5 Tips for Coping With Isolation During Addiction Recovery
In This Article
The road to drug or alcohol addiction recovery is full of challenges, which include the need for physical and emotional isolation. This is true, especially when dealing with a unique combination of mental health and substance use disorders.
If you’re recovering right now, it's essential to understand that isolating yourself during treatment is difficult but healthy. However, prolonged isolation can present problems.
To help you through your toughest moments while in isolation, this post offers five tips that could make all the difference in your journey toward healing.
How Does Addiction Cause Isolation?
Addiction can cause you to isolate yourself from the world. Sometimes, it’s due to guilt and shame associated with your substance use disorder (SUD). Other times, you may feel like nobody understands you or that no one cares about what you’re going through.
The fear of getting criticized or ridiculed by family and friends can also cause isolation. It’s normal to feel disconnected from your previous life and relationships when you stop drinking or using drugs, as these activities often form part of your social circle.
What Is the Isolation of Sobriety?
The isolation of sobriety is the feeling of loneliness and isolation you may experience while in recovery. Some people may not have a strong support network to help them through recovery, leading them to feel more alone in the battle against SUDs.
Physical distancing has compounded this isolation since the pandemic. The lack of access to support groups, sober living houses, and other traditional forms of addiction treatment can make it difficult to connect with your peers in recovery.
What Is the Danger of Isolation in Recovery?
For anyone in an addiction treatment program, isolation can feel like a haven. It can be an escape from uncomfortable feelings and situations that could potentially cause relapse or other complications.
But it’s important to remember that isolation during addiction recovery is only temporary. It’s not a long-term solution for your mental health.
Over time, secluding yourself can worsen mental and emotional health, which can be a significant setback for anyone recovering from drug or alcohol addiction.
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What Are the Symptoms of Isolation?
When you’re feeling isolated during your recovery journey, it can manifest in a few different ways. Some of these include feelings of:
- Emotional numbness
- Difficulty focusing on tasks or conversations
- Overall inability to engage with others
Additionally, isolating may cause you to lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. You might also become more prone to negative thoughts or show signs of depression or anxiety.
How Do You Deal With Isolation in Recovery?
Here are five tips for coping with isolation during your addiction recovery journey:
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1. Connect With Your Support Groups, Sponsor, and Counselors Online
The most crucial aspect of your recovery journey is maintaining healthy relationships with your sponsor, support group, or counselor. Doing so can improve or evolve the nature of your interactions and your relationships.
Staying connected online will ensure you receive support even when you can’t meet in person. Video conferencing or text messaging platforms allow remote meetings and discussions with your peers.
You can use platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime. They enable one-on-one conversations with your sponsor or counselor.
2. Reach Out to Your Support System
An essential part of recovery is having a solid support system of family members, close friends, and loved ones to help you through tough times. Talking openly about how you’re feeling can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
You can also ask your friends and family to check in on you regularly for emotional support and comfort. Doing so can build up your motivation to stay consistent with your recovery.
Regular check-ins with them will also give you the courage to avoid any triggers or temptations that could lead to relapse.
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3. Arrange and Participate in Social Events Online
While it might not be the same as being as socializing in person, staying connected virtually is still beneficial for your mental health. Plus, there are many ways you can have fun and interact with others online to overcome isolation.
You can use WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Houseparty, or any other video chatting software. You can:
- Invite your sober and supportive friends to virtual dinners, movie nights, game nights, or any other social events
- Use online streaming services for group music listening sessions or film screenings
- Arrange online yoga classes with an instructor or a friend
- Play online games together like Words With Friends, Pictionary, trivia games, etc.
4. Stay Active and Healthy
One of the best ways to prevent isolation during recovery is to stay active and healthy. Exercising helps improve your physical and mental health but also distracts from the monotony of self-isolating.
The endorphins your body releases will make you feel better naturally. Eating and sleeping properly will also help keep your body and mind in shape to manage your HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired) emotions.
You don’t have to go to a gym to stay fit—you can find many exercises online and do them from home. Yoga, for instance, is an excellent way to manage stress and anxiety. Plenty of tutorials also don’t require any special equipment.
5. Learn Something New
Staying in isolation doesn’t have to be unproductive. Learning something new gives purpose to your days and can improve your self-esteem.
Some of the things you can do include:
- Playing an instrument
- Playing sports
- Taking online classes from a university
- Study free tutorials on YouTube
- Practicing mindfulness exercises
Learning new things is a great way to keep busy when you have nothing to do. It reduces feeling isolated from the world.
What Are The Three P's in Addiction Recovery?
The three P's are vital for those dealing with recovery and co-existing mental health disorders. These are:
You need the three P's in your addiction recovery to achieve and sustain sobriety. They can provide you with balance, stability, and joy during this difficult time, eventually building a life of hope and positivity.
Perseverance is the belief in yourself that no matter how hard things get, you'll keep going. This mindset during recovery is essential as it helps motivate and encourage you when times get tough.
Practice means taking action every day to move closer to your goals. This includes attending support group meetings, avoiding triggers, and following your aftercare plan. By practicing what you learn in your recovery program, you can ensure it becomes part of your lifestyle.
Having a purpose is about discovering what truly motivates you to stay sober. It includes finding meaning in your recovery, setting new goals and dreams for your future, and believing in yourself again. Establishing a sense of purpose directs your life and helps you stay on track.
Can You Feel Lost in Early Sobriety?
Yes, it’s normal to feel lost in early sobriety, especially when dealing with mental illness alongside addiction. This feeling comes up as you adjust to not drinking or using drugs and explore life without them.
It can be difficult to understand who you are outside of your addiction and how to start living a fulfilling life without substances. You may feel overwhelmed, confused, anxious, and scared, and that’s okay. These feelings are temporary, and relearning how to be sober takes time.
How Do You Overcome Extreme Isolation?
Besides the tips mentioned above, here are some additional strategies you can use to overcome extreme isolation:
- Talk to a counselor or therapist about your experiences: They can help explore your feelings and provide personalized tools to cope with them.
- Connect with sobriety support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): The members of AA understand what you’re going through and can offer valuable advice and encouragement.
- Find online support groups that focus on recovery from addiction or extreme isolation: Helpful resources like Recovery.org and SMART Recovery are available online to help you manage your feelings and stay connected with others who understand.
- Involve family members to provide a smooth transition from isolation to recovery: Having the support of loved ones can be extremely beneficial when overcoming extreme isolation.
- Seek volunteer opportunities in your community: These include mentoring or working at a local charity to give back and build connections with those around you.
- Explore nature: Take some time outdoors and appreciate nature’s beauty. It can be therapeutic and calming, even if just a short walk around the block.
Isolation can be a difficult part of recovering from addiction. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be unbearable. Follow the tips outlined in this article to start overcoming extreme isolation and loneliness.
Involve your friends and family, stay active and healthy, learn something new, and take advantage of the support systems available to you. It’s also important to remember that recovery takes time, so don’t be discouraged if you initially feel lost.
Finally, remember the three Ps to help you find balance and joy in your sobriety. You can build a meaningful life in recovery with these strategies.
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- Roe et al. “Isolation, Solitude and Social Distancing for People Who Use Drugs: An Ethnographic Perspective.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2021.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Loneliness and Social Isolation — Tips for Staying Connected.” National Institute on Aging, 2021.
- Tulane University. “Understanding the Effects of Social Isolation on Mental Health.” School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 2020.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. “5 Stages of Treatment.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2005.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. “How to cope with the stress of social isolation.” NIH MedlinePlus Magazine, 2021.
- “60 Digital Resources for Addressing Substance Use Disorders, Addiction and Recovery.” Online MSW Programs, 2020.