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loneliness and isolation
May 14, 2021

Loneliness and Isolation in Early Recovery

Many people start drinking or using drugs to cope with feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, sadness or depression. At first, they don’t realize that these complex emotions will only grow more severe as substance abuse progresses from tolerance to dependence to addiction. Eventually, the low points can be so bleak that being sober feels too painful, driving you back to your substance of use. 

Once you have completed the full continuum of care in an accredited rehab facility, returning to everyday life can be challenging. Though you’ll learn new, healthy coping mechanisms in treatment to replace your former self-destructive behaviors, you will still need to deal with emotional ups and downs that might represent a threat to your newfound sobriety. While everyone periodically experiences loneliness and isolation, people in early recovery may feel these emotions more acutely. Here are five ways to foster a sense of connection with others.

1. Participate in a Recovery Support Group

If you used drugs and alcohol to cope with social anxiety, you might find it challenging to make friends once you decide to pursue sobriety. And, if most of your relationships revolved around drinking and drug use, you may have had to cut ties with anyone who doesn’t understand your new lifestyle. In a recovery support group, you’ll meet plenty of sympathetic people who have been through many of the same struggles you face and can offer compassionate advice. You can find groups to participate in online.

2. Volunteer in Your Community

Volunteering is another excellent way to overcome loneliness and isolation in early recovery. Giving back to others in need will help put some of the struggles you’ve faced into perspective. You’ll also reap many physical and emotional benefits from volunteering, including decreased stress levels and lower blood pressure. 

3. Take Time to Process Your Feelings 

In walking away from your substance of use, you’re losing a relationship your life used to revolve around. Even though it was a zero-sum hobby that may have severely impacted your physical and mental health, you still must grieve what you’ve put behind you. You’ll probably experience a flood of powerful emotions once you’re sober, and you need to allow yourself to feel whatever is happening in the moment. A therapist can help you learn to process your feelings and give you tools for coping with loneliness and isolation. 

4. Adopt a Pet

If you feel stable enough in your recovery journey to take on the responsibility of caring for another living being, a companion pet is an excellent way to combat loneliness and isolation. Pets provide unconditional love without asking for anything in return, and interacting with a pet can be very rewarding. Even relatively low-maintenance pets such as tropical fish help decrease stress. You can enjoy their jewel-bright colors as you watch your school of fish swim around their tank. Alternatively, adopting a pet like a dog can keep you more active because you’ll need to take it out for walks. 

5. Get to Know Yourself

If you habitually muted your feelings with drugs and alcohol, you may not recognize who you are when you’re sober. You might also feel you aren’t worthy of love and friendship, or struggle to put yourself out into the world after years of self-isolation. In early recovery, you’ll need to work on building your self-esteem, setting healthy boundaries and honing your coping skills. You’ll also need to get comfortable with the idea of being alone without being lonely. 

Personalized Addiction Treatment in Florida

At Beach House, we believe love and connection are the opposite of the loneliness and isolation that characterize addiction. We’ve combined our compassionate culture with clinically excellent treatment approaches and an industry-leading client-to-therapist ratio. At our beautiful, resort-like beachfront campus, you can immerse yourself in your recovery goals while you form a therapeutic alliance with your treatment team. Reach out today to learn more about starting your sobriety journey at one of the nation’s leading addiction treatment facilities.

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