Alcoholics and drug addicts often experience isolation when they are drinking and using, even if they go out to party with friends or hang out regularly in clubs and bars. They feel lonely and insecure, but they use substances to drown those feelings. They may even know that their drinking or using is out of control, but they deny it to themselves and others. Addiction, by its very nature, isolates people. It may seem natural, then, that one would continue to isolate during the recovery process. Isolation in recovery makes the process even more difficult, and it increases the possibility of relapse.
Causes and symptoms of isolation
Recovering addicts tend to isolate for two reasons: one, they feel guilt and shame, so they want to avoid doing the work recovery requires, or two, they want to protect themselves from people, places and things they see as a threat. There are several indicators of isolation in recovery, including:
As one begins to come out of the fog caused by excessive use of alcohol or drugs, emotions begin to rise. One may experience anger and resentment over people and life situations.
Hanging on to old ideas
Addicts and alcoholics have low self-esteem. They become accustomed to thinking they are worthless, and they easily can fall back into negative patterns. This may cause them to withdraw from others.
A vital element in recovery is the support and understanding of others who have gone before in the process.
Importance of support systems
In order to recover from addiction, a person needs to give up self-pride and be willing to accept help. The benefits of group support are enormous.
Witnessing the wellbeing of sobriety
When a newly sober or drug-free person looks around a room and sees a group of lively individuals who have walked the path of recovery, they get inspiration.
A sounding board
Recovering addicts and alcoholics need to come face to face with their stories. Others in recovery can see through denial and can listen with compassion and complete understanding.
Ongoing sobriety demands an honest look at one’s history and one’s behavior. People in recovery can spot lies and denial more easily than well-meaning family and friends. They can point the way to recovery.
Because people in recovery know the fears and insecurities of the process, they make themselves available to help newcomers. This helps tremendously in times of desire to return to former habits.
While it may be important to spend time alone reflecting on one’s alcoholism or drug addiction, this is not the same thing as deliberate isolation. Deliberate isolation is detrimental to recovery.