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How to Address Alcoholism and Isolation—It’s Not a Losing Battle

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How to Address Alcoholism and Isolation—It’s Not a Losing Battle

Isolation is a deep problem for human beings. It goes against our social nature and our need for contact, companionship, and support. It can occur at various times throughout our lives, resulting in loneliness and even depression. But isolation can be especially damaging to people who are grieving, those who suffer from mental illness, and individuals who are recovering from substance abuse.

Sometimes, isolation may involve physical distance, but it can also be the result of emotional distance. Physical separation may seem impossible to overcome at times, but the good news is that now, more than ever, there are ways to bring us together. Technology holds much promise for making connections and helping us compensate for physical separation. Emotional distance may take more effort and may require expert help to overcome.

For individuals in recovery from alcohol abuse, overcoming isolation is a difficult but necessary part of the process. Though it isn’t easy, real recovery requires the establishment of secure and supportive connections. Mastering this step could mean greater success and bring long-term sobriety within reach.

The Complex Connection Between Alcoholism and Isolation

Alcoholism and isolation are inextricably connected, but which comes first? Though alcohol consumption may start out in social settings, if it progresses to abuse, that social aspect may change. Isolation may evolve as a coping strategy. Once a person is in over their head, alcoholism can be very isolating as shame forces them to hide their drinking. They may slip further and further away from the people they love and be forced to abandon the meaningful activities in their lives.

On the other hand, research has determined that adolescents who experience social isolation are more apt to develop anxiety and self-medicate with alcohol later in life. And even as isolation may induce drinking, alcoholism often leads us to further isolate, in an effort to avoid disapproval and sidestep judgment. This perpetuates a vicious cycle. Loneliness may also predispose people to a multitude of health problems, including heart disease, depression, and dementia.

Making a Plan to Combat Isolation in Recovery

One of the earliest and strongest treatment strategies for combating alcohol abuse involves connecting an individual with a supportive community. Breaking the cycle of isolating behavior is essential to promote healing and provide support on the path to recovery.

Since this is a day-by-day process—and sometimes hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute—there are small things that we can include in our days to combat isolation and keep our minds at peace. Some of these suggestions involve reaching out to people, and others help us learn to be more comfortable inside our own heads.

Whether you are in recovery yourself or know someone who is, these small actions can help to counteract isolation:

  • Create structure in your day—Routine is important in recovery, and when you build in daily practices, you are creating that essential structure for your day. Consider your goals, and allocate time accordingly. Structuring your day empowers you to make time for things that are important to you and supportive of your recovery goals.
  • Do something positive for your body—With a focus on healing and building up your physical body, plan to take positive action every day. This may include healthy meal planning and exercise, such as strength training, yoga, or swimming. Prioritizing your health is part of an overall strategy to take better care of yourself.
  • Spend time with loved ones—Whether in-person or via phone call or video chat, maintaining human connection is essential. Make a commitment to reach out to one (or two) family members or friends every day. Connecting with a loved one or reconnecting with an old friend can provide support to you and to them. Staying connected with others is essential to winning the battle against isolation.
  • Make time for things that fulfill your spirit—Taking time each day for activities that soothe the soul and affirm the spirit is good for our mental health. Taking a walk with a pet, gardening, going for a run, or doing yoga adds a life-affirming quality to the day. Nurturing your spirit has a powerful healing effect.
  • Provide service to others—Focusing on the needs of others is rewarding in so many ways. When we do something positive for others, it makes us feel good and helps us get out of our own heads. Helping an elderly neighbor or volunteering at an animal shelter gives us a chance to make someone else smile. Their appreciation creates a positive bond that helps to chip away at that wall of isolation.
  • Increase your comfort with yourself—Sometimes, our own thoughts and emotions can be paralyzing. Though solitude may be scary, as you grow healthier, you will be more comfortable with your own thoughts. Being alone does not have to mean loneliness. Practicing mindfulness can help you to become more comfortable with the quiet in your own head. Learning to view solitude in a positive light is beneficial as you are overcoming isolation and seeking lasting recovery.
  • Consult an addiction medicine specialist—Since alcoholism is a vastly complex disorder with both physical and mental health aspects, having a specialist in addiction science in your corner can mean the difference between a really rough road and a manageable journey. Connecting with an addiction specialist can help to address your needs and increase your resources. They can also introduce you to a supportive community and help you find engaging, sober activities.

Dispelling Isolation with Help from Those on the Recovery Path

You can take small steps each day toward dispelling isolation on your own, but to make the greatest impact and ensure that you are prepared to deal with temptations and challenges along the road to recovery, it is best to get expert help. Once you understand the symbiotic entanglement that alcoholism and isolation share, you must reach out in order to break the cycle and win the battle.

One of the most effective ways to accomplish lasting recovery is with support from people traveling the same path. They will have valuable experience and wisdom to share as you embark on your own recovery journey. Get connected with a solid support system, and gain allies along the way. It could mean the difference between a lonely, treacherous journey and a supported, successful recovery.

If you need help breaking the cycle of alcoholism and isolation, the staff of New Choices Treatment Centers is ready to step in and offer guidance. With comprehensive services for addiction rehabilitation, we can help you acquire tools and strategies to combat isolation and support your recovery. Contact us online or call us at (726) 888-7003 to strengthen your support system.