The period that follows drug or alcohol rehab is the time to start building or rebuilding your social support network–sometimes, it means starting over completely. Overcoming loneliness in recovery depends upon how willing the individual is to reach out to others to make meaningful connections. This process is daunting and feelings of loneliness can creep in as you try to find the right support system, work on rebuilding relationships with family and friends, and weed out anyone who is detrimental to your hard earned addiction recovery.
But feelings of loneliness result from a lack of companionship. Simply being alone does not always equal loneliness. Many people are seemingly alone, but do not feel lonely — just as many others will endure intense loneliness in a room full of people they know. Feelings of loneliness can be a pervasive and uncomfortable emotional state that persists despite being around others. While it is common to occasionally feel lonely in recovery, it should not be overlooked.
The Danger of Loneliness in Addiction Recovery
The root of loneliness is feeling a lack of connection to those around us. It is the strong feeling that you are separate or different from others that many people in addiction recovery experience. Loneliness is a complex experience, and if we look closely, buried under feelings of loneliness is often a sense of unworthiness. We struggle to connect because deep down we do not believe we deserve to. To truly overcome loneliness in recovery we have to look within ourselves as well as to outside companionship. Having a support system is important.
Feelings of loneliness can be a powerful relapse trigger. It can lead to depression and anxiety, guilt and shame, social isolation, and ultimately relapse. In early addiction recovery, failure to make a new group of friends, combined with low self-esteem, can lead to intense loneliness which could make you question the value of life in recovery – a dangerous, slippery slope towards relapse.
Overcoming Loneliness in Addiction Recovery: Step One
The first rule in overcoming loneliness in recover is to not ignore your feelings of loneliness! Ignoring these feelings of loneliness can trigger a relapse without much warning. Instead, try these tips to overcome loneliness and strengthen your recovery:
Step Two: Grieve the loss of addiction.
It may seem counter-intuitive, once you’re solidly in recovery, you should take moment to grieve the loss of that crutch. The addiction was your escape. Understand it for what it was: a destructive attempt to hide from your troubles. Grieving the loss of that escape method should very quickly allow you to see that your future will be brighter.
Gone is your addictive behavior, along with the enablers and destructive environment from which you came. You also say goodbye to everyone you associated with during your using days. Allowing yourself to grieve this loss and to acknowledge the possibilities will help you move forward and through the resulting loneliness.
Talk to someone about your loneliness.
Overcoming loneliness in recovery requires you to do something you didn’t do while wrapped up in your addiction: talk to someone about your feelings of loneliness. One of the better ways to overcoming loneliness in recovery is to call a friend. If you’re brave enough to be frank and candid about your current feelings of loneliness, you can start to dig into why you have these feelings in the first place.
See a therapist
Let’s face it, a therapist is far more qualified to help you dig into the underlying causes of your loneliness. A therapist will help you identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are no longer of value in your path to recovery. They will support you and hold you accountable as you rebuild your life in recovery.
Volunteer to serve others
Volunteering will help you feel more connected to the world around you — combating your feeling of isolation – a main characteristic of loneliness. Whether it is at a local animal shelter or helping clean up the park, volunteering can help you meet new people and feel good about contributing to your community.
Join a support group.
Joining a recovery group after addiction treatment is always a great idea. It may take a little time and regular attendance before you personally connect with someone, but attending a group will remind you that you are not alone in your addiction recovery.
Join a club or take a class.
Overcoming loneliness in recovery is a lot easier when you’re surrounded by people who want to have fun. For this reason, we love the idea of taking a class or joining a club. In fact, we encourage this often.
Any form of group activity essentially becomes adventure therapy Sports and fitness clubs offer a wide variety of classes from kickboxing to weight training and each of these activities promotes wellness and awareness.
Whatever your interests may be, whether it is yoga, cooking, art, or writing — there are many classes or clubs available to help you re-discover your interests. You can even find special interest classes such as yoga specifically for people in addiction recovery!
Find support online
If you search a little bit, you can find recovery social networks online. While connections online should not replace real life social networks, they do offer an option for helping you fight your loneliness through recovery forums. Reading about other people’s stories, and pointing you in the right direction to find a support group in your area.
Consider a domestic relationship
By “domestic relationship,” we mean getting yourself a plant or a pet. Believe it or not, having house plants can help ward off loneliness. Keeping a plant alive puts you in touch with your greater connection to the world.
Some people really find peace and comfort from surrounding themselves with plants. We’ve seen it become very meaningful for some people, with some saying it was an important part of overcoming loneliness in recovery for them.
Pets are also great companions, but only consider getting a pet if you know you can take on the responsibility. If you are up for the responsibility, pets can offer an unconditional love that will help immensely in warding off loneliness.
Yoga, Meditation, Exercise and Adventure
An effective tool in addiction recovery, these activities allow you to recognize your feelings as temporary thoughts, which in turn, reduces their power and effect over how they make you feel. Meditation takes repeated practice, but the positive benefits are worth the time for most people recovering from drug addiction.Exercise focuses your attention on building strength and self-confidence. Adventure therapy summons your inner strength and will-power to help you realize your full potential. Any of these activities will go a long way to building a healthy body and mind.
Patch up damaged relationships
Making amends can lead to rebuilding old relationships that are positive for your recovery. Even when it doesn’t lead to that, making amends will help you gain confidence and feel connected to others. Be sure to learn the difference between an apology and making amends, and seek support from those who have made amends before you. Be cautious that you don’t fall into the trap of rekindling unhealthy relationships.
One important and effective method of overcoming loneliness in recovery is to learn to become your own best friend. Increasing your self-esteem and self-confidence will help you become more comfortable being alone, and will attract more positive people into your support network. And because often we feel separate from others because deep down we do not feel worthy of connection, this deep and underlying cause for loneliness can be overcome through working on building confidence and self-esteem.
Regularly using drugs and alcohol acclimatizes the user to experiencing instant gratification. Once in addiction recovery, former addicts often struggle to have patience with themselves and others. Social support is key to sustaining long term sobriety and overcoming loneliness, but also requires patience to develop.
Overcoming loneliness in recovery can means being patient enough to form close relationships. Since loneliness is a strong trigger for relapse, you should have a plan to cope with it. Take a deep breath and do something on the list above to take care of yourself.