new coronavirus remains a very real threat that is easily spread from person to person. As a result, local and national government officials are still recommending that people maintain strict social distancing practices. While this may be good news for infection rates, it’s also bad news for people in recovery who have been dealing with loneliness and isolation for weeks already.
Does Social Distancing Contribute to Addiction Issues?
According to Psychology Today, research shows us that most humans (even introverted ones) have a strong desire to stay connected to people.1 Therefore, while sheltering in place and social distancing, all of us need to connect with other people and feed our basic human need to belong.
For individuals who are recovering from addiction, social distancing can contribute to physical and mental health issues, such as relapse or anxiety. Things like not knowing how long social distancing and a nationwide shutdown will last, if you or your loved ones will get sick, or if you’ll be able to keep your job can all contribute to mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
It’s important to remember that social distancing isn’t the same as social isolation, but extended periods of quarantine can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and boredom, all of which are very dangerous mental states for people in recovery. In this type of climate, someone with a previous substance use disorder may be more likely to resort to misusing drugs or alcohol to cope.
Why is Social Connection Important in Addiction Recovery?
Addiction is commonly described as a disease of isolation. Not surprisingly, social connection and peer support are absolutely critical for people in recovery.2
- It provides support and motivation to stay sober and reduces relapse rates.
- It encourages social, emotional, and physical healing.
- It teaches us how to be emotionally available for others.
- It allows us to build community and establish relationships.
- It alleviates feelings of loneliness, stress, isolation, depression, and negative thinking and increases happiness.
- It enhances self-esteem, hope, empathy, and acceptance.
- It provides physical health benefits, including a stronger immune system, decreased inflammation, reduced risk for dementia, and longer life overall.
How to Stay Connected While Social Distancing
If you’re in recovery and you are searching for ways to stay connected with sober friends and family during this time of social distancing, here are eight great ways to do it.
- Keep up with your sponsor or peer mentor regularly.
Although you may not be able to attend your normal recovery support group meeting for several more weeks, you can still check in with your sponsor several times a week to maintain a sense of sober community, accountability, and talk through negative emotions associated with loneliness. Your sponsor may also be able to spot any early signs of relapse and help you make lifestyle changes before things take a turn for the worst.
- Have dinner with friends and family virtually.
Sharing a meal will always be a great way to connect with others and there are creative ways to do so even while social distancing. Use apps like Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Duo, or Zoom to prepare and share a meal with friends or family. You can make this even more fun by agreeing on a new recipe that you can all try together. Collaborate as you cook your meal and then enjoy lively conversation while you eat.
- Start each day with coffee and friends.
If you’ve been missing those regular coffee dates with friends, consider asking a friend to “meet” you for coffee a few times a week in the morning. Simply Facetiming at your kitchen table with a hot cup of coffee as you catch up with a friend can make things feel more normal.
- Have a virtual movie night.
Pop some popcorn and use an app like Netflix Party to host a virtual movie night with friends or family. Catch up on some of the latest and greatest films together as you enjoy seeing and hearing everyone else’s reactions. It will almost feel like they are sitting right there with you in your living room.
- Check-in with friends for a weekly group workout.
Staying physically active is especially important during this time of social isolation, but just because we are all social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t work out together. Schedule a day and time each week to Zoom with your pals and complete a workout routine. This is a great way to spend time with loved ones while also staying accountable to your health and fitness goals. There are also several great exercises you can use to curb addiction cravings.
- Attend a virtual class or event.
Lots of Instagram influencers are hosting virtual events, museums are offering virtual tours, and organizations are offering educational lectures or live video streams. It takes a little digging to find these classes and events, but they are out there and many of them are completely free!
- Host an online storytime for the kids.
If you have children or your siblings or friends do, consider hosting an online storytime via Facebook live. All you need is a computer, a kid-friendly book, and an excited audience. Your friends with little ones will also be forever thankful to you for giving them a few moments of peace while you entertain their kids.
- Start a book club with friends.
If you and your friends like to read, consider starting a book club and reading a book together. You can meet weekly via Zoom to discuss the chapters you’ve read and make predictions about the plot or characters.
Once something more similar to “normal” public life resumes, you may be able to pursue more traditional ways of peer connection in recovery. Some of the best ways to connect with others in recovery include:
- Regularly attending community recovery groups (12-Step fellowships, LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, Celebrate Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, etc.)
- Networking with people in your community who support sobriety and have similar professional goals
- Participating in recreational activities like team sports with other sober people
Online Rehab and In-Person IOP for People With Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling to deal with a substance use disorder amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, help is available. Online rehab is a great option for those who are uncomfortable attending in-person rehab at this time.
Alternatively, our traditional addiction treatment programs and facilities have adjusted the intake process for new clients, prioritized new daily cleaning and disinfecting routines, and modified treatment methods used to protect the health and safety of all our clients and staff.
If you’d like more information about outpatient rehab, sober living programs, or certified peer recovery support, please call (512) 363-5914 to speak with a representative at Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today.