“We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”
– Dalai Lama XIV
Addiction is often the result of feeling lonely or depressed. Turning to drugs or alcohol is a tactic for many individuals to escape that isolating emotional pain. But when the self-medication turns into a substance abuse problem, the addict suddenly finds him or herself lonelier than ever. This is why finding a supportive community is such a vital part of the recovery process.
Social support plays a powerful role in empowering you to face obstacles and overcome challenges. With the support of family, friends, therapists, counselors and other individuals in recovery, you are able to tap into strength beyond your own. You are able to rely on a community of support.
The importance of social support includes:
A sense of belonging. Spending time with others wards of loneliness by reinforcing that you are never alone. As part of a group, you have a network of support whenever you need it.
Increased sense of self-worth. Having people who call you a friend reinforces that you are a valuable and irreplaceable individual. This creates a feeling of security, minimizing unnecessary stress or self-doubt.
Resources for advice and information. It’s important to have a mentor you respect and can go to at any time for advice. Counsel from someone who’s “been there” puts your situation into perspective and allows you to approach it from a different angle.
Is it Normal to Feel Lonely During Addiction Recovery?
The reason recovering addicts feel lonely during recovery is because their entire support system is suddenly taken away. Think of it this way: Alcohol and drug addicts surround themselves with other substance abusers. During addiction, their entire social support network is composed of like-minded people.
When first introduced to a drug rehab program, it’s normal to feel lonely. The people and friends who enabled your substance abuse are suddenly gone. This is why it’s critical to find fellowship in recovery – to replace one social network with a healthier, more positive network.
Ways to Deal With Loneliness in Recovery
Defining loneliness is difficult because it is such a subjective feeling usually accompanied by other powerful emotions such as anxiety, depression or panic. Further complicating the concept of loneliness is the fact that many people say they feel alone even when surrounded by family and friends. This could be due to a fear of being alone or certain psychological problems, such as depersonalization disorder or other dissociative disorders.
Recovering addicts often state that overcoming loneliness in recovery is sometimes harder than detoxing. While in medical detox, addicts receive medications to help relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In recovery, loneliness can’t be treated with medications. Instead, ex-addicts must learn to be comfortable with themselves without escaping into drugs or alcohol. They must learn to take advantage of solitude and enjoy being with the creative, soulful, profoundly reactive human being they are and have always been.
Instead of dwelling on feelings of loneliness in recovery, take advantage of your solitude. The notion of solitude as beneficial may strike recovering addicts as totally unfamiliar to them, since they may have spent the last few years high on drugs to avoid being alone with their thoughts, feelings and memories.
Solitude is not loneliness, but an opportunity to recharge your brain without energy-draining distractions constantly demanding attention. Solitude can also increase your productivity, improve concentration and provide you with the time necessary to rediscover yourself. It lets you consider several solutions to problems that have been nagging you without interference from daily life interruption. Finally, solitude enhances relationship quality with family and friends as you gain a better understanding of what makes you who you are – a thinking, feeling, caring human being with so much more to give the world.
The next time you feel loneliness in recovery, replace that feeling with the joys of solitude. Be aware it isn’t loneliness you feel. It’s simply your soul telling you it needs replenished and enriched by you and you alone.
Ways to Stop Being Lonely in Recovery
If you feel lonely in a drug or alcohol addiction rehab treatment program, it’s important to know how to stop these feeling. Below are a few tips to stop feelings of loneliness or depression during recovery:
Make the most of group therapy. Whether it’s 12-step based meetings or experiential therapy, it’s important to give your all to group sessions. These are prime opportunities to become part of the community and connect with others facing the same challenges as you. When you make the most of group therapy, you understand that you are never alone.
Restore damaged relationships. Chances are that you pushed away family, friends and loved ones during addiction. During recovery, you have the opportunity to mend any frayed relationships and start a new chapter with those you love. Give your personal relationships new life and find the support and community you deserve.
Accept your emotions. Even if you have a healthy support system in place, it’s normal to feel lonely from time to time. Unpleasant emotions are a part of life for everyone. If you are seeking treatment for a dual diagnosis, rest assured that your treatment is addressing any unnatural or excessive emotions.
Give back. Being a good friend is a two-way street. It requires that you give and take. Yes, you should reach out to others when you feel lonely. It’s equally important, however, to listen actively and be present when someone else needs you for his or her own support.
At JourneyPure Emerald Coast, we understand the importance of community during addiction recovery. Our counselors, therapists and friendly team are intentional in creating an atmosphere that is safe and supportive.
Ready to begin your journey to recovery? Call our addiction counselors or contact us online today.