In the age of information and social media, it can feel like we are constantly connecting with others and catching up with online friends. Yet as a world, as a nation, and as individuals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have recently faced real isolation and disconnection from people. Although we are still interacting online, those interactions make apparent the value in real human to human connection, and connection with nature, our passions and hobbies, our pets, work, and more. It also calls into question the kinds of relationships we need in order to feel a deep sense of fulfillment and belonging.
Many individuals suffering from addiction may know too well this sensation of disconnect as addiction can often be a very isolating, lonely disease. With this in mind, viewing connection as the opposite of addiction can help transform our ideas about the disease, how to treat it, and what the recovery process can look like.
Creating Healthy Connections
One of the prominent thought leaders on this subject is the British writer Johann Hari, who wrote Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. He gave an influential TEDtalk with over 16.5 million views on the topic of changing stigmatized ideas about addiction. He explains how, as human beings, we have an innate need to bond. When we are healthy and happy, we are able to bond and connect with each other. But if for some reason an individual cannot do that—because of varying factors such as trauma, isolation, or other life circumstances—the individual will still have that intense need to bond with something. They may end up using drugs or alcohol for relief if they don’t fulfill their need for closeness with other people.
Building healthy bonds is crucial for mental health and well-being. It is also vital to identify and let go of unhealthy relationships that may be causing you to feel disconnected. Sometimes breaking these ties will help open new opportunities for more healthy connections. Using connection as a powerful tool against addiction may help us better understand why some people begin turning to substance use and how we can help overcome it.
More Than Sobriety
In the treatment process, having a strong sense of community can help individuals build a sense of belonging and the feeling that they are not alone. Once an individual has gone through detox and is in the early recovery stages, learning new ways to make connections and redefining what healthy relationships mean, can help fulfill that need to bond where it was previously lacking. While achieving sobriety is no small feat, maintaining it can feel like a whole new mountain to climb. In the recovery process, treatment should include more than a focus on sobriety; adding opportunities to build relationships and connections can help with long-term recovery. Finding that sense of unity with others, nature, animals, hobbies, and more can help fill that place you once may have filled with unhealthy substances.
As many of us are still facing the uncertainty around COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, getting creative with how you connect can be a good way to find meaningful interactions. While today’s technologies can sometimes leave us feeling superficially connected, digging deeper and using it in ways to create and sustain significant relationships can be beneficial.
- Give someone a call – While it may be more comfortable and more convenient to send messages, interacting with a person in real-time and hearing their voice adds another layer of depth to the connection we seek. Plan on catching up with family members, friends, and loved ones. This interaction can be meaningful for you and might even make someone else’s day.
- Host a video chat – Whether it’s a one-on-one coffee date with a friend or a group family party, hosting a video call can be a fun way to spend your spare time.
- Connect with nature – When connecting with other people is limited, turning to nature to find that sense of unity and belonging can provide tranquility. Going on a hike, to the beach, or to the mountains and finding some open space, can reconnect us with our natural environment.
- Engage in a hobby – Sometimes, when we get lost in what we love doing the most, we feel connected to ourselves and the universe. This might mean playing music, creating art, or playing a sport. Find what makes you feel most connected and in tune with yourself and your surroundings.
Although addiction is a disease of the brain, there are also behavioral causes and manifestations. Some of these may include a lack of connection resulting in isolation and loneliness. Using connection as a way to transform ideas about addiction can help inform how we treat it and how we treat those suffering from it. Understanding that each individual is a human being who has an innate need for meaningful bonds and connections can change stigmatization and get those the help they need. Providing individuals in recovery with a strong community can help them understand that they are not alone. Nestled in the beautiful Hollywood Hills, here at Alta Centers, we provide a peaceful and serene atmosphere where you can focus on building connections while on your road to recovery. We emphasize community and integrating programs into a person’s life so that treatment is not all-consuming but rather life-enhancing. Call us at (888) 202-2583.