The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a new sense of isolation for most people across the country. Lockdown and restrictions regarding where we could go as well as when and how we could do certain activities forced us to stay home and distance ourselves from others for long periods of time. Even before the pandemic, there was a group of individuals who would isolate themselves for other reasons. Self isolation in recovery has many root causes and is probably based in the underlying reason for the addiction itself.
A Growing Epidemic
Prior to the pandemic, there was already a growing epidemic in the US. A rising addiction rate and a growth in deaths caused by drug overdose, alcohol abuse, and suicide have been and continue to be a serious concern. Over one million people in the US have died in the past decade from drugs, alcohol, and suicide. As a result, life expectancy decreased in 2017 for the time in 20 years. The combined death rate for drugs, alcohol, and suicide increased six percent from 2016 to 2017, rising to 46.6 deaths per 100,000 people. Many of these individuals died in isolation.
A Disease of Isolation
Addiction is often referred to as a disease of isolation. One theory for this is that people who are addicted want to be alone. Their desire may stem from an inability to connect with other people, either because of an attachment disorder or some other mental health concern. They tend to feel a sense of disconnect, even in a room crowded with other people.
Their sense of isolation could be one of the reasons they became addicted, as they turned to drugs or alcohol to help them manage their stress and deal with things that happen in their lives rather than turning to another human being. In the same manner, addiction can destroy an individual’s ability to develop a healthy relationship and many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol end up destroying friendships and marriages because of their substance use and reckless behavior.
When a person is addicted, they may believe that their only friend or ally is the drug or alcohol itself. They tend to develop an emotional attachment to the addictive substance rather than to other people. Distancing from other humans is something of a defensive measure, to ensure that the addiction can continue without being threatened by another individual.
Worsened Physical and Mental Health
Recent studies have shown that a feeling of loneliness is related to worse mental and physical health. The results of the research also show that loneliness has a direct relationship with low self-esteem, low self-confidence, high risk behaviors, anxiety, tension, depression, and alcohol and drug abuse. Substance abuse may be linked to isolation and loneliness as being a way out of the negative feelings. The individual acquires a new feeling of security while using drugs or alcohol, satisfying their psychological and emotional needs. The study also indicated a greater sense of familial loneliness in those addicted to drugs.
Stigma and a Sense of Shame
While addiction may stem from a sense of isolation, a conscious desire to be separated from other people, self isolation may come out of a sense of shame and the stigma around drug and alcohol addiction, even in recovery. As the individual loses the support of their family and friends, they may fall deeper into isolation.
Addiction to drugs or alcohol is starting to be recognized as a chronic disease but it is still viewed by some as being the individual’s fault or a result of a lack of will power. Overcoming that misconception can be extremely helpful to the individual in recovery who needs to move forward with their lives in a positive way.
Addiction and Mental Health Support for Men
At PACE Recovery, we support you through your addiction treatment and recovery. We optimize your recovery success with integrated treatment that will address both your addiction to drugs or alcohol and your mental health issues. We address your whole person, including your spiritual, medical, psychosocial, and relational facets.
The professionals at PACE understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health and addiction services, contact our Admissions team.