Though researchers are still working to unravel all the interwoven threads that might lead someone to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol, we have learned addiction is a disease that causes various mental, physical and psychological problems. Self-isolation is one hallmark of a worsening addiction, making people take extreme measures to hide their behavior from their family, friends and colleagues.
Why Do Substance Abusers Self-Isolate?
Over time, drug and alcohol use can chip away at the foundations of even your most stable relationships. Becoming reliant on these substances to feel “normal” fosters a mindset of chasing the next drink or dose to the exclusion of everything else. When your relationship with drugs or alcohol begins to take precedence above the human connections in your life, you will gradually push loved ones away.
As an addiction progresses, many people prefer to drink or use drugs alone, even if their substance use began as a recreational, social hobby. Treatment specialists often call addiction a disease of isolation because people with substance abuse disorders will go to great lengths to continue using their intoxicant of choice, including severing ties with loved ones who suggest seeking help.
Recovery Requires Connection
In many ways, the relationship between addiction and isolation is a chicken-and-egg scenario. One reason for this is that addiction often co-occurs with mental health issues like depression and anxiety, which can make people less likely to pursue stable, mutually beneficial relationships. That’s one reason behind the philosophy that addiction is fundamentally a lack of connection.
Connection with friends, family members and sober peers is a crucial ingredient in recovery. A 12-step program can also instill the value of fostering a connection with a higher power, which can make the lifelong nature of recovery feel less daunting. Here are some ways to seek connection in sobriety.
1. Find a Recovery Sponsor
A recovery sponsor is a person further along in their sobriety journey and stable enough to mentor you. Ideally, your sponsor will share their experiences and lead by example, becoming someone you can trust. Eventually, you can pay it forward by serving as a sponsor for another person in early recovery.
2. Seek a Community of Like-Minded People
While a 12-step program can provide an invaluable sense of connection and strength, these are not the only support groups available for people learning to deal with life’s various challenges. For example, if you’ve experienced a recent loss, look for a grief support group near you.
3. Work on Accepting and Understanding Others
Everyone is different, and that diversity is beautiful. Part of fostering a feeling of belonging and connection involves walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. If you feel mentally healthy enough, you could try volunteering for a crisis hotline or a homeless shelter. Become pen pals with a prison inmate or an armed forces member serving overseas, or get involved with a social justice cause like Black Lives Matter.
Connection Can Help You on Your Road to Recovery
Maintaining your long-term sobriety and overcoming isolation will require you to seek support from a range of sources. Structured sober housing is one of the best places to start building a network of peers who understand the challenges you are facing and who can give you relevant advice on maintaining your commitment to your new lifestyle. To learn more, connect with us at Segue Recovery Support.