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What Are the Challenges for Introverts in Addiction Recovery?

Introverts are people who generally prefer to be alone. To them, being around other people is stressful, tiring, and distracts from their own thoughts. They don’t always want to be alone, of course, but they typically don’t want much social interaction, especially with big groups of people they don’t know. This tendency can sometimes make recovering from addiction more difficult. Here are some reasons why.

Drugs and alcohol are a crutch.

No one can avoid social situations entirely. On those occasions when you have to talk to strangers, drugs and alcohol helps to short-circuit the endless analysis and second guessing that makes socializing so exhausting. One common type of drinker is the ‘Nutty Professor’, the person who is generally taciturn but then has a few drinks and becomes the life of the party. Too much of this, though, and a crutch can become an addiction. Then, in recovery, the introvert has to learn to deal with social situations some other way, which might entail a tremendous amount of anxiety.

Much of recovery is social.

One of the strongest predictors of successful recovery is a strong sober network. You can typically develop this by being active in meetings, sharing, and getting to know the people there. All of this is a nightmare for an introvert. The prospect of getting up in front of strangers to discuss your personal failings is enough to send any introvert screaming into the night. This aversion is a liability in group therapy and at meetings. It prevents full engagement and making sober friends. Often, people who are reluctant to share or get involved are seen as not being committed to recovery, but introverts would argue they’ve shown their commitment just by showing up.

Introverts can be obsessively introspective.

There are times in recovery when introspection is an asset. It allows you to better understand what’s going on in your own head. You have a better understanding of your fears and motivations. You can connect triggers to cravings. The downside is that you can also get caught up in obsessive analysis and rumination. What feels like productive reflection can turn into wheel-spinning. Sometimes analysis and reflection won’t take you any farther and you just have to act. This obsessive introspection can also make introverts more prone to depression, making sobriety harder.

Introverts prefer solitude.

Introverts in recovery face a dilemma: they can either spend a lot of time around people and risk feeling stressed and tired, or they can spend a lot of time alone and risk feeling isolated and depressed. Typically, especially early on, it’s better to err on the side of being too social. It keeps you out of trouble and you are less likely to ruminate. Even so, going to frequent meetings and spending time with new sober friends takes a particular effort.

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