It’s very common for people facing an addiction disorder to isolate themselves from friends and family and spend a significant amount of time alone; in fact, isolating behavior is one of the top red flags to keep an eye out for if you suspect a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol. Because their brains liken obtaining and consuming drugs or alcohol to survival, addicts and alcoholics are content to spend their time wasting away in a prison of their own creation, as long as they can get their next fix. However, when it comes to substance abuse, the danger lies in the willingness of an addict to live in isolation, and the key to fighting an addiction disorder is breaking free from that isolation and relying on a strong support system to get clean. For more information about fighting addiction isolation and achieving lasting recovery, contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today to speak to a qualified addiction recovery counselor.
Why Do Addicts Isolate Themselves?
Addiction is a lonely disorder; no one wants to be around someone who is using, and someone who is using doesn’t want other people around either. There is a stigma associated with addiction, and most addicts find isolation and secretive use is imperative to protecting and prolonging their addiction. The isolation indicative of addiction can present itself in another way too, though. A high-functioning alcoholic, for example, still engages in secretive use, but at the same time has everyone around him convinced that he’s got it all together. This type of addict appears to be happy, healthy and successful, even while he is abusing alcohol, sometimes to a devastating degree. Such is functional alcoholism.
Unfortunately, the isolation that naturally comes with addiction and functional alcoholism is also what allows it to continue, and the only way to achieve lasting recovery and break free from the destructive cycle of addiction is to reach out and ask for help, either from friends and loved ones who want nothing more than to see you succeed, or from a support group with like-minded individuals who have been through similar trials and can offer first-hand advice on how to get through it. Even functional alcoholics eventually suffer the physical and psychological consequences of their alcohol abuse and may begin to isolate, too ashamed and afraid to let their friends and family members see who they really are. As their substance of choice takes on a more significant role in their lives, it’s only a matter of time before the cracks in the façade begin to show.
The Dangers of Addiction Isolation
For most people, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be alone sometimes, but for addicts, the time they spend alone is the time they find themselves most overcome by euphoric recall, cravings to use and other urges common in addiction recovery, and the more time alone they have to obsess over drug and alcohol use, the more likely they are to give into their desires and relapse. The key here is the brain. Research has shown that prolonged alcohol or drug abuse can change the way the brain functions, and once the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of drugs or alcohol in the body over a period of time, it begins to crave the substance just to function normally, which is the beginning of addiction. Even after an addict makes the decision to quit drinking or using drugs and get sober, the changes the substance use imposes on the brain can make relapse all the more likely.
How to Fight Addiction Isolation
Addiction and alcoholism cannot be overcome alone, and as an addict, the best way to fight isolating behavior is to attend a support group, where addicts are encouraged to communicate with one another to work towards the common goal of recovery. Support groups come in all shapes and sizes, and whether you choose to attend a religious-based support group or 12-Step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, the fact that you are communicating with other people and sharing your experiences with fellow addicts who also want to get sober is healing in and of itself. The very nature of a support group is to bring people in similar situations together to share common experiences and help one another while also helping themselves, and you’ll find that when you’re in the company of other people, even people who are struggling just like you, you are no longer alone with your thoughts.
Even if you don’t have access to an organized support group or recovery program, or you don’t feel comfortable sharing your experiences with a group of strangers, you can fight addiction isolation by simply picking up the phone and having a conversation with someone who cares about your well-being. The simple act of talking to another person can be therapeutic, even if that person isn’t in recovery and even if you choose not to divulge exactly how you are feeling at that moment. The conversation will refocus your attention on something other than drinking or using drugs, and learning how to harness this ability to refocus your mind is the first step on the path to long-term sobriety.
If you recognize signs of addiction isolation in a loved one, there are some things you should and shouldn’t do to help, including the following:
- Be compassionate – Tell the person that you love them and are there for them, no matter what.
- Be proactive – If the person’s isolation is becoming severe, get help immediately.
- Share your experience – If you want to help the person find an addiction recovery program, share how your own program helped you.
- Remind the person of better times – If they were able to stop using in the past, remind them of what it was like to be sober.
- Don’t shame them – Don’t resort to threats or shame to try to convince the person to get help. It will only make the situation worse.
- Don’t be passive-aggressive – Being passive-aggressive will only make the person feel abandoned and alone.
- Don’t nag – The more times you say the same thing, the less the person will listen.
- Don’t be overly enthusiastic – Being overly enthusiastic and acting like everything is perfectly fine will be seen as a sham. You have to be real when dealing with addiction.
Call BRS Rehab Today for Help
Whether the addiction or the isolation comes first, many people with substance use disorders keep to themselves, and this can spur a vicious cycle of isolation and abuse. The key to lasting recovery is to build a social network of people who are clean and sober and who are motivated to help you stay clean and sober as well. If you surround yourself with people who abuse drugs or alcohol, or if you insist on isolating yourself from others, it’s only a matter of time before you will start using again too. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction isolation, or if you are looking for an effective recovery program to treat your addiction, contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today to discuss your treatment options with an experienced substance abuse counselor. BRS offers individualized programs for a variety of addiction disorders, and will work with you to find the treatment path that works best for you.