Combating Loneliness in Recovery During the Time of COVID-19

Dr. John Biroc

Loneliness is a key trigger for drug use and relapse, which presents a major challenge for people in recovery and at drug rehab who are staying inside and practicing social distancing in the time of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In a recent feature aired on ABC 10 in Sacramento, Dr. John Biroc — a therapist at Dana Point Rehab Campus — discussed ways those in recovery can combat loneliness and stay abstinent during the time of COVID-19.

Here’s a look at Dr. Biroc’s latest advice on how to cope with social distancing while in recovery, along with other steps you can take to stay sober during this time.

Stay Busy and Occupied

Feelings of loneliness and isolation are common among those who struggle with addiction, even before taking social distancing into account. A typical recovery program at drug rehab includes group counseling, group therapy, and 12-step support groups to help patients connect with peers and work toward overcoming loneliness and isolation. Now, in the time of COVID-19, patients are socially separated, which presents a new challenge to both patients and the recovery centers supporting them in their journey to achieving long-term abstinence.

Dr. Biroc explains that being alone is not the same as being lonely. The key to staying sober and preventing boredom while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic is to stay busy and productive with enjoyable activities such as art, reading, television, and social media. Making social connections while in quarantine, isolation, or while practicing social distancing is easier now than ever before thanks to apps like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and others that keep us connected to our friends and loved ones.

While it may be normal to feel some anxiety, worry, fear, concern, anger, and boredom related to COVID-19, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone else is experiencing these emotions too, to some degree. However, staying busy and informed can give you the empowerment you need to maintain good health and sobriety during this worldwide pandemic.

Why Do People Use Drugs and Alcohol to Fight Loneliness?

A study published in the International Journal of High Risk Behaviors and Addiction suggests that people who abuse drugs tend to experience stronger feelings of loneliness than their non-drug-using counterparts, which is why most addiction treatment programs are designed to address loneliness.

People who feel lonely will often turn to drugs and alcohol to escape this emotion and to experience a state of euphoria that distracts them from loneliness. In fact, many people who suffer from negative emotions and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety will turn to drugs and alcohol with hopes of escaping and numbing their feelings. Since addiction and mental health commonly go hand in hand, many drug rehab centers offer dual diagnosis therapy to help patients recover from both addiction and mental illness at the same time.

Self-Care Tips for Those in Recovery During Social Distancing

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently released a tip sheet for those in recovery who are doing their best to stay sober and avoid relapse while social distancing during the time of COVID-19. SAMHSA suggests staying up to date on events surrounding COVID-19 while limiting the time you spend listening to or watching the news because exposure to the media can increase worry and anxiety. SAMHSA also suggests looking to credible sources such as the WHO and CDC when reading about COVID-19 to reduce exposure to conspiracy theories and other misinformation that may only exacerbate anxiety.

Other tips those in recovery can practice while social distancing include:

  • Educating yourself about how COVID-19 works, such as staying on top of the latest findings, symptoms, and trends related to the virus
  • Working with your employer to find ways to reduce financial stress
  • Staying in touch with your doctor and recovery team at drug rehab
  • Using practical ways to cope and relax (such as exercise, meditation, deep breathing)
  • Connecting with others regularly by phone, text, email, social media, and video chat

Recovering From Addiction at Dana Point Rehab Campus

Dana Point Rehab Campus offers detox and therapy in a safe and therapeutic inpatient residential rehab environment where patients can relax as they recover from addiction. Contact us today at 949.569.7517 to learn more about our detox and inpatient residential rehab programs for drug dependence and addiction.