One of the commonalities of severe substance use disorders (SUDs) involves isolation. Often people who suffer from addiction struggle to connect with others. They may become isolated, spending more and more time alone. This combination of isolation and addiction can hinder an individual’s relationships with friends and family members. It can keep people from spending time with their parents, children, or spouse.

But, why exactly does isolation occur along with addiction? Why do people isolate themselves when they’re struggling with the effects of alcoholism or drug dependence? Maybe you have a loved one who is becoming distant and you suspect substance use is in the mix. If so, knowing more about the nature of addiction and how it affects those who suffer from it can help you tremendously.

Why Do Isolation and Addiction Co-Occur?

Individuals may choose to be isolated in order to hide their substance use and the effects of being intoxicated. Addiction has a way of making people feel ashamed. It often causes individuals to feel guilty or afraid. This may cause them to isolate themselves from friends and family more and more frequently. 

Others may find themselves pushing away the people who do know about their addiction to avoid hurting those individuals or making them upset. Some people might have always preferred to be less social. So substance use in isolation may seem as normal to them as when they watch a movie alone on an uneventful Friday night.

Often times, it can be a mixture of all these circumstances and more. The causes of isolation in situations that involve addiction will vary from person to person. After all, no two people are alike. Likewise, no single case of substance dependence is exactly like any other.

Many behaviors that are associated with addiction may also involve other factors, even down to a person’s normal behavior before developing substance use disorders. For some people, trauma may lead to “self-medication” which manifests into a disorder because the trauma was never addressed. Others may experience trauma after realizing they are addicted to some substance, such as cocaine or alcohol.

More About Isolation and Addiction

Isolating oneself when using drugs or alcohol can be internalized. Keeping a secret from one’s closest family members can emotionally isolate the individual from someone they respect and trust even if the relationship itself continues daily, with conversation and even laughter.

This can also spill over into a person’s workplace. Many jobs don’t exactly offer an exceptional social atmosphere as it is, with co-workers often having to smile at each other publicly while knowing that it will have to become cutthroat if the company is downsizing or offering up a promotion where space is limited.

Some workplaces can be extremely stressful, causing individuals to become overwhelmed with worry, fear, and utter discomfort. Many people turn to substance use in order to escape from the effects of stress. But, this may lead them to distance themselves from coworkers in order to hide their substance dependence. 

Homelife can also be difficult and challenging. Obstacles can arise in relationships and financial burdens can take over a person’s life. This may drive individuals to isolation and substance misuse. 

A user may find themselves getting up every single morning and spending time just figuring out how to hide this aspect of their lives which, for whatever reason, is slowly spiraling out of control. 

Is My Loved One Suffering From Addiction? Recognizing the Signs

One of the most common stories of those surviving someone who passed away due to addiction will state that they had no clue that there was a problem. A person who shuts off from the world shuts out possible help. We live in a country that obsesses over individuality, rugged individualism, and self-motivation. But, when a chronic illness like addiction is involved, it almost always ends in tragedy.

This is why it is so important for individuals to better understand addiction. If you have noticed that someone you know is becoming more and more isolated, perhaps it’s more than loneliness or  “a phase”. This isolation may be a sign of addiction in your friend or family member’s life.

If you’re not sure that a substance use disorder is present, you might consider checking for the following signs:

  • Secrecy
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Moodiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Changes in personality
  • Frequent disorientation
  • Carelessness or recklessness
  • Unusual/abnormal body odors
  • Unkempt or untidy appearance
  • Trouble keeping up with schoolwork
  • Difficulty managing responsibilities at home
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Tardiness at work; other problems on the job
  • Sudden changes in weight (weight loss or gain)
  • Defensiveness when addressed about substance use
  • Needles, pill bottles, alcohol bottles, and other paraphernalia 
  • Physical signs of substance use: dilated pupils or small pupils, bloodshot eyes, burn marks, track marks, lack of physical coordination, etc.

If you’ve noticed any of these signs in a loved one’s life, it is likely that he or she is suffering from addiction. If this is, in fact, the case, then it’s absolutely necessary to make sure the individual gets help. 

How Can I Help My Loved One Overcome Addiction?

It is common for people to be unsure about how to help individuals who are suffering from substance dependence. So, if you’re not certain about what you should do, you’re not alone. The good news is that there are multiple things you can do to help your loved one who is struggling with alcoholism or drug misuse.

But, first, it is helpful to know what not to do when someone you know is suffering from addiction. If you know individuals who are struggling with alcohol or drug misuse, you must avoid enabling them. This is one of the most important things to remember. To enable an individual means to make it easier for him or her to continue unhealthy behavior.

It’s very likely that you don’t intend to enable your suffering loved one. Undoubtedly, you want to help the individual. But, it’s important to recognize even the most subtle ways in which you might enable the person’s addiction. 

Signs of enabling addiction include:

  • Giving the person money
  • Lying or “covering” for the individual
  • Taking on the person’s responsibilities
  • Losing or neglecting personal boundaries despite discomfort
  • Putting the needs of the struggling individual before your own needs
  • Codependency: i.e. holding on to the relationship for fear of being alone

It can be especially difficult to avoid enabling a person who is very close to you. If you’re married to the individual or the person is a close friend or sibling, you may struggle to hold him or her accountable. But, if there are any behaviors in your life that may make it easier for the person to continue using, it’s best to recognize and avoid these behaviors. 

To help your loved one, you may need to do things that are challenging. But, the results will be positive, both for the individual and for you.

Intervention: A Way to Help Your Loved One

The main goal of intervention is to help your loved one find their way to freedom from drug or alcohol dependence. It’s important for the struggling individual to get help for addiction in order to overcome the disorder. So, you may find yourself in a position where you need to encourage the person to get professional help. 

Your initial thought may be to address the individual about his or her substance use. Perhaps, you may see the individual drinking more than usual. Or you may notice physical signs of drug use. Maybe the individual is becoming distant from friends and family. It’s likely that you’ll want to mention these things and ask your loved one if they’re struggling with addiction. In some instances, conversations like this can lead to a solution. However, this might not always be the case.

It may be difficult to speak to your loved one about his or her struggle with addiction. If you suspect that the individual is dealing with substance dependence, you may need to intervene. But, it’s likely that the person will become defensive. This is fairly common when substance dependence is involved. Still, it can be hard to talk to your family member or friend because of this defensiveness. So, you might need to seek professional assistance.

To help your loved one, you may need to hold an intervention. An intervention is a meeting that involves the individual struggling with addiction and his or her loved ones.  Typically, the family members or friends who recognize the presence of addiction will join together to speak with the person who is suffering from substance dependence. But, it’s important to understand the best way to go about holding an intervention. Failing to do so may result in an ineffective attempt to help your loved one overcome addiction.

What Else Can I Do For Someone Who Is Suffering From Addiction?

Help your loved one by learning more about addiction. It may be hard for you to understand some of the individual’s behaviors and words. Sometimes, addiction can cause people to do hurtful things. However, it’s important to remember that your loved one is suffering from a disease that they cannot control. The more you learn about substance dependence and how it is affecting your friend or family member, the better.

You can also help the individual by encouraging him or her to get treatment. You can even have a treatment facility lined up when you hold the intervention. This will enable you to immediately take your loved one to get help once he or she finally decides to do so. 

Another thing to remember is that helping yourself is one way to ultimately help the struggling individual. You might consider family counseling. Therapy can help you to find peace and closure. It can also give you the tools and resources you need in order to continue helping your loved one.

Finally, providing support is one of the best things you can do for your friend or family member. You can support the individual throughout his or her struggle with addiction. Then, you can continue to support the person as they begin treatment. This support can continue throughout recovery. It will mean more to the individual than you may realize. Since isolation and addiction often go hand in hand, your loved one may feel alone, even in treatment. Being there for the struggling individual will extend more love and genuine care than anything else.

Ending Isolation and Addiction: Getting Treatment for Substance Dependence

If someone in your life is suffering from the isolation of addiction, you can help! Your support and love along with professional treatment will help to bring healing to the person’s life. So, now is the time to begin the journey to freedom from substance use disorder. Contact us here at Discovery Institute to speak with specialists in the best New Jersey treatment center. Let us walk with you and your loved one today!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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