Addiction and isolation have a tenuous relationship. Addicts often isolate themselves from loved ones because they feel guilt or shame about their addiction. In other cases, people turn to substances because they are lonely. Thus, addiction may be the cause of isolation, or it may be an effect of it.
When people enter addiction recovery, the problem of isolation returns. They want to repair relationships with their loved ones, while they know they need to end relationships with their enablers and people who cause them stress that may lead to a relapse. Some addiction programs also run as in-patient programs, so people in recovery are isolated from their loved ones during their rehabilitation time.
Eventually, those in addiction recovery need to overcome their isolation and engage in social activities, build bridges with family members and friends, and live a full, sober life. That’s where our guide comes in. We want to help you enjoy social situations without putting your recovery at risk.
What You’ll Find in This Guide:
- Repairing Relationships in Recovery
- Avoiding Addiction Triggers
- Creating Safe Social Situations
- Additional Reading on Overcoming Isolation in Addiction Recovery
Repairing Relationships in Recovery
This section includes tips for repairing relationships when you are in addiction recovery.
While people in the first year of sobriety should not develop a new romantic relationship, you should repair relationships with loved ones, especially those who are integral to your support system.
EverydayHealth.com reminds you that it is possible to repair close relationships as long as you give it time. There will be a lack of trust because of lies, hurt feelings, and broken promises, but when both people want to rebuild the relationship, it can happen. Both people need to work on themselves first so they can communicate and be honest as they repair the relationship.
Blogger Leah Grey stuck by her husband after his drug addiction and time in rehab, and she shares tips for recovering a relationship based on what they’ve learned while putting their own marriage back together:
- Set realistic expectations
- Treat your relationships as though they are brand new
- Find hobbies to do alone that make you happy and help you prioritize self-care
- Involve a therapist as needed
- Find time to laugh and find peace and joy each day
Don’t be ashamed if you need outside help in repairing relationships in recovery. Sometimes, a therapist or counselor is helpful, especially for the most damaged relationships. Trained professionals know how to help people get to the heart of the matter when they communicate with one another and determine their goals and needs for the relationship.
Avoiding Addiction Triggers
This section includes avoiding addiction triggers in social settings so that you can feel more confident emerging from your isolation.
One of the ways to avoid a relapse is identifying your addiction triggers. For example, if you used alcohol or drugs when you went to a local bar or sporting event, you need to avoid them and find new places to spend your free time without putting your recovery at risk.
For most addicts, high-stress situations give you an urge to use drugs and alcohol. Common external triggers include people, places, things, and situations that tempt you to relapse, while common internal triggers may be physical sensations or thoughts. Managing your triggers is key. Be honest with yourself when identifying them, and then do everything in your power to avoid them.
If you struggle to find a way out of isolation without encountering a trigger, join a local support group. You will meet new people who understand your challenges and want to help you through them while you return the favor. When you feel ready, ask a trusted friend or family member to accompany you to a movie or restaurant that you know will not tempt you. Ease your way into social situations while making sure you avoid addiction triggers, especially when you are new to recovery.
Creating Safe Social Situations
This section includes tips for creating safe social situations that put you in control to help you stay in recovery.
As you repair relationships, continue to socialize and don’t allow yourself to become isolated again. One way to do so is creating your own safe social situations. For example, certain holidays may be triggers for you. Rather than attending a party or visiting a bar for New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day, for instance, you should host your own alcohol-free party. Invite close friends and family members, and plan a fun night of eating, playing games, and socializing.
Other ways to create safe social situations include:
- Avoiding stressful situations – If staying with family during the holidays is stressful, book a hotel room and stay nearby instead.
- Change your venue – Rather than meeting up with friends or colleagues at a bar, plan to meet at a local coffee shop.
- Be the designated driver – When you are secure in your recovery, offer to be the designated driver for the night. Your friends will appreciate your offer, and you’ll stay sober because you have responsibilities.
Additional Reading on Overcoming Isolation in Addiction Recovery
The following are resources for more information about overcoming isolation in addiction recovery. You will find tips and advice for socializing while remaining in recovery and avoiding triggers. Please note, the resources are listed in alphabetical order by source.
Hip Sobriety’s Coming Out Sober: 8 Tips to Navigate Your Social Life
Jezebel’s How to Have a Sober Social Life
Paste Magazine’s Ask an Addict: Returning to Social Life After Going Sober
Ravishly’s How to be Sober and Still Have a Social Life
Your social life does not need to end just because your sobriety is beginning. While prioritizing your addiction recovery is a must, you also can work on repairing relationships with friends and family. You also will learn how to avoid addiction triggers and create safe social situations so you can reduce your risk of relapse while coming out of isolation.