Some people get involved with substance abuse because they are not comfortable with being social with other people. It has been said that a lot of people who turn to substance abuse actually have social anxiety and related panic disorders. Their inability to feel comfortable with dealing with social situations and people eventually leads them to seek some sort of emotional numbness or aid within the use of substances, which is not the proper answer to the problem. As a result, after a recovering addict has been through a rehab program, they may wonder how it is even possible for them to return to being social while being sober.
People use substances as a ‘crutch’ or an aide to help them feel more social with other people. This is commonly seen at social events where alcohol may be served; you’ll hear of people explaining that they are ‘social drinkers’ because they only feel comfortable interacting with groups of people when they are under the influence of alcohol. The same applies to many other substances. Someone who is a substance abuser may feel that they are more comfortable with joking around or chatting with someone when they are under the influence of a substance.
If the individual has social anxiety or some form of a panic disorder, then getting some form of treatment from a counselor or a psychologist may be an ideal option. Sometimes there are medications which can be prescribed to help manage the psychological effects of these disorders and make it easier for people who are affected by social anxiety or panic disorders to deal with their interactions. However, some people are able to experience positive results from attending support groups and meetings instead.
It’s important that the individual doesn’t associate the use of substances with the concept of ‘fun’ or being able to be social with other people. People are social and have fun on a regular basis without the use of substances, so they shouldn’t be automatically associated in these manners. It can be useful to work towards participating in activities where the individual is not feeling pressured to interact with other people but can still focus on having fun and just enjoying themselves. As social progressions change over the recovering addict’s pathway towards maintaining a sober lifestyle, they may become more willing to get involved with interacting with people on a regular basis.
Instead of pushing someone to be more social when they are fresh out of rehab, think of how it may feel from their perspective. Allow them to take their social interactions slowly and a day at a time. Sometimes there will be good days and sometimes there will be bad days. The goal is to show the individual that they can be comfortably social with someone without having to feel as if they have to abuse substances or feel pressured to aspire to some level of acceptance.