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Addiction and Avoidance

Avoidance relates to addiction on several levels. Avoidant behavior can lead to addiction, perpetuate it, and make it harder to stay in recovery.

One common dual diagnosis is addiction and avoidant personality disorder. Perhaps the best way to describe people with avoidant personality disorder is “pathologically shy.” They are shy to the extent that they will go to great lengths to avoid common human interactions, such as going to the grocery store or dealing with coworkers.

This avoidance often limits their options for what they can do for work and fun, but it is most debilitating on their social lives. Avoidant people tend to have few if any friends despite wanting human connection. This isolation can lead to substance abuse as a way of dealing with their unhappiness. When they can’t avoid human interaction, they will often use drugs or alcohol just to survive inevitable social situations.

This is extreme behavior and most people don’t go to such lengths to avoid social contact, but almost everyone avoids something. Usually, this doesn’t have major consequences, like when you try to avoid traffic or an irritating acquaintance, but when you try to avoid the discomfort of painful memories or negative emotions, you can start to get into trouble. These things, like occasional human contact, are inevitable and trying to avoid them will only make them more threatening. People often starting drinking or using as a way to avoid mental pain, whether it’s from something like memories of abuse or something like schizophrenia, and eventually that coping mechanism becomes an addiction.

Resisting treatment, or even admitting you have a problem, is another form of avoidance. Admitting you have a problem is hard. It means taking responsibility for a problem you don’t know if you can solve. It means enduring detox when you would much prefer to avoid it. It means committing to a fundamentally different way of living. Not only is this process inconvenient and often physically difficult, but it will probably require many awkward conversations with people you have hurt, and sometimes with people who have hurt you. It will require feeling painful emotions with no way to bury them. To some extent, it’s as if all the pain you tried to avoid is still waiting for you at the other end.

It’s a lot to deal with but it’s necessary. The alternative is to live life like an animal caught in a snare that tightens as it struggles. The more people, situations, feelings, and memories you avoid, the less freedom you have.

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