By Madeline Kelly
This time of national crisis can be confusing, scary, and quite lonely. We are being advised to practice social distancing, avoid being in groups of people, and stay home as much as possible. This means an increase in time spent alone – an especially difficult situation for those struggling with addiction.
Isolation is addiction’s best friend. In fact, the chemistry in our brains tells us that attachment plays a large role in addictive behavior. When we develop long-term relationships and experience moments of bonding, our brains release chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine. These chemicals make us feel good, rewarded, energetic, excited, and connected with those we love. These same chemicals come rushing through the brain in high doses when a person abuses drugs, misuses alcohol, or binge eats. Because of this, we know that isolation and loneliness are often triggers for relapse.
So how can you help combat loneliness during this time of social isolation?
#1. Identify the Feeling of Loneliness
We are wired for connection and belonging. When this is lacking, we may notice feelings of shame creeping in. For many, shame brings about an urge to retreat from our relationships, hide, protect ourselves with defensiveness, and numb the discomfort. It is important to understand that loneliness is a natural, normal human emotion. We must be aware of signs we are beginning to experience loneliness and then remind ourselves it is not a shameful emotion.
#2. Stay Connected Through Phone or Video
Although it’s not the same as in-person contact, try to maintain as much of your typical social contact through the use of technology. Intentionally stay in contact with family, friends, and people within your support network. Many support group meetings have transitioned to online, which can serve as an alternative to your usual meetings.
#3. Try Something New
New experiences stimulate the brain and produce those rewarding chemicals! Engage in a new, healthy hobby or activity. Maybe this is displaying a random act of kindness, exploring a new spot in nature, gathering old photos and making a scrapbook, or trying a new exercise.
#4. Create a Sense of Security and Warmth
Anything that activates your five senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch) can have a grounding, calming, and soothing effect. Physical warmth is associated with attachment and bonding and can actually mimic social warmth. Getting cozy under warm blankets, lighting a candle, sipping hot tea or coffee, and taking a warm bath are all examples of self-soothing techniques that create a sense of security and warmth.
#5. Engage in Prayer and Meditation
We are connected to one another by a power greater than ourselves. When we are feeling lonely, we can find comfort in knowing that we belong to our Heavenly Father. As His sons and daughters, we share a common purpose and design. We are called to know, love, and serve God (Deuteronomy 11:13). We have the opportunity to intentionally use our alone time to seek Him. In James 4:8 we hear “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Social distancing doesn’t mean we need to withdraw, isolate, or struggle alone. We need to draw each other in now, more than ever. Addiction is still highly stigmatized, making it especially difficult to talk about. If you are battling an addiction, wondering how you can better support a loved one with addiction, experiencing loneliness or isolation, I encourage you to seek counseling services during this particularly challenging time. The staff at Christian Family Solutions is equipped to provide video counseling and trained in treating individuals with addiction and mental health concerns.
Do you or a loved one need counseling help? To learn more about our video counseling services, please click here. You can also get to know our counselors by visiting our “Connect With Your Provider” page. Please click on each provider’s picture to read their bio and watch their video bio. Appointments with our counselors can be conveniently requested online through our Request an Appointment page.