Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 8/3/2021
Isolation and Recovery Don’t Go Hand in Hand…
As one enters or considers rehab, many questions often flood the mind. This landslide of thoughts and concerns can be crushing to take on, but eventually, they are all answered.
However, even as one’s time in rehab comes to a close, new or forgotten questions stream through the mind at a million miles a minute. Among these, one might his or herself wondering what to do after rehab? What will or should be like? Some even wonder if self-isolation may be the best course of action, but the truth is that isolation and addiction are an ugly and unsafe couple, especially for those just leaving a rehabilitation facility.
Support and human connection are important, particularly during recovery. In this guide, we cover this topic thoroughly.
If you’re looking for addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one give us a call at (888) 906-0952.
The Five Rules of Recovery
Addiction and substance abuse treatment are not the same for everyone. Every individual in recovery is different and requires varying treatments. However, there are five general rules for recovery that can guide nearly everyone to stay sober.
Rule #1: Change Your Life.
One does not achieve full recovery simply by not using; recovery entails changing one’s life, which is easier not to use. These changes typically include thinking patterns, acknowledging and avoiding triggers, and incorporating the following rules.
Rule #2: Be Honest.
More often than not, addiction comes with a compulsion to lie. One usually feels the need to hide the use of a substance, especially when it may not be legal, so lying becomes needed. However, this can lead to one lying to themselves.
Rule #3: Ask for Help
Asking for help may be the most important rule in recovery. It helps the most to combat isolation. While some people want to recover on their own, studies have shown that asking for help and joining a self-help group, a 12-step group, or a similar group can increase the chances of lasting recovery. Support makes addiction recovery easier, whether in or out of rehab.
Rule #4: Practice Self-Care
Many individuals in recovery are hard on themselves – for having an addiction or for the behavior that occurred before recovery began. However, caring for and about oneself is necessary to change negative thinking patterns and create lasting, positive change.
Rule# 5: Stick to the Rules
While recovery is unique to everyone, these rules are helpful tools for creating meaningful change, and one should stick to them rather than bend them or create loopholes.
Social Isolation, Teens, and Substance Abuse
Sadly, addiction in teenagers is a major public health issue. Teen drug use is up for various reasons, including the abundance of prescription medications, ease of access to illicit street drugs, and the way most addictive substances like nicotine and alcohol can change the brain, especially as it is developing. Another element that can shape teenage development is social connection. Who teens choose to hang out with, like, and dislike, can have a role in who they become as they grow. However, social isolation can have an even larger and more negative impact on teenagers, and when combined, isolation and addiction can have serious consequences.
Baylor University’s Study on Social Isolation & Addiction
A study done primarily by Baylor University examined the relationship between social isolation, social support during treatment, and post-treatment outcomes in teens, specifically teens who are referred to addiction treatment through the court system. The teens were assessed during different stages of treatment: before, after, 6 months later, and 12 months later. In assessing the teens at various stages, the study found that socially isolated teens had worse treatment outcomes. When the teens felt alienated and kept themselves, it doubled the odds of them relapsing and of being incarcerated. The study encourages socializing during and after treatment, specifically promoting the benefits of offering to help others. But whether receiving or giving assistance, the study even suggests that healing occurs on a cellular level with an increase in social connection.
As the study found, loneliness and addiction are not a good combination.
Groups in Substance Abuse Treatment
There is something in us as humans that requires a deep connection to others. Fortunately, connection with others can be the best support for those in or leaving rehab. Understanding the need for human connection, most rehab facilities will use some form of group therapy. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the more groups bond together in therapy leads to an enormously positive effect on one’s recovery. Research from SAMHSA has found that groups can help in the following ways:
- Groups provide one with positive support and pressure to maintain sobriety.
- Groups reduce one’s sense of isolation that is typically associated with or due to an addiction.
- Groups give those in recovery the opportunity to witness the recovery of others, which can fuel them with hope and inspiration.
- Groups also give those new to recovery useful information and tools to help their recovery.
- Groups can provide feedback on one’s values and abilities, improving one’s conception of his or herself.
- Groups support one another through supporting, coaching, or reinforcing certain attitudes and behaviors.
- Groups allow one to learn or relearn social skills for everyday life post-treatment.
- Groups often provide a sense of structure and discipline into the lives of those who may need it.
- Lastly, groups typically provide support and encouragement for each other outside of a rehab facility or group meetings. In this way, many groups are like families.
While the idea of a support group may be simple enough and may not seem like much, they are perhaps one of the most important factors in a lasting recovery. The support they provide can not only help someone become sober but stay sober.
Relationships and Recovery:
As noted, groups can play a huge role in recovery; however, groups are not the only option or type of relationship that can positively impact one’s recovery. Much like the study on teenagers, addiction, and social isolation, a study headed by the Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Concurrent Substance Abuse and Mental Health yielded similar results. It found that lasting sobriety comes by creating and leaning on positive relationships while avoiding negative ones. Most often, the most impactful relationships that the study found were between siblings – due to their deep understanding and love for one another. However, not all of the meaningful relationships observed in the study were from siblings; some even mentioned that connecting with a pet motivated them to stay in recovery.
Comments from Those in the Study:
One man, who had issues with alcohol for 30 years and has been living sober for 12 years, had this to say about relationships and recovery:
“When I was drinking, everybody was an idiot who interfered with my life. Now I understand and appreciate that I’ve had a particularly concerned and caring sister. She both helped and challenged me. But I didn’t understand that way back then. To experience a good life, you need to have someone next to you and have a positive relationship. Most of my buddies, when I drank,drew me in the wrong direction. I needed an environment change. But now, my new relationships don’t include lies or cheating. I have a more positive life now.”
Another man who used substances for 18 years before becoming sober had this to say about the importance of relationships:
“To me, physical training became important in order to abstain from substance use. Even if I am usually motivated for the training, it has been important to have a physically active cohabitant who encourages me. Commitments to my dog function as a motivator as well. He has joined me on most of my journey, and the camaraderie with him has been important. Even on the days I was lacking energy and motivation, I had to take him out. Otherwise my bad conscience would have made it even worse.”
Sobriety Lasts with Support
Isolation and addiction often go hand and hand. Those suffering from addiction are in an unhealthy state of mind and do not want it to affect anyone around them. However, human beings are innately social. So, is it safe to isolate after rehab? No, it is not. Isolation after rehab is a dangerous proposition. During rehab, one must learn to socialize and create a support network. As studies have shown, support during and after rehab is the most important factor in maintaining lasting sobriety. Whether through a group, a mentor, a sponsor, a service provider, or a sibling, support is necessary.
If You or Someone You Love is Struggling With Addiction, Reach Out
Living with an addiction is not easy, and overcoming that addiction can be even harder, especially when you try to do it alone. However, with the right help, it is possible to recover, live a sober life, and beat any loneliness and addiction. To start or even renew your recovery, call us at (888)906-0952 to speak with an addiction specialist who can guide you to a treatment plant or facility that’s right for you and give you the tools you need to start your journey to sobriety. Remember, you can overcome.