Isolation in Recovery

Working on yourself takes time and focus. When you’re concentrating on maintaining a successful recovery, you may find that you need new social environments. Hanging out with the people with whom you used isn’t going to cut it anymore. But isolation in recovery won’t help you heal faster. In fact, detaching from your support people can pose a risk to your recovery.


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How Addiction Breeds Isolation

Isolation and addiction often go hand in hand. The mere fact that you have a substance abuse disorder can make you feel separate from your friends, colleagues and loved ones. If others don’t know about your addiction, you may feel as though you have even more motive to keep your drug use a secret. While you may be the life of the party or the first one to schedule a happy hour gathering, you avoid deep connections and supportive relationships. You don’t want people to see what really happens when you’re stressed or a craving hits. You get used to superficial relationships. You don’t feel a need to be around your loved ones. As your addiction progresses, you might isolate yourself further. By now, you’ve become comfortable being alone. You don’t have to deal with the unpredictability of interpersonal relationships, and you use your drug of choice to cope with emptiness, discomfort and stress. People may experience isolation in recovery or active addiction for the following reasons:

  • Shame or guilt about their drug use
  • Avoiding disappointing people
  • Depression, anxiety or another co-occurring mental health disorder
  • Fear of relapse triggers
  • Conflict evasion

If you or a loved one is becoming socially withdrawn, there may be a mental health issue going on. It’s ok to reach out to a professional to seek out help when you’re feeling sad, lonely, depressed or isolated.

Why Is Isolation in Recovery Dangerous?

Isolation in active addiction is dangerous because it may prevent you from getting help. Without a continual connection with others, you may not even realize that your substance abuse is becoming a problem. If you’re used to being alone, the thought of entering a supportive community to get clean is daunting. You might continue to feel alone during recovery. But isolation during recovery can lead to the following negative consequences:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Apathy toward pursuing goals
  • Boredom
  • Poor physical health
  • Limited perspective toward health and recovery
  • Fewer perceived options for living a fulfilling life
  • Distressing emotions
  • Burying intense emotions to avoid dealing with them
  • Increased risk of relapse

As you transition to a recovery lifestyle that’s more compatible with your health, you may worry about losing friends. While breaking connections with people who perpetuated unhealthy habits is a good idea, isolation in recovery is not. Many loved ones and peers who are also in recovery want to see you get better. They may not know how to address the situation or talk to you openly, making you feel as though they don’t understand you. However, don’t give up. Patience, time and guidance can help you develop effective communication that allows you to share your feelings and access the support that you need.

How to Avoid the Risks of Isolation in Recovery

A reputable addiction treatment center will offer a combination of individual and group therapy to foster a successful recovery. While you will have plenty of privacy, you will also be immersed in an environment that offers support from your mental health professionals and peers. This provides a non-judgmental atmosphere in which you can practice connecting with others. Some other ways to avoid the dangers of isolation in recovery are as follows.

Family Involvement Throughout Recovery

Involving your family in your recovery helps you feel understood. It also provides an avenue for seeking support. Family therapy educates you and your loved ones about addiction and recovery. It teaches effective communication so that you can share what you’re feeling instead of holding it in. It also provides your family members with specific techniques for helping you when you start feeling the pull toward isolation in recovery.

Attend Recovery Groups

Going to support group meetings throughout your life can help you stay connected and avoid relapse. Recovery groups allow you to interact with like-minded peers. If you have reached a healthy place in your recovery and don’t need active support, you can impart some of your wisdom and experience by sharing with others. Staying motivated to help your peers may also prevent you from sliding into isolation in recovery.

Get Your Emotions Out

Sometimes, you don’t feel like sharing your deepest thoughts or feelings with others. You don’t have to force yourself to express these emotions in the company of your peers. However, you don’t have to hold in those emotions either. Blocking your emotions leads to isolation because you become afraid that others will see the dark sentiments that swirl within you. Find healthy ways to release your emotions. You may seek out some private time to write in a journal. Perhaps your routine involves hiking to the top of a mountain and releasing your frustration. Maybe taking a hot bath and stretching in bed releases the tension from the day. Although these are solitary activities, they encourage you to move your emotions through you. When you give yourself a glimpse of what you’re going through, you’re more likely to develop a healthy flow with your emotions. You can process them without attaching to them or judging them. You’ll realize that you don’t have to hide your feelings from yourself or others, and you’ll be more apt to reach out instead of sinking into isolation in recovery.

Give Yourself the Best Chance of Recovery

Solitude is different than isolation. During your recovery, you’ll need plenty of solitude to look inward and process what you’re going through. But you should allow trusted, compassionate and encouraging individuals into your healing space. At Burning Tree programs, we help you understand how to do that in an effective, constructive way. We will help you set the foundation for a connected, meaningful life that fulfills you in a way that no substance could. Keeping up with your recovery allows you to break the cycle of addiction for good. Contact us if you are experiencing isolation or have questions about initiating and maintaining your recovery.


Find an Inpatient Rehab Program Now

We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery. Call our admissions team to find the best for long-term recovery.

(866) 287-2877