Addiction is a lonely disease. Loneliness and isolation can give rise to addiction. Break the cycle of addiction and loneliness through fellowship and friendship, and embrace the need for human connection.
Addiction Is The Loneliest Disease
Sometimes our own thoughts have the sharpest tongues. It’s hard to be inside our own heads, a place where there are no limits to the cruel words and doubt that our own minds constantly bombard us with. It’s a place that’s hard to escape, especially when for so long, drugs and/or alcohol have numbed our minds to these negative thoughts and feelings and why addiction has now dominated our life’s in every single way.
Isolation and loneliness have an overwhelming effect on drug and alcohol addiction. Studies have shown that those of us who feel more socially isolated generally deal with increased strain on their mental health and tend to subsequently develop substance abuse issues as well as both physical and behavioural addictions. The opposite holds true as well, addiction to drugs and alcohol may not just be an effect of isolation, but also THE cause of isolation.
Many people turn to substances because they are lonely, have mental health difficulties and then become lonely because they are addicted to substances which were used to self-medicate, self-soothe and “escape” intense negative feelings and thoughts.
Addiction, By Nature, Isolates People
People who find themselves actively using substances to cope with depression, anxiety, stressful situations, traumatic events, abuse family or relationship problems, physical pain, physical or mental health issues use drugs and/or alcohol to avoid their feelings, and in turn, their reality and then in turn, their responsibilities, commitments and perceived shortcomings. They live in fear, denial, embarrassment, shame and guilt. Trapped in those overwhelming emotions, you can see why people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol often cover up their fears with anger, verbally and emotionally abusive behaviors, false bravado, lies, deflection or excuses.
Hurt People Can Hurt People
Those struggling with addictions are hurting and in turn, they hurt those around them, often without realising it or what consequences their behaviours cause to themselves and others.
As the disease of addiction progresses, develops and worsens, many people lose friends and damage relationships with family members, leaving them alone both physically, mentally and even spiritually.
When You’re Lonely, You Can Run Out Of Hope & Motivation
The realities of isolation and loneliness in addiction can leave people with feelings like these:
- Feeling unable to connect with anyone – physically or emotionally
- Feeling disconnected or misunderstood from others
- Feeling sad there is no one available to talk, be with you or understand your struggles
- Feeling that there is no one who cares about you or your circumstances
- Feeling abandoned & unloved
- Feeling as though no one wants to be with you and aren’t worthy of having friends or those that care
- Feeling discontent
- Feeling left out or pushed out
- Feeling hopeless
- Have a lack of motivation to make changes without perceived positive benefits, results & outcomes
- Fearing you will always feel this way and that change is impossible
Beating Isolation In Addiction Recovery
Living life isn’t as easy as it sounds and we all know that, especially when you are new to abstinence and recovery. A crucial barrier to break in addiction recovery surrounds beating isolation and loneliness. Below are a few suggestions on how you may be able to start beating loneliness.
Allow Yourself To Grieve The Loss Of Drugs & Alcohol:
In active addiction, drugs and alcohol can seem like your best friends and THE greatest importance, your highest priority and the only ones who are there for you in the darkness and the loneliness. It’s understandable that the loss of that relationship may cause you pain, anger, fear, sadness or loneliness in your early recovery. Keep in mind though that your relationship with your drug of choice was always a one-sided, destructive “friendship” and always will be if you were to continue actively using or drinking.
Make Amends Or Make Peace Where Amends Aren’t Possible:
During our active addiction, we cut people out and hurt those whom we love the most. You may have disconnected from good, lifelong friends and damaged relationships with family or others.
Hurt and confused, your loved ones may have “wrote you off”. However, in recovery, you have the opportunity to apologise and try to take positive action to make amends with others who were, or are important to us, soothe any hurt or damage & rekindle prior relationships or friendships that are important to us and our recovery. While some relationships may be salvageable, some will not. In the situations where relationships are damaged beyond repair, try to make peace with knowing that you have apologised and accept that there are some things beyond your control.
Disconnect From Unhealthy Relationships:
While you may struggle with wanting to connect with others, some relationships, social connections and previous drug or alcohol contacts are unhealthy. There will be some people who will not support your recovery and they have no place in your life, regardless of your loneliness or desire to connect. Cut out the negative influences and move forward as these people may actively try to sabotage your progress because of their own interests or their own personal shortcomings.
What Can Be Done To Counteract This Problem?
Connect With Other’s Online & In Person:
Their are ways to connect with others such as Facebook groups, chat forums, fellowship meetings (online & physical meetings near you depending on the coronavirus situation at the time) and other Recovery activity or interest groups or clubs such as art, running, comedy nights, going for a meal or coffee shop gathering to connect with each other.
Educational Resources, Groups, books, websites & Videos, Plus Many Others
In addition to the above, there are numerous support outlets that allow people in recovery to learn new skills, gain knowledge and meet other people with likeminded interests. These forums, pages, blogs, vlogs, books or videos often have daily affirmations, motivational quotes, verses and advice, along with information about local support groups for example, such as us here at DnD with our articles and our Facebook group “Motivational Moments In Drug & Alcohol Recovery” & Twitter among others.
We recommend incorporating both online networking along with face-to-face programs into your schedule.
Mix it up:
I’m very guilty of getting into a comfort-zone – which usually leads to an uncomfortable zone, meaning I get into a rut. Diversify your activities and the people with whom you connect. You don’t have to go to the same meeting every week. Try a different time or place. Try a new activity – or even just a new restaurant. Getting caught the daily grind can make it impossible to climb out of isolation.
Build self-confidence – and boundaries:
Connecting with others and trying new things is essential to breaking the barriers of loneliness and isolation. However, it’s important to build your own self-confidence and be comfortable in being alone, and choosing who you interact with and when. Building a support network requires building boundaries in your relationships, and being a good friend, relative, or significant other in return.
Loneliness Can Be One Of The Biggest Causes And Effects Of Addiction & Relapse.
Through fellowship, friendship and connections, it’s possible to break the cycle of isolation and addiction. Connecting with others in recovery through meetings, sponsors, groups, or social function means sharing a bond with others on a similar path to you. As humans, we’re social creatures – and we depend on each other for survival. If you’re lonely in your addiction or in your recovery – reach out to someone who can truly listen and care, and get the break free of the emptiness and solitude.