Coping With Isolation During Recovery

Coping With Isolation During Recovery

One of the top risk factors for relapse during recovery is isolation. Many people experience loneliness or purposely isolate themselves during active addiction and recovery. People may not feel they have the support they need to overcome the emotional challenges of life. This can cause them to withdraw from other people. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid isolation and cope with its harmful effects. 

Understand Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation

Many people develop substance use disorder (SUD) to avoid feelings of isolation in the first place. In turning to drugs or alcohol, they hope to escape the emotional pain of feeling lonely. However, this self-medication practice can easily worsen into an addiction. The negative emotions of loneliness do not go away. Instead, they often become amplified through substance use. Isolation and drinking or using can become a vicious cycle. 

Feelings of isolation can stem from a person lacking a sense of self-worth and belonging. Past neglect, abuse, and trauma can contribute to these underlying emotions. Luckily, receiving treatment from a trained therapist can help people overcome these issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective way to identify negative patterns. Working with a trauma-informed therapist can also help recovering individuals regain a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. 


It is normal to feel lonely and isolated during recovery. Many people with SUD only have a thin layer of social support left because they may have burned many bridges with people who once cared about them. They may have a strong sense of shame and guilt in social relationships. Some people may blame themselves for not having social support. During recovery, individuals must practice self-compassion by acknowledging their challenges while affirming their value.

Self-compassion also means viewing addiction from a scientific perspective. Yes, many people develop an addiction because of poor choices in life. In many cases, the initial act of substance use is a choice, but addiction is a chronic and uncontrollable brain disease. It is unhelpful to blame oneself for being unable to manage substance use. Self-compassion means releasing this self-blame to begin a journey of self-care.

Professional Help

Other powerful emotions, such as anxiety and depression, may accompany feelings of isolation. Even people with the support of family and friends may experience challenging emotions. During treatment, they should make the best use of interventions that provide mental and physical health support. 

There are many kinds of therapy, all of which look slightly different, but all are meant to help individuals express and heal their emotional state. An experienced therapist may confirm that certain feelings are normal and common, given the chemical changes in the brain that result from substance use. Listening to others in a 12-Step group can make recovering individuals realize that others face the same challenges. Individuals may experience a sense of mutual understanding and encouragement, which helps alleviate loneliness. 

Family therapy may also help people cope with isolation. A trained therapist will guide the entire family to discuss barriers in communication. Supportive loved ones of those struggling with addiction may begin new initiatives to repair relationships, make connections, and increase support for each other in tangible ways. These developments take time but will ultimately work to form a stronger support system.

Appreciate Solitude Rather Than Isolation

Having a deeper connection with oneself is a fundamental way to cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Recovering individuals do not need to pack their daily schedules with activities so much that they don’t have a moment to themselves. Sometimes, solitude can be sweet and calming. Solitude is different than isolation. The main thing that sets them apart is that solitude is an intentional time to be alone and reconnect with oneself. In contrast, the primary goal of isolation is to distance oneself from others.

There are many ways to spend quality time with oneself. Take mindfulness meditation, for example. Nurturing the habit of daily short meditations can help the brain feel at ease. Focusing on breath work may expand one’s focus and concentration while dissipating feelings of loneliness. Another effective way of building self-connection is through journaling. Creating a space to reflect on the positive sides of life can be highly therapeutic for the brain. However an individual chooses to spend their time in solitude, it should be fruitful rather than avoidant.

Acknowledging Feelings of Isolation

Time spend in addiction as well as treatment, can feel very isolating. Many people find it challenging to go through different segments of the treatment plan while making social connections. People in residential treatment may still feel lonely living in a structured and supportive environment. Taking advantage of the resources and opportunities is key to individuals’ journeys out of isolation. 

Seeking out conversations with others is a must in recovery. Isolation can give people a false sense that they cannot recover. For this reason, recovering individuals should not ignore lingering feelings of isolation and allow them to fester. 

Embracing Positivity

A positive attitude is the best medicine for people in recovery. With positive thinking, they can actively engage in different treatment methods. Health professionals and recovery experts have developed many tools to help people overcome isolation. One only needs to collaborate and allow these tools to work.

People in residential treatment should consider it a privilege to be in a space of care where the top priority is to get better. The support of family and friends should not only help them overcome isolation but motivate them to become more present in the lives of others.

To overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation in recovery, you must learn effective self-care techniques. Given the widespread misconceptions and myths about self-care, you may need to work with a team of recovery experts to master authentic self-care skills that prevent isolation and relapses. Laguna Shores Recovery helps you become an expert in self-care that works. Here, you will find that our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of positive support networks. So whether you need to distance yourself from unhealthy habits or relearn self-care methods for success, we can help. Call (866) 774-1532 to discover how you can be part of our strong recovery community that values effective and authentic self-care.