Social isolation and anxiety are prolific triggers for people who suffer from alcohol use disorders, and the outbreak of COVID-19 is exacerbating both. Scientists have pointed to a connection between alcoholism and isolation for decades — almost as long as we’ve understood the condition to be a disease. If you’re in recovery and finding it hard to cope with your cravings or feeling hopeless, you are not alone. There are plenty of tips and tricks to help you cope, and technology has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for building connections with people.
Isolation and Alcoholism
Coronavirus has affected almost every aspect of our daily lives, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Uncertainty over jobs, financial insecurity and fear for your health are just a few of the ways this pandemic is creating stress over some of the most fundamental aspects of existence. Most people are struggling to find ways to relax and unwind while cooped up at home with their nearest and dearest — or alone.
Without the opportunity to visit theaters, cinemas, restaurants, gyms and pretty much all fun activities that pass the time, it’s much harder for people with alcohol use disorders to distract themselves. Boredom and loneliness are extremely risky for alcoholics, so it’s integral that you find ways to help yourself when you find yourself slipping into them.
Why Do People Respond to Stress by Drinking?
During times of extreme uncertainty and worry, the body goes into free fall. Your immune system starts overreacting, and stress hormones surge, making you feel anxious and compelled to take action. One of the most simple — and socially acceptable — ways of dealing with these feelings is by drinking alcohol.
Sadly, people with substance use disorders aren’t able to control their intake. Drinking more than the recommended daily limit puts you at serious risk of a variety of cancers and diseases. One of the most dangerous ways it can affect you currently is by compromising your immune system. Heavy drinking puts you at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, which is super-risky in relation to COVID-19.
Ways to Relax Without Alcohol
Addiction is a tricky disease, and most people who suffer from alcoholism strongly feel they would be unable to pass the time without a drink. However, everyone can do much more when they’re sober — and you can use that time in a much more meaningful way. There are a myriad of creative and fun ways to spend your time that don’t require alcohol at all!
Stick to a Routine and Make Plans
You don’t need to be military-strict with yourself to set a basic routine and plan what you’re going to do at least one day ahead. While you might not feel like you’re someone who benefits from routine and structure, it’s actually how our brains are hardwired. When your mind knows what to expect, anxiety is reduced and your need to drink diminishes. Plus, by holding yourself accountable to a plan, you’re more likely to stick to your routine.
The shelter-in-place order has given us all an opportunity to get in touch with our bodies and start taking care of them properly. For someone who has a substance use disorder, this burst of endorphins is the perfect antidote to cravings. If you feel compelled to drink, pick up the weights, switch on a yoga tutorial or put on your running shorts and go for a jog.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our own emotions and feel sad about the bad things that have happened in our lives — but wallowing is a precursor to cravings. When you find yourself slipping into negative thoughts, write down three things you’re grateful for or start a daily gratitude journal. By switching your mindset from focusing on the negative to looking for the positive, you can change your whole attitude to life.
Seek Out Message Boards
If you struggle to socialize with people regularly and isolation is part of your ordinary life, there are still ways of making those vital human connections. The internet is full of people who are passionate about everything, so search for message boards about your favorite people, places and pastimes and get chatting!
Start Making Something of Your Own
While you might see the extra time we have at the moment as a burden, try to frame it as an opportunity. If you’ve ever dreamed of picking up an instrument, learning to paint, getting into baking or making your own podcast or vlog, now is the time!