Not only do you have to deal with gut-wrenching alcohol cravings when you quit drinking, but there’s also the crushing loneliness.
I didn’t go to a treatment center, where I’m sure it’s less lonely than battling out sobriety on your own (especially if you’re single like I was), so I struggled tremendously with being lonely after getting sober.
The fact is I was an outgoing drunk who had a large circle of friends. We partied a lot. I could almost always find someone to go out drinking with. Of course, I was in my twenties at the time … I’m sure it’s not quite like that for drinkers in their 30′s, 40′s and beyond.
Looking back, I suffered both depression and loneliness. Yes, I went to AA, but I had a hard time meeting people. I went to young-person’s AA and that took a while for me to connect.
My problem, and this is one reason why I loved drinking, is I was impatient. I always wanted instant gratification, which drinking did. When I felt lonely because I wasn’t drinking with the crew, I wanted that lonely feeling to leave me. I wasn’t equipped to handle it. It was a very difficult time for me … but I knew that returning to drinking was not the solution. I needed to be patient and continue hanging around other sober people.
In time I developed a great group of sober friends. I met my wife (who isn’t an alcoholic). Had a son. Now I have a full life and rarely experience that lonely feeling. It took time for me to overcome loneliness, but returning to drinking surely wouldn’t have been solution. In fact, it’s a busy life and the sick alcoholic that I can be, I sometimes long for those lonely times when family and social obligations get a little too much.
If you’re suffering crushing loneliness, there are many ways you can deal with it. The following includes what I did, but also includes suggestions that I didn’t do, but should have.
Loneliness can be a sobriety killer
Sober people who fall into bouts of feeling lonely, sad and/or depressed are at risk for drinking. I relapsed several times in the beginning because I was alone and ended up having a pity party. Therefore, if you’re finding that you’ve been feeling lonely in sobriety, arm yourself with a number of things you can do right away and do them when that sad and lonely feeling sets in.
What to do when feeling lonely while getting sober
A. Meet other people
This suggestion is for people thinking about getting sober and don’t want to do so on your own. If you’re newly sober or are thinking about quitting drinking, you might consider going the treatment center or recovery center route. The reason for this is that you will be surrounded with counselors and other people in recovery. You won’t be alone during the critical early days and weeks. I’m not saying treatment centers are a walk in the park, but they can help with loneliness while getting sober. Note, I did not go to a treatment center, but often wish I had.
I hate to break it to you, but you are very NOT likely going to make a bunch of great friends at your first meeting. You need to try different meetings, keep going, listen, ask questions, share, not be a jerk, be nice and in time you’ll make some great friends in AA.
If you’re feeling sad and lonely, look up a meeting and go. Even if you don’t know anyone there, it’s better than risking going to the bar or drowning your lonely and depressed feelings with booze.
Friends at work
If you have a job or are going to get a job, you can find people to hang out with there. Some jobs are more conducive to social activities than other jobs. However, now that you aren’t obsessed with drinking and aren’t filling up your time drinking, you might find some great people you never really got to know at your workplace.
Join a class/club/group/meeting of some kind
You can start yoga (I did), join a cooking class, bootcamp, walking groups, cycling clubs, martial arts … somewhere that you’ll meet other people. Like making friends in AA, you aren’t going to solve your loneliness problems going to one class. Be sure you actually like the class you sign up for.
You can find all kinds of local classes, clubs, meetings and groups with varying purposes at MeetUp.com. These are not online groups. MeetUp.com is just a place where live and local groups/meetings/clubs, etc. can post meetings.
You can also find local groups on Facebook. Many local groups set up a group page to keep everyone updated and to let people know about the group.
Go to a coffee shop
I spent many afternoons and evenings at my favorite coffeeshops when newly sober. I actually met other regulars and it became a fun, sober hangout.
1. Forums/Chat Rooms/Meetings
I realize communicating with people online isn’t as fulfilling as in-person, but can help the loneliness. There are discussion forums for every conceivable topic/activity. You don’t necessarily have to join a recovery forum. You can join forums that deal with a hobby you do, or a business you’re part of, a sport … you name it there’s a forum dedicated to it. Check out Big Boards, which is a directory of the most popular forums.
There are also online AA meetings you can join. I’ve never done this, but they exist. This is one online AA meeting location.
2. Dating Sites
If you’re looking to meet someone, there are dozens, if not hundreds of online dating sites you can join. It’s not social in the sense that you join discussions … but it’s a place you can meet someone. I strongly suggest you discuss looking to get into a relationship with your sponsor or a recovery mentor/therapist/counselor first. Often it’s good to wait a little while before taking on the stress and effort of getting into a new relationship.
B. Get and Keep Busy
Quitting drinking is an opportunity to pick up a hobby, sport, activity you used to love doing. For me it was getting back into the gym and walking. But doesn’t need to be fitness-related. Consider:
- Photography (we all have digital cameras these days)
- Writing (start a blog like I did)
- Music – Learn an instrument
- Read more
- Go to a movie: This was a BIG activity for me that I could do on my own. I love movies and went to hundreds of movies on my own in early sobriety
- Rent a movie (or fire up Netflix)
I could go on and on. You get the point. Start an activity that you like doing and can do any time.
Start a meditation practice
This takes some discipline, but if you’re feeling lonely, meditate. At first it won’t seem like you’re gaining anything. Meditation is like meeting other people, it takes practice and consistence.
This suggestion for overcoming loneliness sucks. I know. But if you keep going to meetings, don’t act like a jerk (just be yourself and be nice), you will make great friends … no matter how young or old you are.
Learn to accept loneliness
I’m not saying to do nothing; however, you also don’t have to be around people 24/7. Part of getting sober is learning how to live without alcohol, which includes learning how to be on your own and not feel lonely.
Usually, this takes time. It’s also good to realize that being alone is not bad. It doesn’t mean that people don’t like you.
View your alone time as a time to rest, reflect and take care of things that need taking care of.
Extrovert vs. Introvert as part of the loneliness equation
I’m a fairly strong introvert so I d enjoy being on my own. This doesn’t mean I didn’t suffer loneliness, because I did.
However, if you’re an extrovert, you will probably have a harder time dealing with being alone. It may be more important for you as an extrovert to seek out non-drinking social opportunities. Not sure what you are, read about extroversion and introversion here.
Feelings of Loneliness leads to self pity which is a silent killer
Seriously, nothing can be worse than having a pity party, which often follows very quickly after feelings of loneliness settles in. The key is to establish immediate steps you can take to deal with and overcome your bouts of loneliness. Remember, any feelings of loneliness will pass. It’s not worth drinking over.