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Social Isolation and the Challenges to Recovery

Apr 6, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting us in a unique situation as a country where social isolation has become the norm for millions of us, including people who are working on their recovery. As there is no precedent for these circumstances, any data about a pandemic’s impact on substance use does not exist. What we can do is look at the ways social isolation may be changing the lives of people in recovery, how it’s creating a new set of challenges at this time, and introduce some ways someone in recovery at home can increase their chances of avoiding relapse.

Social isolation ordered by local and state governments during the COVID-19 outbreak may present numerous challenges to a person currently in recovery. Protecting recovery time while isolated at home can come from regularly attending online 12-Step meetings, connecting with friends and family daily through video chats, and creating routines to manage levels of stress and anxiety daily through meditation or movement. If you feel overwhelmed by your circumstances in isolation and feel your recovery is threatened, contacting your doctor or treatment specialists is a valuable next step.

The seemingly endless amount of time in social isolation can be adding to the challenges of anyone in the midst of working on their recovery right now. With the passing of each day and week, the struggle to remain centered can feel like a monumental task. Let’s give some attention today to the challenges to recovery in social isolation, whether obvious or unexpected, and some helpful and healthy ways to respond.

Challenge: Social isolation cancels valuable addiction meetings.

Solution: Find meetings online or by phone.

With the cancelation of virtually everything happening in person due to the threat of spreading the virus, much of our society has moved live meetings and events to online where virtual meetings take place. This means you can be at home and still attend a recovery meeting and connect with peers from around your community, your state, or around the country. Using a phone, laptop, or other device allows you to join others regularly in continuing to work on recovery for drug or alcohol addiction, maintain and grow existing relationships, and begin new relationships. Offering to host your own recovery meeting online is also a great way to be of service to others.

Challenge: Added stress and anxiety can undermine our recovery.

Solution: Turn to ways to manage or reduce stress and anxiety can help us stay focused on recovery.

The impact of extended social distancing can affect your mental health, and the impact on you can look different day to day. If we are without a solution to the problem of addiction, we may fall victim to fear, anger, or worry, all of which can be detrimental to recovery. Choosing activities to devote a set amount of time to daily with known benefits to you, such as prayer, meditation or some form of movement, can be some of the ways to manage your mental health through the uncertainty of a national crisis.

Challenge: Disconnection can lead to misusing drugs or alcohol again.

Solution: Find ways to remain connected with friends, family, and acquaintances.

While inviting people to your home or visiting friends is not an option right now, connecting with others can be done in a variety of ways. This human connection is extremely valuable, especially now as many of us are confined to our homes. Online social media sites offer an opportunity to see what’s going on in your community and beyond, but simply checking out people’s posts and commenting is not the same as having a conversation. Many platforms, including Facebook, Skype, and Zoom, offer users a chance to host video chats where a meaningful exchange can take place, anywhere from a few minutes to well over an hour. Designating some helpful people in your life to renew your connection in this way can be a stabilizing force in a chaotic time. You can also choose to be the helpful, centered person in someone else’s life, which may have an even greater benefit.

Challenge: The access to a variety of substances to misuse is overwhelming.

Solution: Contact a doctor or a treatment specialist to discuss next steps.

For someone without the proper recovery tools, coping with this disaster in a confined space may make drug or alcohol use more likely in your life. While access to the drug you received treatment for abusing may have ended, the appeal to use other substances within reach, even prescriptions of your own or someone in the family, can be high during a stressful time. Contacting a treatment facility that offers co-occurring mental health interventions can be a valuable step in reducing the harm to yourself by getting into treatment quickly.


Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-875-1558.

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