Isolation: Addiction Enemy #1

isolation addictionThe isolation addiction can cause in recovery is the primary offender when it comes to relapse. Don’t know the signs? Here’s one story.

Isolation in addiction recovery is something many old-timers face, but few recognize at the time. Many are even reticent to talk about it after reconciling that it has occurred.

We often hear that the disease is cunning, baffling, and powerful. All these things are true, of course, but isolation and doubt are what take most of us back to drugs and alcohol. Isolation and doubt are the vehicles, but not the drivers.

As I can only speak from my own experience, here is how it happens whenever I have gone into isolated addict mode.

It can start a number of ways, but it always starts with restlessness, irritability, and discontentment. Something does not fit right. Whatever it is, I set out to fix it (rather than let God deal with it). Maybe I do not particularly like some minor thing. Perhaps it is a specific personality, or a particular meeting, or having an increasingly busier schedule. Sometimes, it is just simple fear of not being accepted by my fellows.

Whatever it is, I go into protection mode. I attempt to triage, shutdown, or otherwise cut off whatever is I do not like or see as a threat. As an addict and alcoholic, I am very good at rationalizing this behavior. I tell myself I will go to other meetings, find new friends, call more often, make up missed meetings, or whatever it happens to be.

Just like all previous commitments to getting clean and sober that failed in the past, I really do have every intention of doing these things. It is just that, you know, other “things” always pop up. Eventually, I get comfortable, and when I get comfortable, crisis is averted.

At least, so I think. It never lasts. Something else always comes along, and the pattern repeats itself. People, places, and things quickly are removed piecemeal from daily life until there is nothing left but my disease and me. And that, ladies and gents, is a very dangerous place.

So far, it has never gotten to that final step for me, but I can see very easily how it happens. At the same time, seeing and knowing how it happens do not keep it from happening. In the end, I have always been lucky enough to come back, still clean and sober, by doing the very things I am afraid of, which brought me to that point in the first place—those same things I always said I would make time for, but ultimately never did.

Sure, there is a tinge of shame and guilt whenever seeing a familiar face after emerging from one of these periods, but that is alcoholism and addiction desperately trying to regain the ground it has lost. Really, I am not that important, and if those people are working solid Programs, then they are happy to see that I am still clean and sober, and coming back around more often. If not, and that negativity still hangs heavy, then I really should not care what their opinions are of me, as they are not working Programs I would want myself. Of course, this is all assuming that what I perceived was real in the first place; almost always, the entire issue resided solely with me, within my mind with my disease.

So, now with that all in the open, who else identifies? Let us know in the comments!

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