Alcoholism is often referred to as a “disease of isolation.” While battling it, a person may often socially disengage and retreat from others, feeling lonely and unwanted. And during recovery, figuring out how to cope with moments of isolation, or feeling isolated, becomes a major part of the journey.
Social support is critical for someone recovering from alcohol addiction. It’s one of the greatest predictors of success. Research has long shown that those who regularly attend their support groups are far more likely to overcome their addiction than those who don’t. One study of nearly 200 juveniles in recovery found that those who were socially estranged were significantly more likely to relapse, become incarcerated, or commit a violent crime.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, those who are on a recovery journey may now feel an added layer of isolation, as social distancing and state-ordered lockdowns are enforced. If you’re one of those people, here are some tips to help you work through isolation during these challenging times.
Online group meetings have been in place for years. Some who have already used these platforms may transition easily into an online meeting environment. If you’re one of these people, make it a point to welcome those who are new to it and may be struggling with the new format either by encouraging them to continue or helping them with technology issues.
Above all, whether you’re comfortable with virtual meetings or not, it’s important to keep attending meetings. If your group has temporarily dissolved, find out where some members went and work with other groups, if needed. Don’t stay idle. Stay in contact with those who have helped you. They need you, too. And remember, a virtual touch is better than nothing at all.
If part of your recovery path involves a mental health professional, use telehealth resources to connect with them. If you were in the process of finding a therapist when the pandemic started but haven’t found one, online tools like SonderMind can help match you with the right provider. Just as it’s important to stay in touch with your support group, maintaining or initiating your connection with your mental health provider is equally important.
Some find the COVID-19 pandemic has created more downtime for them. If your schedule is a little lighter, use the extra time to your advantage. During these times, you may also find that you’re online more. That means resources such as books, articles, other forums, and useful information is right there at your fingertips.
Subscribe to or check in with blogs, read that book you’ve been meaning to read, and gather more insights that nurture you personally. Then, when you check back in with your support system, share what you’ve learned. Your insights can be a foundation for future discussions and meetings that could bring members of the group even closer together – even though they are socially distanced today.
It’s also a great time to learn about health, nutrition, and exercise programs. Exercise increases endorphins, and many trainers and employees of shuttered gyms are now offering online classes to teach you about new ways to exercise, eat, and stay healthy.
It doesn’t have to be a no-pain, no-gain affair either. That five-minute relaxing yoga routine could do wonders. You could also learn to practice meditation and initiate other positive changes. These new experiences may also expose you to new social circles. And maybe you can also use what you’ve learned to initiate exercise and health initiatives for your support group when everyone gets back together.
Above all, remember this unprecedented time is temporary. You will have face-to-face contact with your support system again in the near future. And by staying in contact now, you’re not only helping yourself, but you’re also supporting others on their path to recovery.