As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unwind, the world has locked down, millions of people have been laid-off, and many have been constrained to stay at home orders. Practicing social distancing isn’t natural, and it is affecting one distinct group hard. Individuals recovering from substance use disorder have found it challenging to stay sober with their routine eradicated, and many have ended up relapsing during the isolation. 

A relapse occurs when an individual who has recovered from substance use disorder suddenly breaks their period of abstinence. Cravings can be triggered by feelings of boredom, anxiety, and loneliness. Studies have shown the relationship between addiction and isolation over the years, proving that isolation leads to more acute treatment consequences. 

Now the world is dealing with coronavirus incorporating into those statistics. Where those individuals in recovery would typically consume their day attending support groups, they’re now forced to be isolated at home without the support of peers sharing the same experiences. 

These moments make it tempting to start using again because nobody is around, right? However, there are new support systems accessible to those in recovery. Telehealth treatment options are available to anyone with access to a computer or smartphone.

The ability to remain sober – even during this pandemic – is more achievable than ever. Understanding the signs and symptoms and what to do if triggers occur, can help mitigate a full relapse. 

Signs of Relapse During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Some physical signs of relapse include:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Poor eating 
  • Sleeping problems
  • Regularly lying
  • Bottling up emotions
  • Skipping virtual support meetings
  • Interacting with previous friends who still use

Some common triggers of relapse during a pandemic include:

  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Uncertainty
  • Loneliness during isolation
  • Traumatic memories 
  • Financial issues
  • Experiencing mental illness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Strained relationships with family
  • Grieving the death of a loved one

Relapses are frequent through the substance abuse recovery process that it’s been estimated that up to 60% of patients in recovery relapse at least once before achieving sobriety. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, some individuals are isolating at home alone, while others are choosing to isolate themselves from their families. Family members living with a recovering substance addict must know the warning signs of relapse and what to do if it does occur. 

Understanding the signs and triggers that could lead to relapse are vital in understanding those feelings and knowing what to do when recognizing them.

4 Ways To Prevent A Relapse 

During this coronavirus pandemic, individuals in recovery are either servicing their sobriety or their relapse.

Here are four ways to help prevent relapse during these isolated times:

1 – Filling In Empty Time Slots

Part of becoming and remaining sober means creating healthy new lifestyle changes. However, isolation can disrupt a positive wellness routine. An interruption in daily routines will usually disrupt your emotional stability, also. Therefore, it is vital to learn ways to resist the new imbalance you’re experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic, especially the ones recovering from substance addiction. Make sure that you balance your available time with activities that help with your recovery. Consequently, you can stay focused during isolation.

Practicing art, music, reading, or exercise are all positive habits to help pass the time. Even reaching out to a friend in need can divert you from any loneliness feelings. Regardless, don’t allow yourself too much downtime. Relaxing does feel good, but too much boredom can leave any person susceptible to relapse.

2 – Become Aware Of Your Triggers

While the world practices social distancing, many recovering from substance use disorder are suffering a familiar feeling of their past, isolation. Unfortunately, isolation is one of the most significant causes to trigger a relapse. Also, being isolated in toxic family situations can complicate the problematic aspects of the global stay at home orders. 

Fortunately, there are methods you can practice to resist the adverse effects of isolation, which can help prevent relapse during the coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, it must begin with a precise perception of what triggers you to use.

3 – Utilizing Digital Communication

Zoom is a free app and website which makes any online support group affordable and accessible. The growth of Zoom exploded the moment the coronavirus started spreading throughout the U.S. After the national suspension of public gatherings; online Zoom meetings became the only option individuals had to continue connecting with their peers.

The coronavirus pandemic gave Zoom the boost required to become a vital tool for the online recovery environment. Zoom hosts online virtual NA and AA meetings daily while providing the outlet, connection, and accountability that is substantially comparable to in-person group meetings. Various other digital platforms also can be used to communicate with others in the sober community. There are hundreds of forums and blogs available online that allow individuals in recovery the ability to connect and support each other during these isolating times.

4 – Staying Accountable

The most important thing to do when you’re isolated in recovery is to stay accountable to someone other than yourself via telephone, text, or through some other means of communication.

Individuals in recovery know that being alone is difficult. It is vital to have a few reliable people that you can contact daily, whether it is a friend, sponsor, family member, counselor, or therapist who can get you the support you need.

With mindfulness, strategic preparation, constant communication, and accountability, preventing relapse during this pandemic is attainable.

Are You or A Loved One Trying To Avoid Relapse?

If you or a loved one is recovering from substance addiction and finding it challenging to remain sober, know that these temptations aren’t uncommon. Treatment specialists recommend individuals in recovery take care of themselves by practicing daily routines like exercising, eating healthy, consistent sleep routines, and keeping in touch with family and friends.

Discovery Institute can help individuals to continue achieving sobriety during this coronavirus outbreak. If you or a loved one has experienced a relapse during isolation, contact our addiction treatment specialists immediately to get the help needed to get back on track.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.