For some people in recovery, spending time alone is preferred. Rather than make conversation or deal with other people’s unexpected choices, they feel safer being by themselves. For others, the idea of being alone with their own thoughts for too long is terrifying. They prefer the ability to interact, focusing on social dynamics rather than having to live in their head.
So, which one is better for you when it comes to growing stronger in your ability to stay sober? Should you spend time alone or immerse yourself in the company of others in order to be your best self in recovery?
In recovery, there is a huge focus on avoiding isolation. Spending too much time alone means spending too much time in your head with thoughts that often steer you in a bad direction, and not spending enough time learning and growing in recovery. Your support network of peers in recovery can be all that stands between you and relapse when you are in crisis or starting to lose focus on your sobriety. Though it is not easy to jump into a new group of people and find your way comfortably, especially in early recovery when you may be nervous or unsure of yourself, it is an essential piece of the puzzle when you are putting together a new life for yourself that doesn’t include use of drugs and alcohol.
Finding Your Authentic Self
As important as it is to connect with positive people who support you in recovery, it is just as important to bond with yourself and figure out who you really are now that you are not focused on substance abuse. For many people, it can take a while to determine what kind of music they really like now that they aren’t “making the scene,” where their true goals and interests lie, and even what style of dress makes them feel the most comfortable. Sometimes it is easier to figure this out somewhat on your own, taking into consideration the suggestions of people around you but giving yourself the time to experiment and decide for yourself.
Dealing with Discomfort
Whether you prefer a crowd or would rather be alone, it is a good idea to find balance with both. Spending all your time around others or all your time alone can be equally destructive, so if you feel uncomfortable with one or both of these, then your first focus can be to address that discomfort.
You can do this by:
Setting a minimum time limit for yourself. If you are particularly uncomfortable with being by yourself or being around people you don’t know well, schedule the activity for a minimum time period and stay the whole time. For example, if you start out by scheduling yourself 10 minutes of social time every day after a 12-Step meeting or a therapy session, you can begin to work your way up to more extended periods as you feel more comfortable.
Being persistent. Over time, if you repeatedly engage in the activity that causes you discomfort, you will begin to find ways to manage that discomfort healthfully. Consistency is key, however. The act of repetition is part of how you will build your confidence and sense of ease, whether you struggle with time with others or alone time.
Asking for pointers. If you are unsure how to handle yourself or what exactly to do in either situation, ask for help. Your therapist can give you some ideas and then follow up with you as you put them into action and determine how useful they are for you personally.
Reveling in the happy. As stressful as it may be to become more balanced in your relationships with yourself and others, there are still a thousand incredible things going on in your life that can inspire you. You are breathing. You are sober. You have options. You can choose your journey forward. In this moment, you might be able to opt to have your favorite sandwich, watch your favorite TV show, enjoy a hot cup of coffee, take a nap, or go outside and just be for a few moments.
How do you work on discomfort associated with being with yourself or others? How has your process helped to improve your ability to stay sober?