In the Shadows: How Active Addiction Leads to Isolation

Addiction Isolation

Even though alcohol is considered a social substance, many people who become dependent on it find themselves feeling alone. When my drinking was at its worst, I could be in a room surrounded by people and still feel absolutely isolated. Active alcoholism kept me separate from my friends and family, my hobbies, my work, and my obligations. Before I knew it, I couldn’t do much of anything at all. 

In the twilight of my drinking, there was something magical about how alcohol made me feel. I felt relaxed, sparkly, confident, outgoing, courageous — all the things I didn’t feel naturally. Soon enough, the magic of drinking turned into maintenance and I was using alcohol daily to self-medicate an anxiety disorder. Gather all that up and sprinkle in my Irish alcoholic genetics, and you’ve got yourself a soup. A very alcoholic soup.

Naturally, over time, my alcohol problem developed into hardcore alcoholism and I was binge drinking every single day. I reckoned I didn’t drink like other people because I always drank more and quicker than my friends. So I started hiding how much I drank from the outside world. Meeting a friend for “a drink” meant I would slam about four beers prior to leaving the house, only to continue drinking when I got home. I traded in going out with friends to binge drink at home alone so I could drink the way I wanted to. I started drinking earlier and earlier each day to remedy jittery hangovers so I could function. 

However, soon I was barely functioning, and the isolation really started to settle in. I suffered daily with horrifying anxiety from constant alcohol withdrawal and the only remedy for it was more drinking. My alcoholism had become so chronic that in the mornings, I could not get out of bed without drinking. On weekends, I stayed in bed well into the afternoon because my hangxiety was so intense that I was afraid to move. I started to envy people who could do something as simple as go for a walk, because I was too nervous to leave the house. 

I also developed an aversion to driving because I would have panic attacks behind the wheel as a result of my hangovers. The only place I felt safe was at home with my booze and I just drank and drank and drank. For someone who once had a very big life with lots of friends, hobbies, goals, and plans, I had just about nothing left. My world had become very, very small and I was beyond emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. 

The more isolated I was, the more warped my thinking became. Not only is active addiction very lonely, it’s also fucking weird. Reality did not feel real and my brain (constantly floating around in beer) was always playing tricks on me. My addiction was telling me that the only solution to my mental, emotional, and physical problems was more of the substance that was killing me. 

I also got up to some weird ass shit when I was drunk and isolated. I would talk to myself or have imaginary fights out loud with people in my head. I’d take glamor-shot selfies and post them on social media, only to shamefully delete them the next morning. Or I’d listen to music really loud, sing, and have my own personal dance parties till I blacked out

But despite all the odd “fun” I was having in my own little drunken universe, I couldn’t show up for real life anymore. If I wasn’t drunk, I was perpetually sick and nervous. So I missed holidays, birthdays, work, weddings, and other important obligations. I became unreliable and untrustworthy. Meanwhile, my addiction was telling me that my drinking wasn’t hurting anyone but myself, yet I had hurt just about every person I loved. But as long as I had enough booze in the fridge, my drinking told me I didn’t need anyone or anything else. 

But I did need people and I desperately needed their help. After years of slowly killing myself with alcohol, I finally had enough and I couldn’t do it anymore. With the help of my doctor, other alcoholics, my therapist, and my friends and family, I was able to get sober and break the spell alcohol had on me. I didn’t think it would be possible, but in recovery, I have more friends than I did prior to my alcohol addiction. 

I learned that the opposite of addiction is connection. What that means is that my addiction is not just about the pleasurable feelings that alcohol created for me. It’s about my inability to connect with other human beings. I was never able to ask for help, say what I felt or cope because I was too afraid to communicate. That fear, coupled with my physical dependence on alcohol, kept me sick for a very long time. But by connecting with others, I realized I was not alone. Turns out, I was not the only person who ever felt a certain way (or had imaginary fights and solo drunken dance parties). 

Not only is addiction a killer, isolation is too. The disease of addiction is not happy until you are all alone with nothing or dead. So if your addiction has you feeling isolated, it’s currently succeeding in conquering you. But you can beat it if you take isolation’s opposite action and connect with other people for help. Those people are actually already waiting for you, you just haven’t met them yet. You can come out from the shadows and into the light. All you have to do is ask for help and you will get it. 

In the comments below, let us know how connection has served you in your recovery, or how isolation hindered it.

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