Isolation and loneliness have an overwhelming effect on drug addiction and alcoholism. Studies show a strong correlation between increased mental health and substance abuse issues and social isolation. 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 – and many people are lonely because they are addicted to substances. By its very nature, addiction tends to isolate people. Those who find themselves actively using substances to cope with depression, anxiety and stressful situations use drugs and alcohol to avoid their feelings—and reality.
Living in fear, denial, and guilt, the addicted individual can feel trapped in these overwhelming emotions. Those struggling with addiction are hurting – and in turn, they hurt those around them. As the disease of addiction progresses, many people lose friends and damage relationships with family members, leaving them alone – physically, mentally and spiritually.
The realities of isolation and loneliness in addiction can leave us feeling:
- Unable to connect with others, physically or emotionally
- Disconnected from others
- Sad there is no one available to talk
- Fearful you will always feel this way
Recovery is the place to start building new sober relationships and move out of isolation. Early stages of sobriety and recovery is a fragile time, but also a time to break the isolation and loneliness cycle. Below are a few suggestions on how to do so.
Allow yourself to grieve the loss – of drugs and alcohol. During active addiction, drugs and alcohol can seem like your best friends, the ones who were there for you in the darkness and the loneliness. It’s understandable that the loss of that relationship may cause you pain, anger, and loneliness in your early recovery. Keep in mind that your relationship with your drug of choice was a one-sided, destructive friendship.
Make amends, and make peace where amends aren’t possible: During active addiction, we cut people out – and often hurt the ones we love the most. You may have disconnected from good friends, and damaged relationships with family. Hurt and confused, your loved ones may have written you off. In recovery, you have the opportunity to apologize and take action to make amends. While some relationships may be salvageable, some will not. In the situations where relationships are damaged beyond repair – make peace with knowing you have apologized, 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 and social connections are unhealthy. There will be people who will not support your recovery – and they have no place in your life, regardless of your loneliness or desire to connect.
Make the commitment to let go of the negative influences, and take back your life.
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