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Isolation and Addiction – Alcoholism and substance addiction tends to lead toward isolation. This is to say that as addiction, in the broadest sense of the term, progresses, addicts and alcoholics become increasingly isolated both by others and by their own choice.
The need to drink and use drugs will over-take personal relationships. Friendships will fall away as friends become increasingly alarmed and even embarrassed to be with a person who is frequently or constantly intoxicated. People will stop calling and inviting an alcoholic or addict to social events and occasions. The addicted person will also start to refuse social engagements, preferring to remain alone where they can drink or use as they need to. Alcoholics, it is crucial to note, do not drink because they enjoy it; they drink because they need it and they do not want to be noticed or challenged on this. Drug users know that what they are doing is unacceptable and will frequently choose to remain distant from friends who may suspect that they are using drugs beyond any reasonable bounds. As a result of this, friendships inevitably become strained and eventually break-off altogether.
Isolation and Addiction – This pattern extends to family. As families begin to recognize that a person is more often than not drunk, they stop wanting that person around for family occasions. Family members will lose patience with alcoholics and drug users for behavior that is just unacceptable. Some family members will even make protest declarations, insisting that they will not participate in family get together’s if the alcoholic or drug user is going to be present. This forces parents of adults to make heart-breaking choices and they will most often tell the person suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction that they are not welcome. The pattern described above with friendships will also unfold in family dynamics. The person struggling with alcohol or drugs will find more and more reasons to not be present at family events and occasions. They know they will not be able to easily indulge in their substances with family present. The most heart-breaking point in all of this is when families and even the afflicted user make harsh and final judgments about ever interacting with family again.
Because this pattern of inevitable isolation is such a devastating feature of alcoholism and substance abuse. It is crucial that people who have found their way into treatment and recovery guard against this type of behavior. It is common for people who are new to recovery and sobriety to seek isolation. Being alone and entirely cut-off from others has come to feel like a natural and normal condition. As people go through the difficult stages of early recovery—emotional upheavals, feelings of shame and failure, fear, even grief. The person who is coming out of actively using and drinking will tend toward that isolated state. This is dangerous for continued recovery. It is essential that the newly sober person, the newly “clean” drug user, begin to establish healthy and meaningful relationships with others. At first, this can be with others in treatment and with counselors or other recovery professionals. As one progresses in drug and alcohol treatment there are mechanisms and methods for repairing the damage to family relationships and with friendships. The key is to re-establish connections and guard against that illusory “natural” tendency toward isolation.
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