If you’re leaving addiction treatment and moving into recovery, you can feel alone. Chances are, you are alone. For most of us, addiction means abandoning our friends and family, gravitating towards people who supply or use with us, and investing in people who enable us to drink and use. When you quit and you go into recovery, that changes. You no longer want to be part of their lives. But, you no longer have friends who don’t drink or use. Those “friends” are often not very good friends. And, chances are you either don’t have or you’ve alienated other friends and family members. While you can often make up to the people who care about you, there’s a significant gap in feeling lonely, in which you’ll have to do your best.
Unfortunately, loneliness is unpleasant, difficult to deal with, and even a trigger for relapse. Learning how to deal with it, and in a healthy manner, is important if you want to stay clean and sober.
While that’s easier said than done, these 9 ways to deal with loneliness in recovery should help.
1. Invest in Your Community
Taking part in your community can go a long way towards helping you to feel less lonely. Many neighborhoods have activities, cleanup groups, churches, volunteer groups, and more. Taking part in them can help you to feel good about yourself, to interact with others, and to make friends. For example, many neighborhoods have cleanup groups you can join, where you spend a day every week picking up trash in your neighborhood. Afterwards, you’ll normally have dinner or similar with the group. This can be a great way to feel involved and to feel like you are making a meaningful contribution. If you don’t have the time for that large of an investment, look for neighborhood dinners or BBQs, where you can go, share food, and meet people. However, not all of these will be alcohol free. You’ll likely have to discuss your need for an alcohol-free environment upfront if you do go.
2. Go to Group / Self-Help Therapy
Self-help and group therapy can go a long way towards giving you company, helping you to spend time with others, and helping you to meet people who understand what you’re going through. Self-help groups range from the very popular AA or NA, to LifeRing and SMART Recovery groups that take a non-religious approach to recovery self-help. However, all of them take a base approach of using discussion, sharing, and interpersonal relationships to help others develop a sense of social accountability and move towards recovery. Eventually, that will help you to realize just how many other people struggle with you, how much you have in common with others.
Volunteering can do a lot to helping you feel involved, capable, and like you are part of something. However, it’s important not to volunteer around addiction until you’re very certain of your sobriety. Many of us leave rehab and immediately want to contribute to the cause of helping others to get sober, which can put our own recovery in danger. Instead, you should spend your early recovery volunteering in places where you’re unlikely to be exposed to drugs and alcohol, like inside a soup kitchen (not in the serving line), building houses, cleanup, building yards, etc.
4. Take Time Out for Friends/Family Where You Can
If you have friends and family in your life, make sure you take time out for them. For example, even if you have a bad relationship with them, making sure you’ve invested time into that relationship can help you to feel less alone. While that isn’t necessarily the case, and you will have to make that judgement call on your own – it will also help you to improve your future – so that you can have good relationships in the future.
5. Find Things You Like to Do Alone
Sometimes we need to be alone. In early recovery, that might be more than you want. But, it’s important that you know how to be with yourself, that you can enjoy time spent with yourself, and that you can do things you enjoy. For many of us, that means doing things like hobbies, crafts, cooking, taking care of our house, or otherwise investing in life on your own. If you don’t currently have hobbies, and it’s understandable that you might not early in recovery – it’s important to try to invest in finding things you like. For example, if you like yoga, knitting, tai chi, kickboxing, cycling, cleaning your home. Etc. Whatever that happens to be, it’s important to invest in it and to experiment with finding something you can invest in and enjoy on your own.
6. Create Meaningful Moments with People You Care About
It’s easy to feel alone if you only ever have surface-level interactions, if you don’t’ show your real self, if you don’t invest in meaningful moments. If you don’t, any amount of time spent with others might feel inconsequential. Investing in people by sharing your real self, creating moments that are about emotion, and sharing moments that are about how they feel will help you to feel less lonely. That’s incredibly difficult if you’re still working to build up trust with people you might have hurt. But sharing that and talking about it is one of the first steps to building up that trust.
7. Don’t Overdo It
It’s important not to invest all of your time and energy into a social life and into people. You’ll need most of your time and energy for yourself, for building yourself up, and for your recovery. That means setting aside time for recovery and investing in it in a way that makes sense for you and for your life.
8. Find Sober Activities
If you need to meet people and meet friends, finding sober activities can be a good place to start. Many cities have those sober activities, ranging from sober activities to hikes to sports and just about anything else you might want to do. Again, it’s important not to invest too much of your time and energy in just seeing people and not being alone. But, social interaction and activities are important for you, your mental health, and your future. Invest in it.
9. Go One Step at a Time
You probably know that it’s a bad idea to start a relationship in the first year or so of recovery. You probably also know that investing too much is a bad idea. If you’re still struggling with yourself, it’s hard to commit to other people. It’s not even a good idea to get a pet. But you can take small steps. Get a plant, take care of it. When you’re certain you’re stable, your good at your coping mechanisms, and you consistently feel good, you can start investing more in those around you.
Unfortunately, some loneliness is part of the human condition. In other cases, you can fight it by investing in people, by having meaningful conversations, and by spending time with people who’ve experienced similar things to yourself.