The Reclusive Alcoholic
Progression of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is known to be a chronic and progressive disease. It can begin slowly with a few drinks of alcohol and progresses through tolerance and dependency until a person begins to isolate themselves so they can drink to excess alone. In extreme cases the reclusive alcoholic will abandon family members, work and friends for a life alone with the bottle. In other cases they will simply choose to drink alone without friends or family members around. The reclusive alcoholic will distance themselves as a way to hide their alcohol abuse.
This form of alcoholic may refuse to admit to their problem, become angry and violent when questioned about where they go or what they do and do not participate in normal life activities. A reclusive alcoholic may continue to live a relatively normal life with a job and a family that they are part of but they will distance themselves emotionally and physically.
An alcoholic may seek a life of isolation for a number of reasons including denial, rejection, anger, and fear. They may be suffering from an undiagnosed co-occurring mental illness such as depression, social anxiety or paranoid personality disorder. The alcoholic rationalizes that their life is better when they are alone, that they can enjoy a drink by themselves and that they don’t have to deal with the expectations of others. Reclusive alcoholics can hide the reality of their problem when they stay away from the prying eyes and criticisms of others.
Isolation is a Symptom of Alcoholism
A lot of people who suffer from alcoholism experience intense feelings of loneliness and isolation. They may have developed alcoholism as a result of significant life changes such as the death of a partner, loss of job or relationship breakdown. This alcoholic finds comfort in drinking alcohol which they believe is their closest friend. Alcoholics may push those who are close to them away because they are questioned about their drinking habits, don’t want to be reprimanded and believe that nobody understands them. They can deny that they have a problem with alcohol when they isolate themselves and become reclusive. However, there are many risks that can occur if a person becomes reclusive.
Serious health problems can go unnoticed or ignored, mental health problems can become more severe and major problems with socializing will become worse if a person becomes a reclusive alcoholic. Additionally, the reclusive alcoholic can neglect important aspects of their life if they are isolated, including basic hygiene or meeting social or work obligations. By isolating themselves, the alcoholic can face these major problems which can have fatal consequences.
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An isolated life can be comforting for some alcoholics. They can drink as much as they like, when they like and how they like without anybody commenting, judging or criticizing. They can use the time by themselves to re-live distant memories, grieve for things in the past, be angry, depressed and focus on their own self and own thoughts. If the alcoholic person has been the victim of violence, abuse or sexual assault, this isolation can provide them with the distance they feel they need. Many alcoholics who have suffered from a traumatic experience believe that other people don’t understand the emotional trauma they are going through. However, these alcoholics may be using their problems as an excuse to be alone and drink to excess.
In some cases, the reclusive alcoholic is a person who can be described as a reclusive even without the additional problem of alcoholism. These people are often very shy, have low self esteem and are introverted. They may have grown up in a family of abuse, been isolated from a young age or simply have had little interaction with others. The death of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship or the loss of a job can trigger a person to isolate themselves as a way of dealing with grief or trauma. They are comforted by a life alone without the struggles of socializing or interacting with others and prefer their own company to the company of other people.
Alcohol provides the reclusive alcoholic with relief for the feelings that trouble them, for the stresses that cause them pain and for the thoughts that are always in their mind. When they are intoxicated the feelings of loneliness, abandonment and anxiety disappear. Alcohol can also provide relief from emotional problems associated with trauma, violence or abuse which may be troubling the reclusive alcoholics
Social Phobias and Alcoholism
Many alcoholics suffer with an undiagnosed social anxiety disorder and use alcohol as a way to boost confidence, alleviate fears and deal with being around other people. It is estimated that up to as many as 20 percent of people who receive treatment for alcoholism also have a social anxiety disorder. This disorder is characterized by the excessive fear of social situations and social settings. The disorder ranges from mild anxiety to severe anxiety that can cause a person to shun the outside world and be housebound.
A reclusive alcoholic who also is suffering from a social phobia ends up in a cycle of alcohol abuse and anxiety. The alcohol is used to alleviate fears and anxieties but the condition simply worsens as the alcohol wears off and the feelings remain. Soon the alcoholic will begin to use alcohol more frequently and in higher doses. The stresses and anxious feelings associated with socializing with friends, workmates and family members are seen to be solved by isolating themselves at home. The reclusive alcoholic can live a simple life with a predictable schedule that is comforting to them.
Depression, Isolation and Alcoholism
Depression is a disease that is often linked to alcoholism. Many alcoholics suffer from depression although the disorder is undiagnosed. These individuals use alcohol as a form of self medication for the symptoms of depression. Estimates suggest that up to 1 in 5 people who are diagnosed with depression also have had a previous or existing substance abuse problem.
Depression is a disorder that is characterized by symptoms including feelings of loneliness, isolation, abandonment and fear, low self esteem, low self worth and a lack of interest in otherwise pleasurable activities. Many reclusive alcoholics suffer from the disease of depression although it is not diagnosed and these people do not have treatment. The reclusive alcoholic who suffers from depression, suffers alone. The feelings of isolation and loneliness are compounded by the lack of trust in others, feelings of paranoia and even suicidal thoughts.