One of the reasons many people fall into alcohol and drug abuse in the first place is that they struggle with social interactions. This may be because they are shy or because they just like being alone. By using alcohol and drugs it can help the individual become more sociable, but this ability comes with a heavy price – it leads to addiction and a downward spiral into misery. Those individuals who manage to escape their addiction may once again struggle with social interactions in recovery. The difference is that now they have the opportunity to build effective tools for overcoming their shyness or turning their natural introversion to their own advantage.
The Swiss psychologist Carl Yung is credited for popularizing the word introvert. It refers to a type of person who is mostly concerned with their own inner life. Such individuals will often shun the company of other people because they prefer solitude. The introvert is a loner but this does not mean that they are unable to function in the world – it just means that they engage with the world in a different way. The opposite type of personality would be the extrovert. This refers to those who prefer to look outside themselves and feel the need to be around other people.
The words shy and introverted are not referring to the same thing. Shyness refers to a situation where the individual feels uncomfortable around people. This feeling of shyness can vary in degree – some people only feel occasional shyness but other individuals can feel almost crippled by it. Shyness differs from introversion because this is not of way of being that the individual chooses for themselves. The shy individual may desperately feel the need to connect with other people, but they just do not feel able to. Shyness can prevent the individual from being the type of person they want to be and living the life they want to live. They symptoms of shyness can include:
* Unwillingness to talk.
* The individual may spend excessive time worrying about what other people think.
* Inability to look other people in the eye.
* The person usually feels inhibited in their behavior – as if they are always on display.
* This person may try too hard to please other people.
* They become embarrassed and blush easily.
* The shy person will often feel anxious when they are around other people.
* They may have speech problems such as rapid speech or stuttering. They may also speak in a barely audible voice so that other people have to struggle to hear them.
* This person may make a conscious effort to avoid other people.
* They might smile excessively or make strange body movements.
There are a number of possible reasons for why people might be shy including:
* Some people just seem to be genetically predisposed to shyness. It may be that a number of their blood relatives behave in the same way.
* The shy person usually has low self esteem. This means that they do not value themselves very highly as humans.
* Shyness can be a learnt behavior where the person needs to be like this in order to fit into their environment.
* Things can happen that interfere with the normal development of children, and this can lead to them becoming shy.
* The individual has suffered physical or sexual abuse as a child or they have suffered some other type of traumatic event.
Another way of describing people who do not actively look for human interaction is to say that they are a loner. This description is usually used in a negative sense because of the widely accepted belief that humans are naturally social animals. It is possible to divide loners into two different types:
* Some people intentionally seek solitude because they find comfort in being alone and these are the introverts. There are also those who do this because they are on some type of spiritual path that required it – a classic example of this would be the Buddhist monk who meditates alone in a cave.
* There are also those who don’t really choose solitude but it is trust upon them. This could be because they are naturally shy or have some type of mental illness.
Another way of describing such this person would be to say that they are a positive effects to be gained by such introversion such as:
* When people are alone they have the freedom to be themselves. They no longer have to pretend to please other people.
* The individual does not have to change their behavior to suit other people. There is nobody there to judge them or rate their performance at tasks.
* Dealing with other people can often involve clashing of egos and desires. Those who prefer solitude have to deal less with such confrontations.
* It is believed that people tend to be more creative when they are alone. This may be because they are now free to express themselves completely without the idea that there are critics looking over their shoulder.
* Solitude gives people the space to think about things. This type of contemplation can lead to insights and greater understanding.
* Those individuals who hope to get the most from meditation will usually find that a bit of solitude helps with this.
* The person who likes solitude will usually feel comfortable in their own skin. This type of self acceptance can be a wonderful thing.
There are some negative aspects to solitude including:
* Those who choose solitude because they are shy may feel that they are missing out on important aspects of life. Such people may feel like outsiders looking in.
* Engaging with other people can is part of what it is to be human and introverted people can miss out on this.
* A desire for solitude can sometimes be a sign of mental illness.
* Those individuals who are abusing alcohol or drugs may isolate from the rest of the world because they do not want anyone knowing about what they are up to.
If people are naturally introverted it will make a difference to the type of path they will want to choose in recovery. Some individuals do well by joining 12 Step and other fellowships but this might not be the best choice for the introvert – although it might be for some. Just because the individual decides that they wish to progress without a support group does not mean that they will be unable to build a good life in sobriety. There are many who choose solo recovery and do just fine. There are actually some benefits to being an introvert in recovery such as:
* Those individuals who are naturally introverted tend to be better at self reflection. This is going to be of great benefit to them because self reflection is an important tool in sobriety.
* The fact that the person is inward looking can even be of benefit to them in rehab. They will find it easier to reflect on the material as it is presented – much of the work in rehab involves self reflection so the introvert has a head start.
* The introvert may be less likely to fall under the sway of peer pressure from former drinking and drug using friends.
* It also means that the individual will find it easier to break off contact from such people.
* Introverts may be more at ease with meditation and other spiritual tools. This gives them a head start in recovery.
Rehab is not the type of place that anyone chooses to go to unless they need such help. This means that the introverts and the extroverts are both in a similar position – although the introvert is likely to have added concerns about having to spend so much time with other people. The reality is that introverts can gain so much benefit from their attendance that it makes up for any initial discomfort. In fact the introvert can use their personality to work for them so that they benefit more from the experience. In order to do this the individual can:
* Use their ability to self reflect to their own advantage.
* People are advised to choose a rehab that is more conducive to their personality. This means doing a bit of homework before choosing.
* Most of these facilities will provide an opportunity for clients to unwind in solitude. The introvert may want to make the most of these opportunities so that they can recharge.
* There is no requirement for the individual to become an extrovert, but it is recommended that the individual try to make some meaningful connections with other people during their stay in rehab.
* One of the most important considerations for introverts in rehab is the type of aftercare they will have once they leave. It is not necessary that the individual joins a fellowship, but it is vital that they have some aftercare in place – this will significantly increase their chance of success in sobriety.