loneliness in addiction recovery

Loneliness in Addiction Recovery

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Loneliness can have a detrimental effect on your life. Perhaps it’s what caused you to become addicted to one or more substances. As Mother Theresa once said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” Then again, maybe you were always the life of the party and had plenty of friends but then discovered that you lost all or most of them the further you spiraled into addiction. Or you are fortunate enough to be loved and cared for by many, but you are lonely while engaging in addiction recovery, feeling like there is nobody who understands what you’re going through.

Are You Actually Feeling Lonely?

First, it’s important to point out a difference in terminology. Just because somebody is alone does not mean that they are necessarily lonely. In other words, if you are alone for long periods of time but don’t feel lonely, then much of this won’t apply to you. By the same token, a person could be in a room packed full of people and even be interacting with several of them but still feel lonely. Our world today has a way of connecting people through so many sources, but many still feel lonely without an intimate connection to people.

Feeling Lonely During Inpatient Rehab

Even if you were never or rarely lonely before, it’s understandable to feel that way during inpatient rehab, especially in the first several days when you may be away from those who care about you and in a foreign environment combined with experiencing the added physical and mental stress of being weaned off of one or more substances. But do remind yourself that you are not alone. First, consider those who do care for you and are thinking of you even if they’re not easily accessible. Second, talk to those around you. Staff members and counselors are trained to help people through these moments while others undergoing recovery will likely have an even more intimate understanding of what you’re going through emotionally at a time like this. Often times, staff members have experience with recovery. In the addiction recovery community, many turn to careers in a rehab setting so they can help others that are struggling.

And do talk to family and friends when you can. Although not guaranteed in every situation, they are more than likely happy that you are getting help and engaging in addiction recovery and will be glad to help. If you are unfortunately not in that situation, simply focus on those around you.

Sober and Lonely

It’s also important to realize that feeling lonely might manifest itself, perhaps even more intensely, as you transition into the sober-living phase of your life. Hopefully it’s not, but fully completing this recovery process will likely be one of the most challenging things that you’ve ever done. But do keep in mind that it improves. Your first few days post-recovery and sober will almost assuredly be more challenging than months and years down the line. This includes the number of times of feeling lonely and the intensity of those moments. And you may, right when it looks like you’re on the other side of the mountain, have cultivated close friendships again – or for the first time – and then suddenly, out of nowhere, have an intense bout with unwanted solitude. As with every step of this recovery process, you’ll most likely not be able to just turn a switch and everything will be perfect. There will be some bumps in the road, and that also applies to any feelings of desolation that you may be feeling.

Another thing to consider is that, when you are looking to abstain from substances, it may then seem like they are all around, and this can cause you to feel lonely as well. This may especially be the case with alcohol, but, at the same time, there are plenty of people who don’t drink, some who have never even had one drink. Regardless, seek out individuals who have no interest in what you’re avoiding, and that will help you feel unlonely. Join a gaming group, go on group hikes, check out a local museum or volunteer for a cause that you care about. But you are definitely not alone in being sober. In fact, 44 percent of Americans didn’t have a single drink in the last month[1], and the percentages are even higher for those who haven’t used other substances in that same time frame. Seek out those people.

Whatever You’re Feeling is Normal

But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it’s normal to feel lonely at any stage of this process, both at expected times as well as at unexpected ones. In other words, don’t add to your stress by beating yourself up for the emotions that you’re feeling. Even if it may not seem like it at the time, it really is normal, especially during this challenging time in your life as you look to rebuild it. And, of course, do remember that you are not alone. There are people who care for you. Some may not be readily accessible at the moment, but they do. Meanwhile, there surely are those who you can reach out to now. If you are in inpatient rehab, reach out to people around you. If you are into the sober part of your recovery process, give somebody a call and talk about what you’re feeling.



[1] https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics


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