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Loneliness in Recovery

Humans are Social Animals

It is said that humans are social animals. This means that we perform best as part of a group, and we tend to view those who do not spend much time with other people as being a bit odd – we talk about this type of person negatively as being a “lone wolf.” It is doubtful that humans would have survived over time without their ability to be so sociable. All of our great accomplishments have come about because of our ability to work together as a group. We rely on each other, and when we are without sufficient human contact, we can begin to suffer. It can be therefore vital that people who break away from addiction develop a sufficient social network because loneliness is a common relapse trigger.

Causes of Loneliness in Recovery

In order to break away from addiction the individual will be expected to stop spending time with their drinking and drug using friends. They need to do this because otherwise they will be facing too much temptation, and their old friends will continue to be a bad influence in their life. This means that when the individual becomes sober they may not have many friends to turn to. It is therefore vital that they begin developing a sober social network as soon as possible. This way they will not have to worry about loneliness, and they will have plenty of positive role models.

Loneliness as a Relapse Trigger

A relapse trigger refers to all those conditions in recovery that can make the individual more likely to relapse. One of the most common relapse triggers is feelings of loneliness. The individual begins to miss their own drinking and drug using friends, and they worry that they will never enjoy such friendships in recovery. Loneliness is a difficult emotion to deal with, and the individual can then use this as a justification to relapse back to their addiction. It is therefore crucial that people avoid becoming lonely where possible, and they can do this by developing a sober social network of friends.

Benefits of Sober Social Network

There are many benefits to be obtained from having a sober social network including:

  • The individual will have people to spend time with, and this will prevent them from becoming lonely.
  • In groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, they talk about “sticking with the winners” because spending time with the right people can make such a huge different to the person’s recovery. These positive role models will motivate the individual to do the right things in order to strengthen their recovery.
  • It can be very difficult for people to assess their own progress in recovery. The difficulty is that changes occur so slowly that we can miss them completely. One of the great benefits of having a sober social network is that they can act as a feedback mechanism. They will be able to tell the individual about the great progress they are making, and they can also raise the alarm if the person appears to be going off course.
  • There will be times in recovery when people feel particularly vulnerable to relapse. Unless they have people to turn to for support at these times, it will be difficult for them to stay away from addiction. A sober social network is a great source for support during the good times and bad.
  • As well as offering support, these new friends may be able to offer practical help as required. This could include things like doing favours or helping out with projects.
  • This group will be a useful source for information that the individual needs to help them progress in recovery or deal better in life. It means that the individual does not have to keep on learning from their own mistakes and successes – they can learn from the mistakes and successes of other people and this saves a great deal of time and suffering.

Difference between Loneliness and Enjoying Solitude

It is worth pointing out that enjoying solitude and loneliness is not the same thing. Some people do seem to enjoy spending time alone, and this is not harmful. It is only when the person is alone but does not really want to be alone that the problems start. The difference between these two things is that solitude is a choice but loneliness is not.  It is worth pointing out though, that too much solitude in recovery could be a bad thing because of all the benefits the individual would enjoy by being part of a sober social network.

How to Avoid Loneliness in Recovery

There are things that people can do in order to avoid loneliness in recovery, such as:

  • Some people who complain that they have no friends will often be those who make no effort to form friendships. It is unrealistic to expect other people to seek you out – you have to meet them at least half way.
  • If the individual is putting the right effort into their recovery, it will cause them to develop as a human. They should find that they begin to attract more friends.
  • Negative people are difficult to be around, so those who are always negative about things will struggle to pick up friends. It is best to keep a positive and optimistic attitude in life, as this tends to attract other people.
  • One of the major mistakes that substance abusers can make is viewing other people as a “means to an end.” In order words, they just want to use other people for their own benefit. A friendship has to be a two way street, and this means there has to be give as well as take.
  • It is common for substance abusers to have unrealistic expectations for other people. They will often hold these other people to a higher standard than they hold themselves. All humans are fallible, and they need to be accepted for this. In order to maintain friendships it is necessary to have realistic expectations.

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