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Overcoming Loneliness and Isolation in Sobriety

In early recovery, we can easily get caught up in feelings of depression and anxiety. These feelings can lead to isolating ourselves from others. Loneliness and isolation tend to exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety, and we can fall victim to a spiral of negative emotions that interfere with our ability to properly engage in our recovery.

Social isolation can be just as bad for us as smoking and obesity. According to Erin York Cornwell in a 2009 Journal of Health and Social Behavior article entitled Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Health Among Older Adults, “Previous research on social isolation across age groups points to a variety of mechanisms through which various aspects of isolation may affect health. Some mechanisms link social disconnectedness and perceived isolation to worse health outcomes in similar ways. For example, both social connectedness and the perception of available support buffer the deleterious effects of stress exposure.” We often isolate ourselves in an attempt to avoid stress, but isolation make us less able to deal with the effects of stress.

Research into the consequences of loneliness and social isolation have yielded surprising results. Molly Edmonds, in an article for How Stuff Works entitled What are the Effects of Isolation in the Mind, explains, “One study with mice subjects found that isolation could increase cancerous tumor growth. Another study found that isolation is a risk factor for disease on par with smoking and obesity. Loneliness often leads to stress, which is a risk factor for many conditions in its own right. Researchers have had subjects estimate room temperatures after recalling a time that they were snubbed or socially excluded, and the subjects reported colder temperatures than participants that were asked to remember times with friends, thus suggesting that we can actually feel social chills.” While we may think that our isolation is protecting us from possible sources of stress and other negative emotions, it actually makes the problem much worse.

In recovery, the best way to pull ourselves out of loneliness and isolation is to focus on helping others. 12-Step Recovery programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, offer regularly scheduled meetings that allow us to interact with others and help those new to sobriety. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains, “Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot in our lives.”

Your life can be one of mental, physical, and spiritual health in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help now and begin building a brighter future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, brings together behavioral health and addiction specialists, holistic experts, and spiritual guides to address every aspect of an individual’s addiction. For information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431