Hungry to Connect- Pandemic Fatigue and Addiction Recovery

By Ken Wells - 01/08/2021


Holidays are difficult seasons of life for many. It is a time that disillusionment and fantasy crowd out reality. People go into a trance of holiday mood, eat special foods, practice giving, sing seasonal songs, and are tempted to pretend that the real world doesn’t exist. Most like to think that the holidays are meant to be with family and friends. Yet, we all know that commercialization and monetization of mood is mostly about maximizing profits and less about altruistic values and experience. 

The COVID-19 pandemic only intensifies our hunger for connection. Ten months have gone by with social distancing and masking being emphasized as paramount. We are all sick and tired of fighting COVID. Some have cast caution to the wind and have decided to ignore advice for safety, preferring to do whatever they want. 

This holiday season promises to only deepen the intensity of loneliness and exacerbate the isolation that lingers throughout America. 

So we need to talk about loneliness, how to manage it and satisfy our hunger to connect during this vulnerable holiday season. The increase of loneliness impact during the pandemic is difficult to measure. Add the escalation of holiday blues and you can be assured that the pain of feeling all alone has broadened throughout our society no matter how you measure it. Thomas Wolfe stated that loneliness has been the central and inevitable experience of every person. It can hurt every part of your body. It causes panic and the deepest heartache known. We don’t get through life without experiencing its impact. It is universal. Even my dog knows the feeling of being lonely. 

Most are afraid to admit that they feel lonely. Often kids will say they don’t want to admit that they are lonely because they don’t want parents and friends to think they are flawed. So people often talk around loneliness and offer other grievances. They may initially complain about finance, health, and politics. Yet, as the conversation broadens, the edges begin to suggest painful loneliness.

Causation— We are social beings. We don’t do well when we isolate and fail to connect. For addicts, many have struggled with relapse because they have rejected online meetings when in person meetings have shut down. Lacking the capacity to adjust, addicts without community become like lone coals outside of a fire and soon grow cold with the result of relapse. There are many causes for loneliness. Losing a relationship is always difficult and sometimes devastating. There are times when people seem to walk alongside and commune with us and we grow fond of their friendship-even learn to love them. Then, as life unfolds, they go away and walk another path. Letting go of those precious relationships can be very difficult and trigger painful feelings of desertion and loneliness.

Struggle and failure can accelerate separation from community. The disappointment that come from poor results can trigger isolation and intense loneliness. Being separated from family and friends in the presence of failure can be a very cold and lonely experience. 

Nothing is lonelier than the experience of betrayal. Promises broken, lying, infidelity are all among the deepest painful experiences of loneliness. Disappointment stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. There is a chemical response that results in melancholy, inertia, and hopelessness. It triggers despondency and activates intense loneliness, particularly when it goes unchecked.

Ambiguous loss occurs during times when there is no possibility of physical closure. Loss of life, relationship, and position can trigger a disenfranchised loss meaning that is an unresolved loss that seems to never end, accompanied by intense loneliness. 

Addicts talk about not being able to get enough of what they really don’t want. The lust for power, possessions and position can leave you paralyzed with loneliness. The more you are driven for material success, the shallower your life becomes and the more loneliness persists.

Childhood trauma accelerates loneliness. Children only learn they matter when parents spend sufficient amounts of time with them on the child’s terms, not the parents’. When this doesn’t happen, profound loneliness pervades when a child realizes that their sense of being is not as important to mother or father as other tasks that take mother or father away from the child. 

Cure: While there is no once-and-for-all cure for loneliness there are many interventions that can make meaningfulness from your experience of loneliness. 

1. Vulnerability.

In recent days much has been spoken and written about being vulnerable. Admitting that you are struggling with loneliness has been judged by some as being weak and not OK. Yet, admitting raw emotions is a key component to connect with another. The age-old adage that people connect best through common shared brokenness is never more true than during this holiday pandemic-driven season. Your feelings are the same as countless others’. When you say it like it is and are true to your heart, you will draw others to you who esteem your authentic expression. There is no greater cure for loneliness than deciding to be vulnerable to another person.

2. Transform loneliness into solitude by learning to appreciate the presence of simple things that exist around you.

Loneliness disconnects from reality. Overcome with loneliness, you will long to be somewhere, anywhere other than where you are at. Solitude connects you to where you are and creates meaningfulness through presence, appreciation, and gratefulness. This holiday season consists of struggle, sadness of loss, and suffering. When you lean into your moments of loneliness and sit with the discomfort, what comes forth is a sense of solitude available only to those who seek connection to the present moment. Appreciate the little things that bring peace and joy to your heart. Slow your life experience and be grateful that you are alive in the midst of pandemic. It will lighten the heaviness that exists around you during the holiday season. 

3. Grieve with reverence for the loss and life that is around you.

More than three hundred thousand people have died from COVID during this pandemic in our country. They are not mere statistics. They are mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and children of us all. Take time during this holiday pandemic season to do one simple act to honor those we have lost. It will relieve the heaviness that has been growing in your soul. Bring life to someone who has suffered irretrievable loss with the simple gift of a smile or act of kindness. It will soothe their grieving and lighten your spirit. 

4. Make everyday adjustments

When your holiday plans don’t work out and are foiled by the pandemic, be creative and make adjustments. Don’t allow COVID to dominate and isolate you from people you care for. Utilize online connections- cook a meal with your loved ones through virtual connection. Connect with your favorite holiday stories virtually with those you love the most. Addicts who are rigid and inflexible usually break in adversity. Be supple and make adjustments. Don’t conclude that if someone has not reached out to you then they do not really care about you. Overwhelmingly, the likelihood is that this is not true. When you do not personalize others behavior or lack of behavior you have made an adjustment that will help you manage loneliness

5. Change the Storyline from Isolation to Insulation

Isolation is built on mistaken beliefs that minimize your importance, respect, and dignity. Insulating with the energy of self-love and others’ love will take what is and make it more because you are a being who thrives with connection with community. 

This holiday season is unprecedented, unlike no other. You can fulfill your hunger for connection and overcome the intensity of loneliness by reaching out to connect with someone vocally, virtually, or both. You will experience the strength not only to survive this pandemic but to thrive in its presence.

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