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Loneliness and Addiction


One of the reasons why people can fall into addiction is loneliness. Humans are social animals and there can be a real sense of emptiness in a person’s life if they do not have enough contact with friends and family. It can easily lead to a deep depression. The person may then decide to fill this emptiness with alcohol or drugs. The fact that they will often engage in this activity behind closed doors means that their addiction problems will usually go undetected.

Loneliness or Introversion

It is important to recognise the difference between loneliness and introversion. Those individuals who are naturally introverted choose to be alone, and they may be able to go weeks without human contact yet they never feel lonely. Introversion is a type of personality where people are more comfortable when they are on their own. Loneliness is different from introversion because in this case, the person craves company but they are not getting this desire met. The lonely person has a definite sense of lacking in their life, which makes them feel unhappy.

Causes of Loneliness

There are many possible reasons why people can end up feeling lonely:

  • Shy people can find it hard to connect with others – this means they can feel lonely even when they are in the middle of a crowd.
  • When people move to a new location they will be losing their social network, and it can be hard to meet new people – especially in a city.
  • Loneliness has become very common among retired people – particularly retired men who live alone.
  • Some people will have poor socialising skills, making it difficult for them to make friends.
  • Health problems or physical disability can lead to a situation where the individual becomes isolated.
  • People with mental health problems can easily end up cut off from other people and end up dealing with loneliness.

Substance Abuse as a Response to Loneliness

When people first begin abusing alcohol or drugs it can feel like the perfect remedy. For some, it will remove their shyness and give them the ability to go to places like bars and begin meeting new people. Drugs, like alcohol, reduce inhabitations, making socialising much easier. Even if people just stay at home, the substance abuse can mean they feel much better about themselves – in other words, they no longer care about being lonely.

In the beginning, alcohol or drugs may appear to be a wonder drug for dealing with loneliness, but this effectiveness comes with a heavy price. As the individual develops tolerance for these substances, they will need to ingest more, leading to increasing problems in their life. The person who originally found that these chemicals made it easier for them to make friends now finds it is causing them to lose them just as quickly. The result is that the person is not only still lonely but now they have a serious addiction problem to deal with as well. The reality is that alcohol and drugs is a very bad solution when it comes to dealing with loneliness.

Loneliness in Recovery

Not only can loneliness lead people into addiction, it can also lead them back there after they have become sober. Feeling lonely is considered a relapse trigger, which is something that people need to avoid when trying to break free of substance abuse. This is a common barrier to recovery for people, so it is vital that dealing with loneliness is taken seriously.

There are a number of reasons why people can feel lonely after they have given up alcohol or drugs. The most usual cause is that they will have needed to break away from their social network of drinking or drug using friends. Spending time with these people would greatly increase the risk of relapse, meaning the person who gives up their addiction could be left without any friends. Those in recovery will also lack the experience of making friends with others away from bars and drug-using venues, so it can be a real struggle for them.

Loneliness is a very dangerous emotion for people who are dealing with addiction problems. It can lead to depression and dissatisfaction with life. The person may use this as evidence that life in recovery is not all that it is cracked up to be, and they can then use this as an excuse to relapse.

How to Avoid Loneliness in Recovery

Giving up alcohol or drugs puts people in a great position the build the type of life they have always wanted to live. Just stopping the addiction is not enough, though, because the individual will need to take action. Unless they have many non-drinking friends already, they will need to make the effort to build a social network. Below are a few suggestions for how people can go about doing this.

Join a Recovery Fellowship

One of the great benefits of joining a recovery fellowship is that it makes it easy to meet new people. These organisations are built on social networking, and one of the things that unite the members is that they share a common goal – just like drinking and drug-using groups share a common goal too. When people join a group like Alcoholics Anonymous, they will usually encounter plenty of people offering friendship. These groups also have social gatherings, which can be great fun.

Join a club or Night Class

Going to the gym or starting a night class can also offer a great opportunity to meet new people. These will be individuals who share a common interest and there will usually be plenty of time for socialising after gym or class at the juice bar or in the cafe.

Do Some Volunteer Work

Volunteering is another great way to meet some new people. This will also offer the opportunity to give something back to society and to do good for others. One of the important elements of socialising is the feeling of value to other people, and this is what happens with volunteer work.

Make Some Online Friends

It is important not to solely rely on online friends, but this can be a great way to socialise. There are now thousands of websites devoted to socialising, including things like Facebook and Google+. There are also online web forums where people can chat with others who share similar interests. Starting a blog can be another great way to meet new people online. It is important not to become too obsessed with online socialising though, as this can easily become a form of addiction in itself.

Learn to Be a Friend

One of the reasons why people in recovery can struggle to make new friends is that they have poor socialising skills. This can mean that other people feel a bit awkward around them. Socialising is a skill that can be learnt, so it is important for people in recovery to brush up on these skills so that they will be able to build a sufficiently strong social network.

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