No one to turn to: autistic addicts and reforming social connections

There is a common theme amongst many addiction recovery communities. It’s the concept that addiction is inherently selfish and inwardly focused in nature.

While I can’t talk for everyone, I can say that in my own personal experience I was particularly selfish during active addiction. Everything was about my need to get high, my need to escape, my need to be someone else.

This kind of behaviour can have a serious detrimental impact on the relationships and personal connections that many of us take for granted. When we achieve sobriety, it’s important to rebuild those relationships and connections.

But what about the autistic people who feel they had no connections in the first place?

Many of us as Autistics experience a great deal of isolation and loneliness throughout our lives. We are regularly alienated by our peers and made to feel like outcasts. How do you rebuild healthy relationships when you weren’t sure you had any to begin with?

When social isolation may be one of the reasons you entered addiction in the first place, the concept of building relationships in sobriety can be overwhelming.

I was very privileged. I had a small group of childhood friends who were happy to welcome me into my sober life, but for those without that privilege, sobriety is a daunting task.

This, I believe, is where the importance of online communities comes into play. Taking the “in person” pressure out of social scenarios can make a huge difference. It is vital to have access to friendships in recovery, and Internet friendships can be just as valid and fulfilling as those we experience on a face-to-face basis.

Autistic people get the short straw when it comes to socialisation. It is vital that autistic addicts have the support of healthy relationships to help them rebuild their lives post-active addiction.

This is something that addiction treatment services must take into account when treating autistic clients. It is well known that addiction can make you socially dysfunctional, it is important that autistic people (who may have been struggling with socialisation for years prior to their addiction) have additional support for the vital task of forming and maintaining friendships in recovery.

If you are an autistic addict, entering recovery, unsure who you can turn to, please seek out autistic spaces. So many there will be willing to support you. If you are the friend or acquaintance of an autistic addict, be ready to approach them with love and understanding. Recovery can seem insurmountable, and they will need all the support they can get.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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