“Isolation is a central feature of addiction, so when people get into recovery, we very much promote sober, social, healthy connections,” said Frankie Tack, a clinical assistant professor and addiction studies expert at the West Virginia University College of Education and Human Services.
Or as Don B., an 11-year-sober recovering addict in Los Angeles, puts it: “Sobriety requires connection. Addiction equals isolation and sobriety equals connection.”
Don, 64, went to his last in-person meeting on March 16, a meeting he now says he probably shouldn’t have attended. He’s been attending online meetings ever since, but the isolation is wearing on him, even though he feels secure in his sobriety.
“I’ve been laid off. It’s a scary time for all of us,” Don said. “I’m a hugger, and I live alone. I haven’t hugged anyone in weeks, and I won’t be hugging anyone for a time to come. But I have the tools, I believe, to get me through.”
What’s worse, the pervasive feelings of fear and anxiety and loneliness and anger that everyone’s experiencing are risk factors for relapse in a person recovering from substance use, said Dr. Lipi Roy, a clinical assistant professor with NYU Langone Health, in New York City.
“This pandemic is actually going to increase the risk for developing an addiction and the risk of relapse,” Roy said.