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Drink, Drugs and Loneliness

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The root of loneliness is feeling a lack of connection to those around us. It is the strong feeling that you are separate or different from others that many people in addiction recovery experience. Loneliness is a multifaceted experience, and if we look closely, buried under feelings of loneliness is often a sense of worthlessness. We struggle to connect because deep down we do not believe we deserve to. To truly overcome loneliness, we must look within ourselves as well as to outside companionship.

Admitting that alcohol has become a negative force in your life is never going to be easy. This legal and socially acceptable substance is something that many people forget can be very addictive and dangerous. Since alcohol affects the body in so many ways, and it can make individuals feel relaxed and content, the temptation to abuse it can be overwhelming.

Some people will only ever have one or two drinks of alcohol at one time, but many others cannot seem to stop once they have started. One drink will inevitably lead to two, and then another and so on. Others drink alcohol with the sole intention of getting drunk; this binge drinking behaviour is particularly harmful to health.

There are many reasons individuals drink; some do so to forget their problems while others drink because they enjoy the effects. Some people, however, drink because they are lonely, and alcohol makes them feel better.

This is a common cause of alcoholism; many find solace in a bottle of alcohol while a spouse or partner is working long hours. While a partner is away from home, an alcoholic drink can provide some relief from the loneliness. Nevertheless, continued alcohol consumption can lead to an increased tolerance, which can then result in alcoholism without the individual even realising a physical dependence has occurred.

Blame is another common emotion felt by those with alcoholism and by their loved ones. Many alcoholics will blame others for their problems or will blame their circumstances. They will say things like ‘I wouldn’t drink if my job wasn’t so tough’ or ‘If my husband was at home more, I wouldn’t need to drink’.

Family members also blame themselves, with many believing that they could have done more to prevent their loved one from turning to alcohol. Whatever the reason a person is abusing alcohol the blame will not help anyone.

Overcoming addictions such as alcoholism is always going to be tough, but with the help and support of family and friends, it is possible. One thing is clear, however, and this is that those who continue to abuse alcohol are putting their health and relationships at risk. Early intervention is always the best in terms of treating alcoholism.

The most important factor in tackling addiction is to understand what the causes are, and therefore how family and friends can best help those in their time of need.

Recovery is different for everyone, and for many, they may need to maintain certain other habits as a crutch to help them on their path to recovery.

Loneliness is one of the most common addiction relapse triggers. It can lead to depression and anxiety, guilt and shame, social isolation, and ultimately relapse. In early addiction recovery, failure to make a new group of friends, combined with low self-esteem, can lead to intense loneliness which could make you question the value of life in recovery – a dangerous, slippery slope towards relapse.

After drug or alcohol rehab, those in recovery must build a new social support network, often from the ground up. This process is daunting, and loneliness can creep in as you try to find the right support group, work on rebuilding relationships with family and friends, and weed out anyone who is detrimental to your hard-earned addiction recovery.

It may seem counterintuitive, but after achieving addiction recovery you lose your former best friend — your drug or addictive behaviour, plus everyone you associated with during your using days. Allowing yourself to grieve this loss will help you move forward and through the resulting loneliness.

The key here is not just talking to someone but talking to someone about your feelings of loneliness. While calling a friend when you are lonely can be great, to really help alleviate the intensity of the feeling you need to talk to them about your loneliness. A therapist or counsellor can be someone you trust to talk to about uncomfortable feelings when they come up, such as loneliness. A counsellor will help you identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that are no longer serving you. They will support you and hold you accountable as you rebuild your life in recovery.

Regularly using drugs and alcohol acclimatises the user to experiencing instant gratification. Once in addiction recovery, former addicts often struggle to have patience with themselves and others. Social support is key to sustaining long term sobriety and overcoming loneliness, but also requires patience to develop. When you find yourself lonely, remember that forming close relationships in recovery takes time, but because loneliness is a strong trigger for relapse you should have a plan to cope with it. Take a deep breath and do something on the list below to take care of yourself.

Join a support group

Joining a recovery group after addiction treatment is always suggested. It may take time and steady attending before you personally connect with someone but attending a group will remind you that you are not alone in your addiction recovery and it is important that you remember this.

Search the Internet

Google can be your friend here and you can access many recovery networks online. While connections online should not replace real-life social networks, they do offer an option for combating loneliness through recovery forums, reading about other people’s stories, and pointing you in the right direction to find a support group in your area; that’s what this site it all about.

Become a volunteer

Offering to help others will help you feel more related to the world around you, combatting the sense of disconnection which is a main characteristic of loneliness. Whether it is at a local animal shelter or helping clean up the park, through volunteering you can meet new people and feel good about contributing to your community.

Buy a plant or get a pet

Believe it or not, having house plants can help ward off loneliness. Keeping a plant alive puts you in touch with your connection to the world. Pets are also great companions, but only consider getting a pet if you know you can take on the responsibility. If you are up for the responsibility, pets can offer an unconditional love that will help immensely in warding off loneliness. Having a pet and looking after it is a relationship of two parts where you both give something and you both receive something.

Join a club or take a class

It may seem daunting, but this is another great way to meet new people. Fitness clubs offer a wide variety of classes from kickboxing to weight training. Whether it is yoga, cooking, art or writing — many classes are available to help you relive your interests. You can even find special interest classes specifically for people in addiction recovery!

Practice meditation

Meditation allows you to recognise your feelings as temporary thoughts which, in turn, reduces their power and effect over how they make you feel. Meditation takes repeated practice, but the positive benefits are worth the time for most people recovering from drug addiction and can help you connect with your inner self.

Learn to love yourself

One important and effective way to combat loneliness is to learn to become your own best friend. Increasing your self-esteem and self-confidence will help you become more comfortable being alone and will attract more positive people into your support network. And because often we feel separate from others because deep down we do not feel worthy of connection, this deep and underlying cause for loneliness can be overcome through working on building confidence and self-esteem.

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