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Recovery is a life-long journey that often includes changing attitudes, behaviors, and even environment. Even with a robust support network, the internal work can lead many people to feel like they are facing the challenges of recovery alone. Feelings of loneliness during addiction recovery are not uncommon – but simply knowing that fact doesn’t make the feelings go away. How do you deal with loneliness in addiction recovery?

Recognizing Loneliness in Addiction Recovery

It can be hard to recognize loneliness when you’re in recovery. Sometimes, loneliness can be mistaken for sadness in general or even other negative emotions. Recovery requires internal work – often guided or assisted by mental health or addiction professionals – to recognize and examine negative emotions that arise. When you’re facing a negative emotion, reject the urge to push it away without examining or analyzing the emotion itself. Ask yourself:

  • What is the name of the emotion I’m feeling? How would I describe it to my best friend?
  • When did I start feeling this emotion? Was it triggered by something I experienced?
  • Why am I feeling this emotion? Is it coming from my thoughts or something external?

When working through feelings of anger or sadness, consider that they might be associated with a feeling of loneliness. If your thought patterns lead you back to a feeling that you’re going through this experience alone or feelings that friends and family have abandoned you, you’re likely dealing with loneliness. If you’re working with a mental health or addiction recovery professional, mention these feelings to them and seek their advice for naming your emotions and dealing with loneliness.

Communicating Loneliness in Addiction Recovery

Sometimes, communicating loneliness in addiction recovery can feel difficult or even scary. If you have a support system, you may fear that communicating your loneliness will make them feel unappreciated or like they aren’t important to you. Sometimes these feelings come from a realization that many in your support network haven’t shared your experiences in addiction and recovery and may not understand. 

But, often, people in your support network want to hear about your struggles and feel honored that you trust them enough to be vulnerable. Centering your communication around how you are feeling by using I language can help you focus on the feelings that are arising rather than on your friend or family member’s own feelings or behaviors. If you’re feeling lonely but find it difficult to communicate how your support network can help, consider reaching out to a mental health or addiction recovery professional for help coping with and communicating your feelings.

Finding Solutions for Loneliness in Addiction Recovery

Loneliness isn’t necessarily only present while you’re alone, but building a community of support and planning for coping with the feeling can help. Seek out healthy and helpful places you can go when you’re feeling lonely if you want to be around others. Search for a local directory of meeting times for recovery support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other 12-step, faith-based, and community-based meetings. Finding community with people who have shared some of your experiences can lead to new friendships, mentorships, and resources for your recovery journey. You might even join a 12-step fellowship and find a sponsor who can help you understand and work through a program that helps you find purpose and shared experience.

Communicating your loneliness to people in your support network and making a plan for when feelings of loneliness become overwhelming can also help you avoid relapse. You might develop a phone tree of friends you can call when you’re feeling lonely. Even if you can’t meet those friends or family members in person, connecting over the phone or by playing a video game together can help you feel less alone.

Addiction Recovery at Palmetto Addiction Recovery Centers

At Palmetto Addiction Recovery Centers, we believe that recovery is personal and unique to every individual. We make recovery plans – together – that help people anticipate and avoid potential relapse triggers and deal with their emotions in a healthy, recovery-oriented way. Our relapse prevention programs can help you deal with loneliness and other emotional circumstances that might lead you to stray from your recovery journey. Call us today to talk through your resources for dealing with loneliness and sustaining recovery.