Have you ever thought about the potential dangers of isolation in addiction recovery? Are you currently feeling isolated as you navigate life post-treatment? Why is building community so vital in recovery? These are crucial questions to ask yourself when self-evaluating your sobriety. Addiction is an isolating disease, and too much time spent alone can increase your risk for relapse.
We often hear the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The same adage applies to addiction recovery. Maintaining recovery can go so much more smoothly when you have a community to fall back on. Your community can include family, friends, and peers. Building a community may not always be easy, but it is possible with a few simple tips.
Mental illness sometimes causes people to self-isolate. People often isolate themselves because they feel misunderstood. Having the support of friends and family is invaluable. However, though they are rooting for you, they may never fully understand what it feels like to struggle with addiction — not in the same way a community of peers can.
Feeling misunderstood leads to overwhelming feelings of isolation, which can put you at a greater risk for relapse. Isolation typically leads to intrusive thoughts and erratic behaviors. It can also increase feelings of anxiety or depression and may cause you to experience intense cravings for substances.
Furthermore, isolation can become more recovery-threatening if it causes you to doubt yourself and your sobriety. Addiction is a chronic condition with a harsh reality — it has no cure. However, that does not mean you should ever give up on maintaining a state of recovery. Sobriety is worth the hard work. It can be easier with a community.
Building a community does not guarantee you will never feel alone, experience cravings, or banish the risk of relapse. However, it makes the hard times a little less scary. Additionally, being a part of a community offers you the chance to help others stay sober. This gives you purpose, which is a pillar of successfully maintaining recovery.
Community and peer support can reduce feelings of loneliness and the risk of relapse. The journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation defines peer support as the “process of giving and receiving nonprofessional, nonclinical assistance from individuals with similar conditions or circumstances to achieve long-term recovery.” This makes peer support invaluable as you carry on with post-treatment life. Other benefits of having a community of peers include the following.
Nonclinical support is there to help you between therapy or clinical group sessions. As much as therapists and counselors can help, you can not be in constant contact with them as you would a friend or family member. This kind of support is beneficial when feeling overwhelmed by triggers or cravings on a random weeknight when you don't have therapy for another week but need someone to talk to right away.
You can bond with peers based on your shared experiences, but you can also motivate each other to live healthier lives. That may include attending a nutritious cooking class together or going on weekly hikes. In any case, healthy life choices made with peers in your community will help you maintain overall wellness and sobriety.
Communities also help you rebuild social skills by promoting healthy social interaction. You can learn to have healthy, meaningful relationships while improving communication, active listening skills, conflict resolution, and empathy. These are skills that can help you through any situation you find yourself in throughout your day at home, school, or work.
Now that you know the benefits of building community, you may be wondering about how to do so. Admittedly, creating or finding a community outside the walls of a treatment facility may not always be easy. Again, the hard work is worth the effort.
Creating new relationships is challenging enough. The added stresses of a mental health condition, behavioral addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD) may make it seem next to impossible. While finding a community and creating a strong support network is challenging, it is possible.
To begin building your community, consider the following:
Opportunities to meet new people and grow your community are endless, but the above tips are great places to start. We encourage you to try these, especially if life post-treatment is feeling lonely or isolating. Try these tips and discuss isolation concerns with your therapist today.
Addiction is an isolating condition, and sometimes it takes a village just to get through the day. For that reason, it is vital that you spend time building a community to support your long-term sobriety after treatment. Without community, you may experience isolation, intrusive thoughts, and struggle to manage cravings and triggers alone. Combined, these factors can all increase the risks of relapse and threaten your recovery. Though it may be difficult, you can build a support community by attending local support group meetings, starting a hobby that lets you meet people, and connecting with old friends who are also sober. For help building your support community today, call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400.