When struggling with addiction and with the depression that often accompanies our addiction, many of us tend to fall into patterns of self-isolation. We experience several different emotions, many of which can exacerbate addiction and contribute to our ongoing self-destructive and self-isolating tendencies. When we find ourselves isolating for prolonged periods, this self-isolation can have negative impacts on our mental health. 

Many of us have held onto years of guilt, shame, and regret related to our addictions. We feel the need to punish ourselves. It can feel impossible to forgive ourselves. Addiction has long been stigmatized in our culture. Those struggling with addiction are demonized as bad people. Living with these stigmas can bring us a great deal of shame. 

The people in our lives might have a hard time understanding our addictions. This misunderstanding can make us feel so disconnected that we separate ourselves and self-isolate. We separate ourselves from people for all these reasons and the countless other personal struggles we might face. We feel ashamed of ourselves, afraid of being judged by other people, and condemned by society. Isolating ourselves can be a way of protecting ourselves. 

Self-Isolation Can Exacerbate Addiction

When we isolate ourselves and don’t receive the vital connection with other people that we need, we might be more prone to turn to our drug of choice to cope. We might not have yet developed healthy coping skills, such as creating a plan for managing those moments when we feel triggered to use. For example, we might plan to call our sponsor, attend a meeting, or ask a friend to check on us. When we overly self-isolate, on the other hand, we don’t turn to the people who care about us. We don’t take advantage of all the helpful resources available to us.

Lack of Connection Can Exacerbate Addiction

Connection with other people provides us with the support we need, especially when struggling with addiction. Feeling alone in our challenges only makes us feel worse about ourselves and our lives. Many might turn to our drug of choice for comfort when feeling alone. Connecting with other people can be the encouragement that helps us to stay the course of our recovery. Feeling connected to another person and having a sense of responsibility and accountability to that person might be what dissuades us from using. 

The perception that we’re alone and have no one to turn to can create deep feelings of loneliness and sadness within us. These are emotions that often lead to self-harming behaviors and destructive patterns, including relapse. Knowing we have someone to lean on when we’re feeling triggered or in danger of relapsing can save us in those critical moments. Reaching out for support from people who care and finding support at a treatment center like Athens Area Commencement Center can help us to create the sense of connection we need as we heal.

Shame Can Exacerbate Addiction

Why do we self-isolate? For many of us, our patterns of self-isolation come from a deep sense of shame. We’re ashamed of all the mistakes and wrongdoings from our many years of living with addiction. Part of our recovery journey involves taking inventory of our pasts. Analyzing our regrets is part of healing and moving forward in sobriety. We feel compelled to make amends to the people we’ve hurt. This self-examination is so important to our recovery. When we are punishing ourselves, on the other hand, drowning ourselves in shame and regret, we don’t take good care of ourselves. Isolating ourselves means we deny ourselves the support and connection we need. 

We might develop a deep sense of unworthiness and believe we’re unlovable. It’s not uncommon for feelings of unworthiness to keep us from reaching out for help. We don’t believe we deserve to be happy or to have support. Our shame might come from feeling rejected and shunned by our communities and families. When we feel ashamed, many of us will turn to our drug of choice for relief from our emotional pain.

Loneliness Can Exacerbate Addiction

The more we self-isolate, the more likely we are to experience unhealthy levels of loneliness. While we all feel lonely from time to time, prolonged loneliness, where we feel alone and unsupported, can exacerbate addiction and other mental health issues. Loneliness can be linked to high-risk behaviors. When we feel alone, we might feel a sense of desperation and sorrow, making us engage in self-harming, dangerous behaviors. We might feel lonely because we perceive ourselves to be so different from others that we feel strange or abnormal. 

Creating a community and surrounding ourselves with people experiencing similar challenges can help us combat our feelings of loneliness and patterns of self-isolation. At Athens Area Commencement Center, we help our clients create this supportive community, which is so important to recovery.

Stigma Can Exacerbate Addiction

The stigma surrounding addiction is one of the hardest things we face when living with addiction. We are sometimes viewed as less than, inferior, inadequate, and bad people. People in our communities, families, or personal networks might look down on us. They might not understand that addiction is an illness, not a choice. We’re not consciously choosing our addiction or our drug of choice. We’re physically dependent, and we’re unwell. 

Until people understand addiction in this way, they often perceive us to be immoral rather than struggling with an illness. Their lack of understanding feeds into the ongoing cultural stigmas. When on the receiving end of this judgment, it is natural to want to isolate ourselves rather than be subjected to more criticism and condemnation. Our self-isolation is often a self-protective measure we take in the face of harsh criticism and societal stigma. 

After years of isolating ourselves when struggling with addiction, reaching out for help can be one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. We feel ashamed of ourselves, afraid of being judged by other people, and condemned by society. We isolate ourselves as a way of protecting ourselves. At Athens Area Commencement Center, we understand this journey well. We are a community-based treatment center with strong ties to the community. We understand the isolation and the fear that keep us from getting the help we need. You deserve help, support, community, and resources; at AACC, we are here to provide them. Call us today at (706) 546-7355 for more information on how we can help.

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