Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be one of the hardest things to deal with in the early days of alcohol recovery. Here we outline five proven strategies that can help you overcome loneliness in sobriety and enjoy a healthy social life.
Learning to live without alcohol can be a difficult process. While beating the cravings and accepting the absence of booze in your life can be difficult in itself, getting over the feelings of loneliness and isolation that sobriety brings is often identified as one of the greatest challenges of giving up drinking.
It is only natural that drinkers associate with drinkers. Very often a person’s drinking habits are built around their relationships with their friends, acquaintances, workmates and even partners. Successfully giving up alcohol can sometimes require that you reinvent, or even distance yourself, from these relationships, meaning more time alone and, often, the difficult process of forming new relationships or rebuilding old ones.
One of the cruellest ironies of alcohol recovery is that loneliness and social isolation are often the very reasons alcohol became such a crutch in the first place. Learning to deal with these emotions without alcohol will take time, but remember: loneliness is a natural emotion that millions of people experience and cope with every day without drinking. With a little time and effort, you will too.
If you are struggling with loneliness in sobriety, here are some pointers to help you reboot your social life and overcome those feelings of isolation.
1. Get to Know (And Love!) Yourself Again
Of all the relationships you repair and rebuild during your new, sober life, the most important is your relationship with yourself. Very often the key to successful recovery is identifying and understanding what made you drink in the first place. Some of this may be challenging. Confronting emotional issues that may have contributed to your drinking problem won’t be easy at first, but once they are out in the open they can be dealt with.
Getting to know yourself isn’t just about facing who you are, but discovering who you are. More likely than not, you will like a lot of what you find. As you learn to love yourself and live with yourself, the feelings of loneliness will subside and become much, much easier to deal with.
2. Rekindle Past Relationships
While you may have sacrificed some friendships to help you on your road to recovery, this can be an ideal time to rebuild relationships that may have fallen by the wayside over the years. This need not only apply to relationships that may have been damaged by your drinking habits, but old acquaintances that you may have lost contact with down the line.
If there are people you have hurt in the past, do your best to make amends as soon as possible. Perhaps not everyone will be willing to forgive and forget, but many will. The more friends, family and supportive people you have around you the better, especially in the early days of recovery when loneliness can at its most acute.
3. Find Sobriety-Friendly Hobbies and Activities
One of the biggest challenges for recovering alcoholics is that their social lives used to revolve, often exclusively, around alcohol. After years of running in these circles it is easy to lose sight of the fact that there are countless other situations where people meet, socialize, have fun and make new friends and acquaintances.
Check the listings in your local area for something that might suit you. Many people find that regular exercise helps them on the road to recovery, so you could consider taking up a sport such as running, tennis or golf. If you are more laid back you might enjoy a book club or cooking class, or even some volunteer work. Finding new things to do, and interacting with new people will help improve your social skills and help stave off loneliness and boredom.
4. Get Used to Socializing Without Alcohol
It is inevitable that at some point in your recovery you will be invited to a party, a bar or some other social situation where alcohol is being consumed. Whether to accept these invitations is one of the more difficult decisions a recovering alcoholic will have to make, and ultimately that decision is entirely up to you.
While it may be best to avoid trigger situations in the early days of recovery, there is no point in locking yourself away forever. With a little bit of pre-planning and making sure you stay in the right state of mind, staying sober at parties and having a great time should be well within your reach.
5. Go to Support Groups and Meetings
If you feel you are just not quite ready to go out in the big bad world, then don’t despair. Alcohol support groups like AA can provide an invaluable social outlet. While the prospect of attending a support group may seem daunting at first, sharing your story with like-minded people can be a precious safety net during those potentially lonely early days of sobriety. Over time, you will find that your sober community offers the support and encouragement you need to go out in the world to form new and lasting relationships without the crutch of alcohol.