Updated on 01/25/24

Content reviewed by Nicholas G. Glines

Recovery requires support from friends, family and peers to help you manage challenges and interact in a healthy way. Though, sometimes we all need our space to unwind or reflect. Maybe you had a stressful day at work or are not interested in going to a social gathering that may trigger you to drink. Maybe you need a little self-care. These are all valid reasons to “opt-out” of a social occasion.

Sometimes it is not about self-care. Perhaps you are experiencing some pain and think that isolating yourself is the best way to protect yourself. When needing space turns into isolation, this is a clear warning that you are not in the best position to manage your recovery.

Difference Between Needing Space and Isolating Yourself

Needing space is a time that you designate to spend apart from others. These times could include activities or treatment practices that you enjoy doing alone, such as reading, cooking, hiking or diving into an art project. It is also time to practice self-care and meditate. Perhaps you spend this time taking a hot bath or practicing mindfulness. Or maybe, you just want to catch up on your favorite show. Needing space from others should be time spent nourishing your personal needs and pursuits.

Isolation is about setting yourself apart from others. Isolation is an unhealthy detachment from your social network. During these periods, not only do you stop participating in events and gatherings, but you neglect your self-care needs.

When Isolation Becomes Harmful in Recovery

When your thoughts turn from a healthy reflection to a negative reflection, you can harm your outlook on life. Sometimes during the road to recovery, you may feel as though you have become stuck in a pattern or a loop of critical thoughts. Choosing to protect yourself with solitude perpetuates such thoughts because you prevent yourself from the distractions of conversations and events with those that care about you.

When Your Inner Voice Can Hurt You

When you reach a state of isolation, your inner voice can manipulate you and narrow your scope of recovery. It can validate feelings of worthlessness, loneliness and depression. If you already work to manage depression, isolation is where depression thrives. Other ways your inner voice can hurt you include:

  • Telling you to avoid others for fear of judgment
  • Cutting ties with the people that love you
  • Telling you there is nothing to gain from socializing with others
  • Accentuating your past mistakes and convincing you this is who you are
  • Pressuring you to have a drink to cope

Isolation dwells on negative self-talk, thus leading you away from social connection’s psychological and physical benefits.

How to Make Alone Time in Recovery Healthy

Getting space from others should be a time to allow your brain to recharge after social stimulation. Your brain needs this time to decompress. Getting yourself some space allows you the opportunity to practice things that calm you. When you use this time effectively, you will notice a boost in your creative thoughts, energy and motivation.

These moments are great for reminding you that you can still spark imagination and inspiration. Since you are not around others, you will feel free to explore different pursuits such as playing music, painting or exercising. Such time will also help you focus and in many cases, it will allow you to see projects through.

Needing space should be about nurturing yourself. You deserve “me time” now and again. Taking this time to reflect and explore different pursuits helps you return to your friends and family with vigor and purpose. When you feel revitalized after having some space, you know it was a healthy choice.

Knowing Whether You Are Getting Space or Isolating Yourself in Recovery

To understand whether you are getting your space or isolating yourself, you need to look at your behavior. Do you see any negative behavioral patterns? Do you want to avoid others because you feel judged and want to protect yourself? Sometimes you may feel more comfortable in isolation because you feel as though you are in control. Though, what you are doing is putting up walls around you. You may also believe that, in some way, you deserve to be alone.

Alternatively, if you are using this time to explore other hobbies or activities and are excited to dive into a project, you are making healthy use of your time. You are not focusing on the negative rather, you are using the time to do things that you like doing alone. Here are some additional ways that you can identify your thoughts and behaviors:

  • Keep a journal to track your thoughts
  • Be mindful of any negative self-talk and what is happening to trigger this thought
  • Consult your therapist to talk through what is bothering you
  • Seek local support such as 12-step programs in Texas

Everybody needs space at certain times; it is when you begin to avoid others that it becomes problematic. At New Hope Ranch, we understand that recovery is a life-long journey and with this, it will have its share of challenges. To find out more, call us today at (737) 600-8565