What roles do isolation and loneliness play in your addiction? Individuals who struggle with addiction often find that they feel disconnected from others, either because they have pushed others away or because others feel the need to separate themselves from you during your active addiction.
Isolation is the experience of being separated from others. This can be reality or one’s perception of reality. As human beings, we are created for connection. Feelings of isolation go against our need for human connection and can therefore contribute to addictive patterns of behavior. We have an innate need to bond with someone or something. In addiction, that something becomes the drug.
There are times when being alone is actually conducive to recovery. I like to call this term solitude. Solitude is the experience we need to be alone and connect with ourselves. The difference between isolation and solitude is the dysfunction that isolation causes us. Isolation fuels addiction while solitude is a critical part of getting to know and like ourselves.
Changing patterns of isolation can be difficult. We risk pain and hurt when we connect with others. Patterns of relating (or not relating in this case) can become firmly imbedded in our brains and tend to serve a purpose. Maybe isolation keeps you stuck in your addiction and you’re not ready to give it up. That purpose is typically dark and depressing. Why would you want to live your life that way when the joy that comes from connection is ready and waiting for you?
In creating connection with others, it’s important to identify people in your life who help fill different needs for you. Who listens to you fully without judgment? Who reminds you of what’s important and provides you with some insight? Who knows how to make you smile? Who encourages you to keep going when you want to give up? Who is your shoulder to cry on?
In your search to reconnect, consider what you need right now in your life. Set some goals today by identifying who you can connect with to help meet those needs. Ask yourself what you need to do and what conversations you need to have in order to reconnect. Remember, connection is what life is about.
By: Julia Winterton, CMHC