Feelings of loneliness are a common experience for people in recovery from substance use disorders, especially for those who have suffered social isolation due to the stigma of addiction or been forced to cut contact with those who aren’t supportive of their recovery efforts.
Signs You May Be Experiencing Loneliness in Recovery
Loneliness is defined as the gap between a person’s desire for social connection and their actual experience of it. This means that we all have different thresholds for feeling loneliness—and that it is possible to struggle with loneliness even if you have what others might consider a full social life.
Some common signs of loneliness in recovery include:
- Low self-esteem and negative thoughts. People experiencing loneliness may have a low opinion of themselves and their capabilities, believing they are not worthy of meaningful connections or relationships. They may also experience persistent negative thoughts that can lead to further isolation and depression.
- Lack of interest in self-care. When feeling lonely, individuals in recovery may begin to neglect their physical and emotional self-care needs. This can lead to a decrease in healthy habits such as exercise, eating well, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring them joy.
- Poor sleep habits. Not having meaningful connections with others can also lead to poor sleeping habits and insomnia. Poor sleep can lead to a decrease in physical, mental, and emotional well-being, making it even more difficult for individuals in recovery to cope with feelings of loneliness.
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Loneliness can also cause difficulty concentrating or making decisions, which can lead to further isolation from others.
- Changes in appetite. Loneliness can lead to changes in appetite, with some people overeating as a way to cope and others losing their appetite altogether.
- Unexplained physical symptoms. Experiencing loneliness can have a negative impact on physical health, leading to headaches, stomachaches, or other mysterious physical symptoms.
- Increased stress and anxiety. Feeling lonely can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety, which can further impede individuals in recovery from living a healthy, balanced life.
- A focus on material possessions. Research has shown that adults who are experiencing persistent feelings of loneliness often spend more time shopping or acquiring material goods as a distraction from their emotional pain.
Ways to Overcome Loneliness
Feelings of loneliness are often temporary, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action to help change your situation for the better. Here are some tips to help you expand your social circle, strengthen your sober support network, and reduce the negative impact that loneliness has on your mental health:
- Stay connected to the recovery community. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery can help provide comfort, understanding, and a sense of community during recovery.
- Schedule regular visits with friends and family. Try dedicating one day a week to visiting with friends and family who are supportive of your recovery efforts. Schedule sober activities like movie nights or potluck dinners that will give you something to look forward to during the rest of the week.
- Spend time pursuing your favorite hobbies. Pursuing an activity or creative project you enjoy can help give you something positive to focus on—especially if you choose a hobby that involves taking a class or working with others.
- Stay active. Exercise releases endorphins that can boost your mood and reduce stress levels. Joining a gym or participating in an adult recreational sport can also help you meet new people.
- Adopt a pet. Animals provide companionship, support, and unconditional love. Caring for a pet can also help you get into a routine that supports your sobriety.
- Consider a digital detox. Although it’s true that social media sites can help you stay connected to others, spending too much time online can sometimes increase feelings of loneliness. Try unplugging for a few days to see how this affects your mood.
- Seek professional support. If loneliness is a persistent issue, a professional therapist may be able to offer you strategies for moving forward.
Waypoint Recovery Center Is Here to Help
Recovery is a journey of healing, growth, and connection, and it is important to remember that everyone has the potential to recover from substance use disorder. With the right support, you can regain control of your life and find joy in sobriety.
At Waypoint Recovery Center, we provide a full continuum of care for men and women with substance use disorders. Instead of focusing solely on abstaining from the use of drugs and alcohol, we urge our clients to build the foundation for a lasting recovery by addressing the underlying factors that contributed to their condition and taking proactive steps to heal the mind, body, and spirit. Reach out to the experienced treatment professionals at our South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment center to learn more.