If you live with the challenges of substance use disorder, you may think that getting sober is the answer to your problem. This common misconception is why countless people have struggled through the detox and withdrawal process on their own, only to relapse a very short time after. Getting sober is only one part of dealing with addiction. Although it is an absolutely critical part of the recovery process, achieving sobriety merely sets the stage for all of the in-depth and highly introspective work that people must do to maintain their sobriety long-term. Being sober is the opposite of being intoxicated or high, but it should never be considered the opposite of addiction.
Connection, more specifically, human connection, is currently believed to be addiction’s opposite. Without social connection and the ability to feel connected to others, people are always at risk of turning to alcohol, drugs, or other substances or activities for fulfillment. Addiction itself is not solely confined to the overuse of drugs or alcohol. People can struggle with addiction to a very vast range of substances and activities. Some people live with gambling and sex addictions, others are addicted to exercise, mobile phone use, and even shopping. In each of these instances, people find themselves overindulging to their own detriment, and usually with the sole, underlying goal of feeling better. When treating addiction, rehab counselors seek to know why people feel disconnected, unfulfilled, and otherwise unhappy with their lives.
Why Sobriety Matters in Recovery Even Though It’s Only the First Step
Treatment for any addiction requires both counseling and other efforts to learn more about yourself and the factors that drive your decisions. To gain the most benefit from these aspects of treatment, you should always be in a clear and focused frame of mind. Addiction and indulging in addictive substances and behaviors actually alters a person’s brain chemistry. Thus, detox and withdrawal for achieving sobriety benefits people in two distinct ways. First, it eliminates all barriers to being clear-headed, focused, and ready to work on recovery. Second, it sets the stage for the return of normal brain activity and functioning.
Without first becoming sober, recovering addicts can never be fully present for treatment. More importantly, they will continue to be a danger to themselves and all others within the treatment environment. As connection is the opposite of addiction, achieving connection is always the overarching goal or addiction treatment. When people are able to connect with themselves and establish positive and meaningful connections with others, they greatly diminish their risk of relapse. However, the journey to human connection can be different for every individual. Some people struggle with human connection as the result of negative behavioral conditioning early in their lives.
Verbally, physically, and even sexually abusive relationships in their formative years have undermined their sense of self-worth and their ability to trust. Absent of the ability to connect and form bonds, many people use drugs or alcohol to:
- Gain a false sense of confidence
- Relax in tense social situations
- Fit into environments that are rife with peer pressure
Other recovering addicts have a hard time connecting with others due to underlying mental health disorders. People who struggle with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even chronic depression or chronic anxiety can have a hard time feeling comfortable around people, establishing bonds, and avoiding long periods of isolation. These are individuals who often turn to substances to alleviate the emotional pain of their undiagnosed and untreated mental health problems, even as their substance use exacerbates or worsens these same conditions.
Separation or long periods of time spent in isolation rank among the greatest risk factors for relapse following addiction treatment. When people are alone and on their own for too long, they have a higher likelihood of succumbing to feelings of hopelessness and despair, and of giving in to cravings and temptations. While addiction treatment can be a highly personal experience, it also has a number of undeniably social components. All patients take part in group therapies and group skill-building exercises, and most programs have ample opportunities for patients to socialize in stress management workshops and various therapeutic activities. Patients are encouraged to learn how to recognize and nurture healthy relationships, how to set reasonable boundaries, and how to value and honor themselves across all of their social connections.
Addiction treatment programs additionally assist their clients in building and expanding their communication and listening skills, while simultaneously stressing the importance of patients learning to listen to themselves. If you’re lacking a sense of connection and are struggling with substance use disorder as a result, we’re here to help. Get in touch with us today by calling 614-705-0611.