If you’re newly sober, you might have left behind a group of people or certain activities to avoid putting yourself at risk of relapse. Now, you may feel lonely, isolated, and unsure of how to stay connected to others.
These are valid feelings.
It’s important to take stock in what you’ve accomplished by choosing recovery:
- You made self-care a priority. This includes addressing troubling issues in your life, establishing proper boundaries, and learning to love yourself.
- You put an end to toxic relationships—or are in the process of doing so. You recognized that you deserve to be surrounded by people who love and support who you really are and your healthy way of life.
- You understand the power of transformation. Let’s face it: not everyone can accomplish what you’ve done. By choosing sobriety and working toward lasting wellness, you’ve developed courageous skills.
So, although it may be initially unpleasant to delve into why you feel lonely, trust that you now have better coping mechanisms to understand the situation more clearly. Once this happens, you can take suitable action to change the circumstances.
Why Are You Lonely?
The nonprofit group Mind, based in the United Kingdom, recommends that you pause and really think about why you feel lonely. Usually, its researchers say, there are two possible reasons people feel lonely:
- They don’t see or talk to anyone very often.
- Even though they’re surrounded by people, they don’t feel understood, cared for, or “heard.”
If you identify even a little bit with one of these statements, this acknowledgement can go a long way to helping you overcome this emotion and reconnect with others. As you go deeper into this process, there may be some stronger realizations:
- “My mental health isolates me from people and prevents me from doing things.”
- “I decided on this new direction, but none of my old friends want to be a part of my life now.”
- “I don’t think anyone understands me or my feelings, and can’t empathize with how I feel.”
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project presents seven types of loneliness in a Psychology Today article:
- Missing a quiet presence: You miss a particular person at home, be it a loved one or roommate, who used to remind you that you’re not alone.
- No time for me: You may know many friendly people, and you’d like a deeper relationship with one or two of them, but for whatever reason, they’re not interested. It doesn’t have anything to do with you—they may be busy with life, or have new responsibilities, or simply have a large enough social circle to keep up with that they’re not adding to it.
- Untrustworthy friends: They might not be toxic, but they’re not always there for you, either.
- No animal companionship: For people who really love their animal friends, the loss of one or living conditions that don’t accept them makes daily life more challenging.
- No significant other: Sometimes people struggle in the first year of sobriety focusing on their wellbeing without a romantic relationship. It’s really for the best, even though it’s hard to deal with right now.
- Being different: If you enjoy certain hobbies or activities but haven’t found a tribe of people who feel the same, or you’re living somewhere or in a certain way that makes you stand out from others, this separation can be isolating.
- New situation: You’re in a new place, a different job, or in another circumstance where people aren’t familiar.
If this information provides you with a more definitive answer as to why you feel lonely, the question is, what should you do about it?
Use Your Courage and Get Out There
Easier said than done, right? Perhaps. Yet you have new clarity and courage—maybe more now than ever before, so you can make the necessary changes to connect with people.
Sometimes psychological personality assessments are ways to understand aspects of your socialization preferences. Are you more introverted, more extroverted, or somewhere in-between? There’s a lot of research that describes the spectrum of these personality traits. You can even take various online tests, like the one from Daniel H. Pink or the one from TED, to understand how you feel about socializing. Then, you can make some choices.
Using Rubin’s guide above, here are some small steps to overcome your loneliness, based on what you believe contributes to it.
- Getting to know people in safe, online communities while you’re home can be the start of in-person interactions. Consider inviting a neighbor over for coffee. Have an out-of-town friend or loved one visit for a weekend.
- Look on Meetup.com to find events or other activities involving your interests. In groups of like-minded people, others might be searching for a new friend or two.
- You can’t force these types of people to understand or support you. Work with a trusted therapist about acceptance of these circumstances and how to move beyond them.
- Pet therapy is wonderful! But if it’s simply not possible to have one right now, volunteer to help out at a local shelter, at a sanctuary farm, or participate in animal rescue and other events.
- If you’re following a 12-Step philosophy or the advice of your recovery specialist, it’s probably best not to be dating right now. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to socialize.
- Whatever you’re interested in, someone else is bound to share enthusiasm for it. In addition to Meetup, try the We3 app to share your hobbies and activities with others.
- This aspect requires a bit of patience. Ask a colleague to join you for lunch to talk about work matters. Join a study group. Start a new exercise class. Linger for coffee after a support group. Over time, connections will form.
The staff at Twin Lakes understand new beginnings. That’s why we offer continuing care groups throughout Georgia to the alumni of our residential treatment programs so you’ll always have people you can turn to for support.