Loneliness In Addiction Recovery

February 25, 2010 — 13 Comments

Think about all of the isolating that we did in active addiction. Is it any wonder that a lot of us experience a sense of loneliness in addiction recovery?

Because in addiction you have distanced yourself from a lot of the positive people in your life and have instead chosen to surround yourself with people who have the same addictive qualities as yourself, once you enter into recovery and have cut ties with the “wrong type of people” you may be left with the feeling of loneliness.

In my own life, I didn’t really hang out with anyone that I used drugs with. I was very successful in my isolating. When the time came when I was clean there wasn’t that much change in the number of people I was around (0), just a change in how it affected me.

When I was using drugs I didn’t mind being by myself. I was able to deny to myself that I was feeling lonely…the drugs helped me out with that. So when I wasn’t using the drugs anymore the sense of loneliness was crushing.

One of my biggest obstacles in early recovery was isolating myself. I guess you take someone who over their entire life has been burned a few times by getting close to people, doesn’t feel comfortable enough to show emotion in front of other people, and who has an addictive thought pattern and you have the perfect recipe for the defense mechanism called…isolation.

The way that I began to bring myself out of isolation was by sharing at recovery meetings. Even though sharing my thoughts and emotions with a room of strangers went against every instinct in myself, rationally I knew I needed to.

What I found out was that after I would open up to others I felt a hell of a lot better. Just saying the words out loud to others some how freed me up inside. It was sharing at recovery meetings that first taught me what it was like to share with others.

It seemed like once I was able to open up in meetings I began to get the basics of being able to open up to others one on one and that lead to me being able to start some healthy relationships.

So when I hear people talking about the loneliness in addiction recovery I truly understand where they are coming from. I’ve been there. I still am there from time to time as I experience recovery ebbs and flows.

I truly believe that this loneliness is in direct connection with our defensive isolating that we have pretty much come to think of as who we are. As time goes on, we see that our isolation is not part of who we are but more a part of our addiction. It really proves the point that in our recovery we are not bad people trying to become good, we are sick people trying to become well.

13 responses to Loneliness In Addiction Recovery

  1. Thanks for giving me a clearer insight. It helps me understand my son even more.

  2. You are definitely welcome. I’m not sure if you have ever read Athena’s blog from the write thought but you and her would have a lot in common.

    I know for myself, it is difficult for me to read both of your blogs because it really makes me realize what my addiction was like for my family…not just how it effected me.

    So while they are difficult to read they are very necessary to read because my family has never expressed just what it was they went through with my addiction. Your honesty about the situation has shown me what heartache a relapse would cause and it is one more negative consequence to outweigh the positive when I’m trying to ride out a craving. Thank you

  3. I totally relate. I was a solitary drinker (actually, “alone in a crowd” would be more accurate) and felt isolated. Before I found my recovery group, there is no way I would’ve shared openly (trust issues). Once I did find a group, I was encouraged (but not forced) to share and found out early that it lifts the burden, rather than increases it.

    And re: recovery ebbing and flowing–I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  4. Hi Erin – I read your Ebbs and Flows post too. I feel that way a lot; like I fall in and out of love with life on a monthly basis. I try to remember that a lot of processes in life are cyclical, so recovery and healing probably are too. Keeping a visual of progress being in the shape of an ascending spiral helps me a lot – it helps me see that even when it seems like I’m moving backwards, I’m not.

    I isolated myself because of depression long before I started taking painkillers. And having fibro really exacerbated the whole situation. I’d never want to commit to doing anything because I’d never know if I’d have the energy or be pain-free that day. During those times the computer was my life line.

    Nowadays I’m slowly rebuilding my social life. It’s hard though. People wear me out, or maybe I’m just worn out and it’s hard to keep up appearances. But I know that I need that contact with my friends and family, and I’m trying to give myself the things I need. Reading your post reinforced that for me. I think tomorrow I’ll call a friend and make a coffee date.

  5. Hey Erin, you’ve been tagged. Check out my blog for the facts.

  6. Maybe opening up at these groups does make you feel better for that instant but it doesn’t really tackle the issue of being addicted to isolation. Maybe it’s just me. I find that talking about problems and issues in our lives doesn’t make it easier but rather harder and adds to the cycle of isolation addiction. It is never really as simple as you or other people make it out to be. I find that it is not directly an addiction to isolation but rather you addiction to other things that make you really isolated.
    For me it seems to be an addiction to pain, suffering, stress and anxiety that fuels my need for being isolated. It has been so long since i have been truly happy that i have forgotten all about it. I don’t even know what it means to be truly happy, if there is such a thing.
    It is only through isolation that i can begin to understand the reasons for my behaviour. I know that it is not healthy to be isolated but i like it because it fuels my rage and hatred of myself, which for me is more rewarding that being with people. I know that i’m not right in the head, but i don’t know anything else.
    Ever since i can remember i have been more attached to pain, hatred and discust
    that i don’t really believe that love is real. It seems to me as a form of control. I think people pretend that it is real to make their lives easier when it is infact making them weak an ill-prepared for the truth.
    Life is meaningless. We come into this world by ourselves and we wil leave it by ourselves so what difference does it really make if you spend your life in isolation.
    all these things love, compassion and other BS is just a way to try and justify our existence and keep everyone in control. Over the years it has just become an accepted way of life. But the fact of the matter is our life is meaningless. We are animals that suppress our instincts because it is supposed to be right or civilised. but throught this suppresson of our primal instincts we are isolating ourselves from the very things that make us human.
    So now look at your life and tell me your not living a lie or under some form of control. It is only by being isolated that we truly find out who we are and we can truly be ourselves.
    When you are with people don’t you find that you hold yourself back or don’t do something that you want to? I’m sure you do. Now ask yourself why don’t you?
    It is all a form of control over you, that has been implanted when your growing up. “you aren’t allowed to do this?” etc. But then we are denying our human impluses to become something that someone else wants you to be, and you don’t even realize it. And we are supposed to call this being free.
    Who decides what level of freedom we should have and why should they choose what way i live my life. Therefore isolation is a means of escapism from the reality that our lives are shit and bound by controls, rules and regulations.
    The fact of the matter is that we are isolating ourselves from the very thing that makes us human.

  7. I hear you John you, it sounds like you are feeling intense hopelessness over getting your needs for deep connection with others and for experiencing the joy that connected moments bring?

    I imagine your stratedy to come with this is to imagine that it’s not possible and that others are living a lie. I I can see how this makes sense to you especially if you have been unhappy and only pretended to be happy for the sake of some social convention.

    I am also getting the sense, that you also long to be authentic and true to your integrity, so the phoniness on your part (do to some pressure to conform) would only add to your irritation and pain. Akin to an insult to injury experience.

    I am so sorry for how long it has been that you have been going without these needs. And how deprived you have been from experiencing a love that touches your soul.

    I do know this (as a mother of young children) that babies cannotsurvive without someone being in tune with them and that babies bond in order to learn and that all of us had a babihood time where we were expressive in an authentic way, we experience joy and sadness and all the feelings we had a natual expectancy to keep on learning which meant a that we did not carry hang ups and negative attitudes (that come from wounds inflicted on our spirit by wounded people). We were playful and in the present and positive about our future, we believed in ourselves and each other so we kept on trying to crawl or walk and if we were breastfed we enjoyed the emotional, physical, pleasurableness of contact being lovingly head and the proxmity of skin contact, etc.

    We find meaning in hope (the attitude that there must be a better way) that so we can live expeirencing the jou of our wounds in life get the healing they need and our commitment to preventing wounds and bring healing to others, learning how to make this contribution in the world brings true authentic and deep connections, joyful moments, meaningful life and peaceful contentment that is savored with gratitude and appreciation, no matter how tiny the improvement ( just like when we were babies) and no need to escape into addiction.

  8. I live in Washington DC. I am addicted to crack cocaine and want so bad to be a responsible and normal again. I dont know what made me use crack however, I do know that it has totally wreak havoc throughout my entire life. I am lonely, tired, upset, confused, isolated but in need of genuine love. I know that my behaviors are wrong and I want to change my way. I have no real friends or acquaintances and that hurts. Will the desire, thought, action ever go away. Does anyone know of any recovery programs that are free in my area or anywhere else. Someone please help my heart is broken because of this addiction and I want, need to change. Please help me honestly, I do not want to die from drug usage. I am beginning to have feelings of worthlessness. I sleep all day and use all night. As a result of my addiction, I have been used, set up, violated and taken complete advantage of. I keep trusting and believing God that things are going to get better….But they haven’t. I am very sensitive to everything and mostly in a negative way. If anyone can offer some sincere advice. It would really be apreciated. I am not a bad person I am an addict looking for a way out.
    Thanks for letting me share.


    • First and foremost I would like to say a prayer for your spirit. I know all too well the feelings you are having. I have been there. I pray that you will find sobriety and serenity in your life. I pray that a HP will help you through all the pain and make it worth it. God Bless you.

  9. I like the article, you have tagged some of the issues of loneliness in recovery right on. There is no doubt that being in recovery can be a lonely experience. You have to cut ties with all your drinking friends or drug using friends. You need something to fill the void and let the loneliness pass. “This to shall pass …… ” It is just something you need to get used to in recovery and it gets easier in time.
    Thomas Gillis

  10. My reason for isolating stems from my shame, drugs do much damage to confidence, appearance repuatation, I am scared to see old friends or make new ones cos I no longer feel like the person I was / should be, I am scared that I will be judged, mocked or rejected so I isolate to avoid that, creating further lonliness that creates further sadness and tendencies towards use to deal with these feelings – It’s all part of the cycle of addiction, and although I know this it still dosnt help 🙁 Hanging around with using friends you don’t have the same worries because they are just as messed up as you though ) I think that recovery groups help many because everone feels equal and they go through it together

  11. I am so alone, I am in early recovery and moved to a country town, I know no one, all my friends are miles away, I busted yesterday after 60 something days. I can’t use my drug of choice cause I have a naltrexone implant. I am too upset to phone friends cause I feel stupid. I am working here and its the only time I feel normal. There are no meetings here, there is no support, every one drinks. I actually feel suicidal, I went on this dating site and thought hopefully meet some one cause every one is in a relationship in this town it seems. The guy stood me up, so again I felt worse!!! Probally drop kick any way. I have always lived in cities and this is the first time I have not had meetings to go to. I don’t know what to do. I do think addicts need their supports cause look at me man……………

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