Recovering from addiction is often a difficult journey – and can be very lonely. However, it’s important that you have a network of people there for you. Loneliness can mirror the feelings you felt while in active addiction – and may increase the chances of relapsing.
That’s just one of the reasons why it’s so important that you have people there for you, and recover relationships that may have been broken because of your addiction to alcohol or drugs.
Read on to learn more about addiction recovery, and for some tips on how you can combat loneliness when recovering from alcohol addiction or drug addiction.
What is Alcohol Addiction Recovery?
Being in alcohol addiction recovery doesn’t always have to mean that you’re in or have been to rehab. In terms of addiction, recovery simply means that you’re currently working on managing and gaining control of your addiction.
There is no time span for alcohol addiction recovery – but many people say that once you’re in recovery, you’re in recovery for the rest of your life.
The first step of recovery in regards to alcohol addiction is realising that you need help. It may take a while to realise that you have a problem – but your recovery journey begins once you understand that you have a problem, and you want to get help.
Once you realise you need help, the next step is finding the right treatment for you – or creating an action plan to withdraw from alcohol safely.
This is something we can assist you with at Help4Addiction – we can find the right rehab clinic for you, whether you’re looking for inpatient rehab/ residential rehab, outpatient rehab, or quasi-residential rehab.
The detox stage can be difficult, and you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In most cases, it’s not recommended to withdraw from alcohol using the ‘cold turkey’ method.
With more severe addictions, medical detox may be the best course of action – where you may be given detox medication to ease the withdrawal process.
You may then undergo therapy, whether it be through the NHS or via private centres. This can be extremely beneficial in preventing relapse.
Therapy aims to build your strength and confidence and give you an understanding of yourself and your addiction – for example, your triggers or any root causes of your addiction.
During this stage of alcohol rehab, you’ll learn effective coping strategies to help you avoid relapsing – which can be learned through a variety of therapies (e.g CBT).
Recovery from addiction isn’t always a straightforward process – and nobody’s experience is exactly the same. It takes time, patience, and determination to combat your addiction – as well as a solid support system.
Why Do People Feel Lonely In Recovery?
Although not everybody finds recovery lonely, it is completely normal to feel lonely while in recovery from alcohol addiction. Everybody’s recovery journey is different, and you may experience a wide range of feelings throughout your journey.
There are several reasons why you may feel lonely as a recovering alcoholic. Previously, alcohol may have been your support system – and you may have previously surrounded yourself with other alcoholics or those who enjoy or enable drinking excessively.
However, when in recovery, it’s encouraged to build a new support system – whether it be via alcohol addiction therapy, support groups, or meeting other people in recovery. It can be beneficial to expand your social network to like-minded people.
You may feel isolated when you first join a drug rehab program or a support group (e.g Alcoholics Anonymous) – whether you’re attending outpatient rehab or inpatient rehab/ residential rehab.
After all, you’re starting a new chapter in your life – which is why it’s so important to find fellowship along your recovery journey.
During your recovery, whether it is in rehab or after rehab, it is critical that you replace a destructive social circle with a healthy and positive social network. This is key to combating loneliness and preventing relapse.
How To Feel Less Lonely When In Recovery
Recovery can be a lonely process – but it doesn’t have to be. Social interaction is one of the most basic human needs, and a lack of interaction with others can lead to chronic loneliness, social exclusion and isolation.
It’s normal that people feel lonely throughout the recovery process – regardless of whether it’s young people or elderly people.
The good news is that there are many ways that you can feel less lonely when recovering from alcohol addiction, whether it be taking care of your wellbeing and emotions, exercising, or giving back to the community.
Fighting loneliness can be tough – which is why we’ve compiled a detailed list of some of the best methods you can use to relieve feelings of loneliness during recovery – read on to learn more.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Taking care of your mental wellbeing is a must in recovery – especially if you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness. That being said, even if you have a healthy network of friends and people who support you, it’s entirely normal to feel lonely from time to time.
Instead of dwelling on the feelings, simply accept them – it will pass. Everybody experiences loneliness and other unpleasant feelings – and have faith that if you’re seeking treatment (for example, counselling or therapy) for dual diagnosis, it will be addressing your issues.
Dual diagnosis is a term that is used by medical professionals to describe a substance abuse problem (e.g alcohol use disorder) and a mental health disorder that occurs simultaneously.
If you have a dual diagnosis, you’ll have a mental health problem (for example, anxiety/ social anxiety, depression/ major depressive disorder, or bipolar disorder), as well as substance use disorder/ alcohol use disorder – at the same time.
Whether you have a history of mental health issues, or you are recovering from addiction alone, it’s important that you regularly check in with your mental wellbeing.
Many people find meditation and mindfulness helpful, whereas others benefit more from treatment from medical health professionals. To learn more about treatment for loneliness and addiction recovery, see ‘Attend Group Therapy’, and ‘Speak To A Professional’.
Evaluate and Restore Your Relationships
Addiction can be damaging to relationships – whether it be friends, family members, colleagues, spouses or romantic partners. Addiction can be isolating, and alcohol use disorder can change your behaviour, priorities, and state of mind.
However, during recovery, it is encouraged to mend any broken or strained relationships. Many recovering alcoholics write a list of people they feel they wronged while in active addiction, and apologise to everybody on the list. This can not only ease any regrets but improve feelings of social isolation.
Making amends with old friends or family members, whether it be by reconnecting with them or apologising, can reattach you to a support network.
That being said, you may not wish to reconnect with all people you wronged during active addiction – or even remain in contact with people you met while you were addicted to alcohol.
It is important to evaluate your existing relationships as well as restore former relationships – as not all relationships are healthy or helpful.
Having people around you who are in active addiction may hinder your recovery, which is why many people in recovery will cut ties with those with an alcohol addiction who aren’t getting help.
Take some time to think about whether the friendship or relationship is healthy, and decide whether it is worth restoring. During recovery, most people prefer to focus on meaningful relationships.
Be Kind To Others
Although you may feel the need to focus solely on yourself, this can be isolating – and putting some effort into being kind to others can soothe unpleasant emotions.
Many people in addiction recovery find it beneficial to help other people – especially if people have helped you in your recovery. It can be helpful to give back – if you listen to others and support others, then chances are, they’ll do the same for you.
Being kind to others, whether they’re also in recovery or not, can help you discover meaning and give you a sense of purpose in life, feel empowered, as well as improve your self-esteem.
It can also help you overcome feelings of loneliness, and feel connected to others. Talking to others about their problems can help you gain new perspectives too, which can help soothe feelings of loneliness.
There are many ways you can give back and have a positive impact on others while in recovery. Some people choose to spend time volunteering – whether it be at a local soup kitchen or at charity events. Others choose to become a sponsor – which is common in support programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Helping somebody through the recovery process can be extremely rewarding, and effective in relieving loneliness and making new connections. However, being a sponsor is a big responsibility, and isn’t for everyone.
If you’d like to help others in your support group without the responsibility of being a sponsor, you could simply help with tasks within the group – for example, pouring coffee for people or speaking in a meeting.
It’s no secret that there are many benefits to exercising regularly – not only for your physical health but your psychological health and general well-being too.
In fact, exercise and addiction can affect similar areas of the brain. Both substance use and exercise activate your reward system – triggering chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine that make you feel good.
However, exercise is a much healthier, and much less dangerous way of releasing serotonin and dopamine. Exercising regularly throughout your recovery could ease unpleasant feelings associated with withdrawal – for example, stress, depression, and anxiety. It can also help to curb cravings – working as a distraction.
Exercising can also be a great way to expand your social network and kickstart your social life. Why not join a local gym, or attend group sessions? There’s something for everyone, whether it be women-only, spin class, yoga, Zumba, and many more.
If you’re not sure what exercise is for you, why not try out free or ‘taster’ classes – or alternatively, you could go to your local gym and see if they can create an exercise program tailored to you.
Some recovering addicts join walking groups – it can be a great way to improve your mental and physical health, as well as network with like-minded people with similar interests. Likewise, you could try a running club or other physical social activities.
Attend Group Therapy
Although some people prefer one-to-one therapy, many others prefer to attend group therapy sessions. Group therapy for addiction can include people with the same addiction as you or people with a different type of addiction.
People in group therapy sessions may face similar challenges as you – including feelings of loneliness. Speaking about your problems in a group setting can relieve feelings of loneliness, and it can be comforting knowing you’re not alone with the obstacles you face on your recovery journey.
Whether you’re attending group therapy at an inpatient rehab centre or you’re attending 12-step meetings/ aftercare/ secondary treatment, it can be helpful to share your stories and listen to other people’s stories.
Speak To A Mental Health Professional
If you’re feeling isolated, or you’re experiencing psychological or emotional health issues such as depression or anxiety, the best course of action may be to speak to a professional.
During rehab, you’ll have access to various therapies. There are three stages of rehab – detoxification, therapy, and secondary treatment.
Some therapies commonly offered in most rehab clinics include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), counselling, group therapy, interpersonal therapy, and DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy).
Most rehab clinics will offer at least two of these therapies. Private rehab clinics may have more options available than NHS-operated rehab centres – for example, holistic therapies such as art therapy.
At Help4Addiction, we are in contact with rehab centres all around England and Wales. If you’re looking for addiction support, we will take the time to listen to your story, requirements and preferences and find the right local treatment for your addiction.
You don’t have to go through recovery alone – we can guide you throughout your journey.