As history teaches us, early humans existed in small, nomadic, groups. Hunters and gatherers lived off of the food that was made available by nature, and found shelter in the landscape. The conditions of being subject to the elements of nature could be harsh, and members of a clan learned to depend on one another for protection, comfort, and camaraderie. Each member did what needed to be done in order to sustain the tribe’s existence.
As human kind evolved toward creating civilizations, the establishment of a community role became vital. No longer would a small group of people be expected to be self-sustaining. Each individual would play a role in an interconnected wheel of production. The baker would depend on the tailor to make his clothes. The tailor would – in turn – depend on the baker for his bread. Both would depend on the local doctor for health, and the doctor would receive his payment in their produced goods. Each member of society played a role that was vital to the sustaining of the community.
Then, the practical need of direct connection with others began to decline. As the cash system came into play, it created an environment of less interaction with the members of our community. The necessity of haggling with our neighbor to arrive upon a fair trade for our daily bread was eliminated with the invention of the price tag. It became possible to stock a variety of goods in one place, and complete the exchanges with minimal communication. A person’s earned gold could be used to buy the goods of the baker, the tailor, and the doctor, without ever even needing to speak to them.
As our access to goods and services increased, so did our exploration of technology. The ability to travel further distances away from our home base was made possible by the invention of the wheel and the production of boats. Particularly in the Western world, it became no longer the custom for sons and daughters to stay close to home. Many were expected to set out and find their fortunes on the ever-increasing map of the world, which meant that families became increasingly isolated from their extended members.
The evolution of society, on the other side of the creation of civilizations, has resulted in a massive amount of lonely people. Particularly in the United States, we can live in a city of a million, and yet not know our next door neighbors. While some are fond of blaming the internet for this creation of isolation, we can see that it is only one more step in a phenomenon which began ages ago. Our economic and technological innovations have been creating the conditions of loneliness for centuries.
The Impact of Loneliness on Addiction
Unfortunately – or not – our emotional and psychological needs, as humans, have not progressed in the same fashion as our societal innovations. At the core, we are still in need of the same, basic, connections which drove us together to form tribes and communities in the first place. People need to feel protected, supported, valued, and validated by others. Likewise, we have an innate desire to perceive that our unique contributions on the planet are making a positive difference for those around us.
Studies on the impact of loneliness and social isolation on the tendency to engage in addictive behaviors have consistently shown a correlation. Those who do not feel a sense of connection with their community are more likely to turn to substance abuse as a means of attempting to cope with the painful feelings of societal disconnect. Loneliness is such an intensely painful emotion, that it can become a physical pain. It can also contribute to health problems and early death.
The trap of turning to substance abuse to ease such discomfort is that the addiction, itself, creates more loneliness. Feeling a need to score the next high can result in anxiety, which can negatively impact our ability to form strong connections with others. Our self-esteem takes a hit, once we realize that we have become a slave to the substance we once considered a friend. We can experience social ostracization when others learn of our addiction and disapprove of our coping methods. The isolating nature of addiction becomes a vicious cycle, which many find they cannot escape without help.
The Benefits of a Sober Living Community
If not already experienced beforehand, a person in addiction can begin to feel as though he or she is an outcast. The rest of the world seems to be bustling with people who have somehow adapted to the current structure of society, leaving you behind to fend for yourself. This is where the benefits of a sober living community come into play. Within this type of environment, you can begin to feel accepted by a tribe, once more.
When you enter a sober living facility, you know, immediately, that you are not alone in your struggles. The community is made up of others who have faced down a similar demon, and who have likewise discovered that there is a way back out of the fire. The social environment is free from judgment or condemnation of your addictive behaviors, as the others who are present have struggled with the same problem. The experience of being accepted, just as you are, can be the first factor in your healing experience.
When we are isolated, we only have ourselves to answer to. While that may seem like a freedom, it can also be our downfall. It is far too easy to justify our own, negative, behaviors. Becoming part of a sober living community means that you will be surrounded by others who will be invested in your recovery. Their expectations for you will provide an extra layer of protection from your own temptations.
Whether you are experiencing the joys of succeeding in your sobriety, or struggling with failures, the members of your sober living community will be rooting for you. They will be providing you with the tools necessary for success, and comforting you during the hard times. The connections that you make during this period of recovery can last a lifetime.