This month all around the world, many couples celebrated Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate the love you have with your significant other. But what if you are single and living alone? In this blog, we are going to examine the link between loneliness and addiction. With the uncertain times we are living in and with social distancing and lockdowns, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone, that there are many people in this country feeling lonely at this time. But, have you ever thought of the link between being lonely and addiction?
Firstly, I think it’s important to clarify the difference between feeling lonely and being alone. We all need some alone time to recharge and it can actually be quite healthy to disconnect from any stress in your life. But being lonely is different. It’s a feeling of an inner void needing to be filled giving a feeling of rejection, exclusion and not being loved. You can be in a relationship but still be lonely due to a lack of connection or other issues. It’s not necessarily about being alone all the time.
Loneliness can have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. It can affect both our mental and physical health as well as impact us socially. It can increase the risk of depression, Diabetes and Arthritis, as well as influence sleep patterns, weaken the immune system and generally increase stress levels. Loneliness also contributes to low self-esteem, heart conditions and anxiety and can trigger an increase in drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or drug use. It’s also known in some cases to affect the brain and memory ability as well as incur suicidal thoughts and even attempts unfortunately. The current COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened these effects on anyone feeling lonely and we have seen many turning to alcohol or drugs as a form of comfort.
Loneliness and addiction can go together for a number of individuals suffering from a substance use disorder. When they are feeling lonely, the lure of alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism is too much to resist to provide that short term release. The ‘comfort’ of their drug of choice can numb the pain of loneliness. Unfortunately, it is a vicious cycle, as when they aren’t under the influence of their drug of choice, all the emotions of loneliness they couldn’t deal with come flooding back. If the individual doesn’t find a way to cope without using alcohol or drugs, the cycle just keeps on happening and the problem only gets worse.
Individuals who use alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism to combat loneliness and the emotions it brings, avoid dealing with the stark reality of the situation they are in. A lot of the time they live their lives in denial, fear and even guilt. Loneliness can however be both an effect but also a cause of addiction. The individual’s loneliness fuels their addiction, but equally their addiction fuels their loneliness. Addiction can damage relationships with loved ones and friends, only adding to the feeling of loneliness.
Connect with Yourself – The best place to start for dealing loneliness is with yourself. Of course, connecting with others is one way to help with loneliness, but first it’s important to connect with yourself. Understanding yourself and feeling content in your own company is a huge step forward in combating loneliness. Try even exploring your home city on your own and go into a café and restaurant by yourself. It’s good to get accustomed to doing things by yourself and be comfortable with it. Other things that would help connect with yourself include meditation, keeping a daily journal, learning to enjoy the solitude of being by yourself and even talking to yourself. Change your perception that being on your own and being lonely are the same thing. It’s also important to recognise, confront and accept the feeling and emotions of loneliness in order to help conquer the loneliness in a healthy manner.
Restore Relationships – Addiction damages relationships with friends and family and can push your loved ones away. It’s often one of the biggest regrets for those in recovery. We would recommend attempting to connect with those you pushed away if possible. Trying to restore your relationships with friends and family can be an excellent way to help with your loneliness. Reconnecting with your loved ones can drastically change your emotions in a positive way and can help re-attach you to a social circle once more.
Make the most of Group Therapy – We recommend making the most of any addiction group therapy following treatment by connecting with those there. These are people that know exactly what you are going through as they are facing the same challenges and maybe even the same emotions of loneliness as you. Here at Tabor Group, our Continuing Care programme provides ongoing treatment and support to clients while learning to cope with the demands of day-to-day living. It’s an excellent way for those in recovery to connect with others.
Be a Friend to Others – Everyone has challenges in life and friendships and relationships are give and take. Try taking the time to listen to what your friends have to say about their issues or problems and reach out to those in need. It will help you connect with them and help remove the feeling of loneliness. Of course it’s okay for you to receive and want the support of others, but giving support is another way to deal with your loneliness in a positive way.
Try Something New – It’s more than likely your life has been completely changed through getting addiction treatment, so now is the time to explore new interests and passions and gain new connections and friends through this. This is an excellent way of finding a new social circle. So, sign up for the gym, go to those art classes or music classes you’ve always wanted to do. Any new experience you try gives you the opportunity to connect with others and help your loneliness. Of course, this isn’t the best time with the current lockdown in place to do all these things, but as soon as safe to do so make sure you start trying new things.
Exercise – Exercise is one of the best ways to keep spirits and mood levels high. When we exercise, we release endorphins and dopamine which are scientifically proven to make us feel better. Even if it’s just a walk every day, getting out in the fresh air and exercising is an excellent feel-good distraction and will also improve your health.
If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, get help today. We can help you recover in a healthy, friendly environment and beat your addiction. Do not hesitate to contact one of our counsellors today for information by calling +353 (21) 488 7710 for Cork or +353 (1) 639 2962 for Dublin, or alternatively you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help you.