COVID life and addiction: What to know and how to act

During this unique period in our history, there’s one thing we are all feeling keenly: isolation.

COVID-19 has forced us to distance ourselves from others in a way we’ve never been compelled to before. And for many of us, this has revealed destructive tendencies that can be hard to deal with.

The importance of appreciating this can’t be overstated where addiction is concerned. From the outside, the media paints addiction incorrectly. It’s often glamorised or portrayed only in the most extreme ways, with little attention tending to be given to the shades of grey that form the spiral into dependency and self-abuse. 

The truth of addiction is more gradual – and more private. It’s a personal path into hell that we tread step by step, starting with the use of drugs, alcohol or addictive activities like sex or gambling as coping mechanisms. It’s a slippery downward route, and it’s one many adults don’t realise they’re on until it’s too late to stop. 

How privacy enables addiction

One of the most important ways isolation affects addiction is in leaving your destructive habits unchecked. Whether it’s through fear of being ‘caught out’ by friends or the knowledge you can’t afford to go into work with a hangover, our social connections and peers tend to keep us largely in check. The same goes for our friends, too; they care for us and are quick to notice if we look to be in trouble.

With COVID-19 having so many of us locked in the house and working remotely, those natural and healthy checks on our behaviour have largely gone. Problem drinking has surged. After all, what’s the trouble when we can drink our wine on a Sunday evening and Zoom call into work in our pyjamas at 9 AM? 

You probably know plenty of girlfriends and more who have made a joke about just that! We’re all feeling the pressure and one of the first ways we express our worries is through a laugh or two with those we trust. Behind that levity, however, lies a stark reality: we’re lonelier, more troubled and many of us are falling into substance misuse or full-blown addiction as a way to cope.

The incredible value of connections

Because of this, it’s important now more than ever to be there for each other. Whether your colleagues and peers, girlfriends or partners, it’s vital you appreciate just how much you matter – and how much they matter to you.

One person can be all it takes to catch someone before they fall into substance misuse and addiction. The care and attention of a comforting and understanding ear during a tough time can be enough to make you or a loved one open up and talk, and the same goes for you too. 

That means honesty, even if it’s uncomfortable. Studies have long shown us that the more connected a person is to caring people, the less likely they are to develop addiction – or to spiral down further after prolonged substance misuse. 

Journaling: your secret weapon

There’s one more secret weapon we wanted to share with you today: journaling. One of the hallmarks of COVID life is that we’re all shaken up; our routines are out the window and many of us are living at night!

This is one of the ways in which substance misuse can creep in. While it’s fun at first, having no routine and no rhythm to your life invariably leads to depressive episodes and self-destruction.

Knowing this, journaling can be extremely effective in keeping you above water. Simply writing down your day, every day, can give you a clear trail to review when things go bad. Try it for a week: all you need to do is write down when you got up and went to bed, and to outline roughly what you did during the day.

If you have a tough period and drink a little too much, you can look back on your week – and chances are you’ll find something that led to that behaviour. In many cases, it’s as simple and subtle as missing your alarm or eating poor food that led to a binge or an all-night Netflix session.

We hope this helps

It’s tough out there, and it’s our sincere wish that you found this article useful. This is an issue many are feeling across the country; whether you’re looking at online rehab or are hoping to stop a troubling trend of drinking at home, it’s better to act sooner rather than later. Stay safe and be well!