The terms “introvert” and “extrovert” are rather commonly used today when describing ourselves or the personalities of others, and most people know what each term implies.  Psychologist Carl Jung first used these words when conducting a study of psychological theory, although their meanings have evolved a bit over time through more commonplace, non-clinical usage. Although most tend to people self-identify as either an introvert or an extrovert, and clearly lean in one direction or the other, almost all people demonstrate some traits of both personality types. These personality descriptors are therefore not at all carved in stone, and can vary based on situation or setting or a number of other outside factors.  When considered in relation to addiction or recovery, one’s inclination to be either an introvert or an extrovert can often say a lot about a person’s motivators for drug abuse, and also about potential success and challenges in that individual’s journey towards a clean and sober future.

Extroverts & Addiction Recovery

            Extroverts are people who love to put themselves out there and talk to others. In fact, they thrive on it. Extroverted people actually seem to gain energy from interacting with others.  They love being in a crowd, and extreme extroverts are often well known as the life of the party. Extroverts feel content and fulfilled by surrounding themselves with their friends, family, or really anyone.  When it comes to communication, they are ready, willing, and able to express themselves. They are usually very confident when speaking, and will speak their minds to anyone who will listen.  Often, they express their thoughts as they come to them, with little reflection before speaking.  Mentally, they tend to look at the big picture of any situation, rather than focusing on the details and depth of it.  Extroverts love the spotlight and love for their ideas and being to be externally validated frequently.

            When it comes to drinking and using drugs, it’s often no big surprise that some extroverts enjoy consumption and partying to excess. Parties are fun, and draw a crowd, and the extrovert has plenty of people to with whom to converse. Alcohol and certain other drugs can enhance existing extroversion, which can be enjoyable at first, or sometimes detrimental. Unfortunately, continued, frequent use can quickly grow into abuse, and later, addiction.  After years of partying, an extrovert may come to realize that abusing drugs and alcohol just isn’t fun anymore.

            Extroverts have some advantages in recovery programs.  First of all, most recovery programs are designed with groups in mind. Extroverts will enjoy meeting new people and sharing their story and experiences with them. They are likely open to developing new relationships in a recovery program both with their counselors and therapists as well as other program participants.  Extroverts tend to do well in group therapy and may even reach out to introverts in an effort at inclusion, which can be helpful for all parties involved.

            On the other hand, extroverts may experience unique challenges in their recovery as well.  The transition from user to clean and sober can be a difficult one for them; having to give up the party lifestyle and move away from an existing social circle can be quite difficult. Because they love being the center of attention, extroverts may also struggle with the initial loneliness many feel in early recovery, and may need to create a sober social circle immediately instead.  On a positive note, extroverts are less inclined to drink or use drugs alone, and are always looking for partners; if they make it known that they are now clean and sober and have supportive friends, they will have trouble finding someone to relapse with.

Introverts & Addiction Recovery

            Introverts are the opposite of extroverts in every way.  Instead of being energized by social situations, introverts are drained by them. They get energy from spending time alone.  Independence helps introverts to feel in full control of themselves and their surroundings. Unlike extroverts, introverts are very introspective and spend a lot of time deeply thinking things over and reflecting upon them before making any decisions.  They may seem quiet and mysterious, but really they are just being observant and silent listeners while they take in all that is happening around them.  Introverts make better connections with their inner voice than with any one or anything external, and when they do connect with people, they prefer one on one relationships or at the most, interacting in small group settings.

            Although addiction can happen to anyone, many experts believe that introverts are more susceptible to it than extroverts.  The reasons for this are numerous.  First of all, introverts may be initially drawn to using drugs or alcohol in an effort to feel or appear more extroverted and to fit in.  This can quickly escalate into a problem for the independent and introspective introvert, and when it does, introverts are more likely to use alone, and are less likely to reach out to others for help.  When they do eventually seek help, they may have a hard time coping in a sober living facility due to the emphasis on group work, and they may struggle to interact in groups due to the limited alone time allowed in many rehabilitation programs.

            With these things in mind, therapists and counselors can adjust their approaches to help introverts succeed in recovery by realizing their vast differences from extroverts.  Introverts would benefit greatly from individual therapy at first.  They could also benefit from group therapy, but the size of the group must remain small and intimate.  Introverts can also gain strength in recovery by doing independent work such as journaling, meditating, and yoga, along with other things they enjoy doing alone. 

            The approaches to recovery for introverts and extroverts should be different because these two personality types are so different. Each was drawn to drug and alcohol use for different reasons, and therefore it will take different paths for them to get out and to successfully walk the clean and sober path initially and for the rest of their lives.  All too often these personality traits are overlooked and a “one size fits all” program is administered; with small changes and attention to details like these, anyone can be successful in recovery.

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