An Introvert’s Guide to Rehab: Weeks Two and Three

You’ve made a friend or two, stopped looking at group therapy as torture, and learned you can do without alcohol or other drugs pretty well. But you want your space!

How do you handle living so closely with other people and the constant warnings of “don’t isolate yourself”?

  • Talk to your counselor about how you feel.

    If one counselor doesn’t seem to understand, talk with other counselors. Describe the things that feel most healing to you. For example, when I was in rehab, I told my counselor that I was missing my practice of meditating alone in the morning, and we figured out a time and a place where I could do 20 minutes of meditation before the day’s activities began.

  • Use recreation periods to find some space.

    I found that a good run/walk on the treadmill when we were allowed to use the gym was very helpful for getting some space. I also read – a lot – and usually checked out of the evening post-meeting chatter to go to my room and enjoy an hour with a good book.

Finding Space in a Group

Most Minnesota Model (the model that almost all rehabs use) counselors believe that group support is critical to maintaining sobriety, so they get worried if they see you spending too much time alone. However, most understand that reducing stress is also key to staying sober.

Remember that most people who become rehab counselors are extroverts themselves. It’s a job that requires constant, intimate contact with people, so of course extroverts outnumber those of us who prefer a quiet moment alone! While you may come across a few counselors who are unwilling to consider another perspective, my experience – and those of most people I know – was that counselors are generally willing to talk about how you feel…if you proactively approach them. They’re invested in you taking your recovery seriously. If they see you thinking through ways to do the hard work of recovery in ways that fit your natural personality, they’re more likely to help.

Making Your Experience Successful

I found that introverts had two different kinds of reactions during weeks two and three. For some, the routine was comforting enough to allow for settling in, even though the amount of time with other people could still be stressful. For others, all group activity was exhausting.

The people who seemed to have the most success were those who honored their needs for space when possible and reached out to counselors for help if they needed more time and space. Personally, I tried too hard to act like an extrovert because that was what I felt I was “supposed” to do. This put a strain on me that, in retrospect, was unhelpful. Looking for ways to find quiet within the crowd and little moments alone – even if it’s just walking alone back from the evening AA meeting to the dorm – can make this time easier.

As always, remember that this is your experience. Be honest with yourself and your counselors about what you need and what isn’t helpful, and be open to their input. You may even find that you’re a little more extroverted than you thought!

Additional Reading:   7 Qualities to Look for in a Sponsor…Listen to #2

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