Loneliness is often a challenge for people starting out in addiction recovery. It’s typically a good idea to distance yourself from friends who drink and use drugs in order to avoid temptation and keep from succumbing to social pressure to drink and use again. However, it also takes time to make new, sober friends. The gap in between can be challenging because feeling isolated can lead to cravings. Many people use drugs and alcohol to begin with as a way of dealing with feelings of loneliness and alienation, so feeling lonely at the beginning of recovery can be a big challenge. The following are some tips for making it through those bouts of loneliness.
Pay attention to your thoughts.
The first thing to do is realize that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. The difference is a state of mind. There’s nothing inherently bad about being alone. In fact, plenty of good things can happen when you’re alone. It gives you an opportunity to read, practice a hobby, catch up on work, or take a nap. The problem comes when you’re alone but you don’t want to be.
When this happens, you will probably find that what’s really bothering you are your thoughts about being alone. You might be thinking things like “I’m such a loser that no one wants to hang out with me,” or “Why do I sabotage all of my relationships?” If you notice these thoughts, try to examine them. Typically, these kinds of thoughts are full of errors. Is companionship really based on loser status? Is loser status a real thing? Do you really think happy, successful people never feel lonely? Do you really sabotage all of your relationships? And so on. The negative thoughts that make use miserable are typically full of errors if you take the trouble to look for them.
Often, when you feel lonely, there’s no good reason you actually need to be alone. Instead, the problem may be that your thinking is preventing you from reaching out. Perhaps you fear rejection or you’re too proud to be the first one to reach out after a disagreement. In reality, there are probably several people you could connect with at any given time, even if it’s just over the phone or chat. Don’t let your own doubts and fears stop you from trying to connect. Be willing to take a risk.
Finally, be sure to follow through on your commitments. The weird thing about loneliness is that it tends to be self-perpetuating. You feel isolated and depressed and since you feel depressed, you don’t want to see people, so you feel more isolated. Break the cycle by showing up, even if you don’t feel like it. If you made plans with friends, show up. If you decided to go to an AA meeting, show up. Showing up is how you make new sober friends and move from loneliness to connection. And being reasonably reliable is a good way to strengthen relationships.
Feeling connected is a crucial element of recovery. No one beats addiction alone. You need people to support you and hold you accountable. It gets you through those tough times when your motivation fails. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California, we understand the importance of connection and our team-building exercises are a key component of our holistic treatment program for men. To learn more, call us today at 855-202-2138.