November 29, 2020

Berni Fried Identifies the Signs of Isolation in Addicts and Alcoholics

As a longtime therapist, Berni Fried knows that people who are socially isolated may be more prone to drug addiction and alcoholism. Here, Berni Fried tells the staff at Interviewing Experts how the therapy community is trying to overcome these troubling inclinations.

Interviewing Experts: Thank you for calling in to talk about this sensitive topic.

Berni Fried: It’s my pleasure.

Interviewing Experts: In your experience, what’s the most common signal that an addict is suffering from relapse?

Berni Fried: One of the most common behaviors of addicts is the desire to be isolated from the rest of the world.

Interviewing Experts: Is that always a problematic event?

Berni Fried: Isolation and a lack of a sober support system fuels obsession to drink or use drugs for people in recovery. Avoidance and isolation from 12 step meetings and friends and family leave the recovering person to his or her own obsessive thoughts and feelings. This can often lead to relapse and euphoric recall for the recovering person.

Interviewing Experts: How should therapists and medical professionals address this behavior?

Berni Fried:  It’s critical that therapists that work with people in recovery understand that addicts need to stay connected to other people in recovery: the sponsors in AA and the people that understand what it feels like to be dealing with early sobriety. Undoing the aloneness is key to people in recovery and the need to stay connected to others helps with the sense of safety and the point of identification with their peers. Sober livings, 12 Step  communities, support groups and meetings are all essential components in the recovery process.

Interviewing Experts: What is the chief mission of these particular support groups?

Berni Fried: The essential feature of these support groups is to help the addict know that he or she is not alone. There are people that understand his or her issues and are able to support them without judgement. Often with recovery, there is tremendous shame and self loathing present. It is vital that the addict is able to transform the feelings associated with self doubt and begin the process of hope. Support groups give addicts the opportunity to do this.

Interviewing Experts: Why is constant support such an important value?

Berni Fried:  Being alone and isolated is the central enemy for the recovering person. Isolation and loneliness fuels the obsession to drink or use. Staying connected and supported through groups gives the addict the opportunity to feel like others are there for them. This helps the recovering person with obsession and the desire to “pick up” drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with feelings.

Interviewing Experts:  How can drug rehab prevent these cravings?

Berni Fried: Being in treatment can help. For some addicts, being in a rehabilitation center helps them feel safer and away from their surroundings that fueled their use. There are other people that understand them and help them to feel safe and supported.

Interviewing Experts: In the therapy community, what is the definition of isolation?

Berni Fried: Isolation is when an addict or an alcoholic “cuts off” from his sober support system. This is when the recovering person stops answering the phone, turns down invitations, stops going to 12 step meetings and begins to retreat into his own world. This is a very dangerous dynamic for the recovering person.

Interviewing Experts: How can therapy programs support addicts in isolation?

Berni Fried: The most successful programs allow the community to feel welcoming, open and non-judgmental while confronting their greatest issues. Admitting one’s joys, resentments, angers and fears allows for these feelings and emotions to be expressed and then, understood.

Interviewing Experts: How so…?

Berni Fried: Therapy can support alcoholics and addicts by allowing them to strengthen their desire to stay clean while developing new coping skills. Central in the treatment of the recovering person is reducing the sense of shame and self loathing. The idea is that the addict is not alone and deserves to be supported and understood.

Interviewing Experts: Could you explain further?

Berni Fried: By sitting in a meeting and sharing thoughts, feelings and experiences, the client feels like a significant part of the community. There is the “point of identification”. Hearing other recovering addicts talk openly about their experiences and how they are able to stay sober and discuss their histories without the shame and sense of being alone is very helpful. Feeling connected to a group without judgement and a sense of levity and connection helps the addict feel like a “productive member of society”.

Interviewing Experts: What are the telltale signs that an individual is isolating?

Berni Fried: The prevalent signs include keeping secrets, feeling lonely or overwhelmed, increased sense of boredom, failing to engage in healthy activities, intensified cravings, or increased resentment and anger. Other signs include hiding out, not being willing to engage with others and avoiding any opportunities to be with others.

Interviewing Experts: What if a client is extremely shy or hesitant about being involved?

Berni Fried: Some clients experience a sense of connection to the entire group, while others may connect with just one or two individuals. Open communication is key, regardless of their preferences.

Interviewing Experts: In the end, what lessons do you hope to impart on recovering addicts?

Berni Fried: Staying connected to a support group, a therapist or just others that are on “the same path”. I hope to help to support the addict and know that he or she is not alone and there are others that understand. Reaching out in early recovery is critical!

Interviewing Experts: Thank you for your time today!

Berni Fried: You’re welcome!

Berni Fried has assisted a broad range of clients at her private practice in the southern California area.


Devoting her professional career to addiction therapy and the treatment of PTSD, Berni Fried of Los Angeles is recognized as a major force in her field. She has accepted and succeeded in a wide variety of roles throughout an impressive 20-year career as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, respected public speaker, industry analyst and more. Despite her prominent place in the local and national therapy communities, Berni Fried has drawn her energies towards putting people first at all times. Devising an individualised approach the client is at the center of all of her treatment methods. Each client is assessed and treated individually based on their presenting issues and diagnosis. Each client is valued and seen based on the presenting issues and family history. Berni Fried is devoted to the mission of providing support and guidance to be able to integrate a positive change in their overall self esteem and view of the world.

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