There is a saying in recovery rooms which states, “Addiction is the only disease that tells you that you are alright.” One of the behaviors of addicts in recovery is the propensity toward isolation. Most people involved in recovery understand the role of meetings, support groups, therapy and spiritual communities in combatting one component of addiction-lying to oneself.
Relapse prevention, as taught in medically based addiction treatment programs, includes the dynamic relationship between using others to support the addict through dangerous times, joyous times and quiet times. An addict doesn’t need much to find an excuse to use or drink. Drug rehab teaches the addict to avoid getting lost in the thinking leading to active addiction. The drug addict or alcoholic needs to be vigilant about isolating.
According to the online dictionary, dictionary, reference.com, isolation means:
- To place apart; to cause to be alone
- To quarantine (a person or animal) having or suspected of having a contagious disease
- To obtain (a compound) in an uncombined form
- To obtain pure cultures
- To prevent interaction between (circuits, components, etc.) insulate
One of the successful characteristics of 12-Step programs is the ability of their community to feel open, welcoming and non-judgmental. Another aspect is the ability of an addict or alcoholic to sit in a meeting and feel “part of the group”, that his or her experiences, feelings and thoughts are not unique and, finally, to feel like “at last someone understands what I have been feeling.”
This dynamic is based upon a sense of connection to the group at large or to a few individuals within the group. These communities, often assembled in drug rehab facilities, change the behavior of addicts and alcoholics by allowing them to develop new coping skills and strengthen their desire to stay sober. Addicts can make friends, sometimes for the first time, based upon who they are or are not and not based upon what drugs are in their possession or what sex they are willing to exchange for drugs.
This community serves as a living testimonial to the ability of one to stay clean and sober regardless of what is happening in a person’s life. It is possible to live a clean and sober life.
Another aspect of the community is an addict’s ability to engage in more honest self-reporting. Admitting one’s fears, angers, resentments, joys and more allows those emotions to be vented and diminished. Openly admitting one’s thoughts such as “I feel like using” or “I feel like drinking” allows others, who may be experiencing the same feelings or who have experienced the same feelings, to identify and support the person in struggle.
When an addict in recovery disassociates from the community, the recovery support group or all the activities that are associated with recovery and moves into behaviors and thinks of active addiction, a warning signal has been sounded.
10 Warning Signs of Isolation for the Drug Addict or Alcoholic
- Increased anger and resentment
- Ignoring the signs of negative thinking and distorted thinking (“Stinkin’ thinkin’”)
- Intensified cravings
- Ceasing to engage in healthy, self-esteemable activities
- Returning to old concepts of self (“I am a waste”, “I am bad”, “What am I good for?”)
- Feeling lonely
- Keeping secrets
- Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
- Increased sense of boredom
- Blaming others for everything
The need to have other recovering people in a newly sober or clean person’s life cannot be underestimated. The ability to self-report has its drawbacks, even for those with long-term recovery. Human emotions are complex. One can engage in self-deception and still think he or she is being open and honest. Isolating from the community allows this self-deception to continue unabated and unchallenged.
The tendency of addicts to isolate provides the disease of addiction with a renewed foothold in the psyche of the addict. Once the addiction regains its power over the addict, negative behaviors and self-destructive impulses grow stronger and the downward spiral into active addiction begins again. Regardless of the amount of time sober a recovering addict or alcoholic may have and the type of drug rehab or addiction treatment received, he or she is always one drink or drug away from active addiction.
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