Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. – Mother Teresa

A common thread running through the stories of recovering addicts is a feeling of overwhelming loneliness. From the outside, many people who drink and use drugs appear to be the life of the party with a host of close friends, while inside they feel as if no one understands or shares their pain. In fact, feelings of loneliness and sadness are not only common, but they can also lead to addiction.

How Loneliness is Linked to Addiction

Addiction forms when a person consumes so much of a substance that it changes his or her body’s chemistry. Yet, the question of why one person becomes an addict over another remains up for debate. Canadian psychologist Bruce K. Alexander published a study in 1981 on his “Rat Park” experiments that appears to shed some light on the way that loneliness is linked to addiction.

In the study, a group of rats was placed in a massive cage, or “park,” with access to opioid-laced water. The rats who were isolated from each other with nothing to do quickly became addicted to the drugs. The rats who were placed in areas with others, given colorful balls to play with, good rat food to eat, and tunnels to run through had little to no interest in the drugs.

Why Experiencing Loneliness in Rehab is Common

Alexander’s study shed new light on addiction, but it also reinforces the need to alleviate those feelings of isolation during periods of sobriety. It is not uncommon for an addict or alcoholic to seek help for depression, only to find out that the primary issue is substance abuse. Before any co-occurring disorders can be addressed, it is essential that abstinence come first. You can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in your feelings and that there are people ready and willing to offer their support.

Tips for Overcoming Loneliness in Florida Drug Rehab

It is completely normal to feel lonely during addiction recovery because your number one coping mechanism has just been removed. In addition to the loss of drugs and alcohol, you may also be grieving walking away from an unhealthy social network. This is why it is essential that you develop skills to deal with loneliness in recovery.

The most important thing you can do is to begin building your recovery network by participating as much as possible in your program. This might include attending therapy, 12-step meetings, or other group sessions. These are perfect opportunities to meet other people in recovery who are facing similar challenges and who can offer their support on your journey. Talk about your feelings. Keeping them bottled up will only keep you sick, and that is not how you recover. Stay physically and mentally active. Take walks if you are able and find some activities to keep your mind engaged in a healthy and productive manner. Be a good listener to others. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel just by being a sounding board for someone else in need.

The Importance of Maintaining Recovery Post-Treatment

While you may create some strong bonds in your substance abuse treatment program, it is a safe bet that loneliness and isolation will return post-treatment if you do not develop a strong relapse prevention program. Fortunately, your Florida drug rehab program at The Orlando Recovery Center will help you do just that. We also provide valuable aftercare services to our clients. Contact us now to learn more about admissions to one of our programs. You never have to be alone again.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.