Loneliness in Recovery and Preventing Relapse
People who struggle with addiction of any kind are no strangers to loneliness. Physical and emotional loneliness are components of addiction that can persist long after active treatment and recovery. In 2019, two-thirds of all Americans often or always felt lonely. 1 The pandemic’s isolation puts people in recovery at even greater risk, with meetings and appointments moving online and positive social outlets dwindling. There is hope for preventing loneliness in recovery and preventing relapse.
What is Loneliness?
While there is no single definition of loneliness, researchers agree that it is a state of mind. According to Verywell Mind, loneliness causes people to feel empty, alone, and unwanted. 2 This means that people can experience loneliness whether they live alone or in a house full of people. The pandemic and social restrictions have made it more challenging for people to find space away from unhealthy households or participate in social activities. Some people are not comfortable in online interactions or may not even have the technology to participate in virtual activities.
The Role of Neurotransmitters in Loneliness in Recovery and Relapse
Brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, play an important role in our mood and feelings. Since loneliness is a state of mind, there are ways to stimulate important neurotransmitters and help prevent loneliness. These same neurotransmitters are the chemicals that using substances stimulate. Finding healthy ways to boost neurotransmitters is crucial to maintaining sobriety, especially in isolation. Learning to boost dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins will naturally help improve feelings of loneliness in recovery and help prevent relapse.
Strategies for Stimulating Neurotransmitters and Preventing Loneliness
Dopamine is the motivational neurotransmitter, creating a sense of well-being and achievement through accomplishments. It can help eliminate the empty and unworthy feelings of loneliness.
One of the best ways to stimulate dopamine is to set and achieve a new goal. Start small and reasonable with a goal that can be achieved daily. During the pandemic and isolation, it may be as simple as waking up and getting dressed by a certain time each day, eating on a consistent schedule, or reading a certain number of pages in a book each night before bed. This is a great opportunity to work on habits that can improve overall health through simple goals. Soon, new healthy habits will be formed, and a boost of dopamine will help improve well-being feelings.
Serotonin is stimulated when a person feels important. This can be difficult to receive from others if a person lives alone or in an unhealthy relationship.
Boosting serotonin without the input of others can happen through physical and mental activities: 3
- Regular exercise and sunlight
- Peer mentorship
Endorphins are the brain’s chemical that causes feelings of euphoria, sometimes referred to as a “runner’s high.” Endorphins naturally relieve pain and stress and can be stimulated in many ways.
Some ways that you can increase your endorphins during isolation are: 4
- Exercise such as yoga or taking a walk
- Laughter – watch a comedy or read a joke book
- Music through playing an instrument or turning on music and dancing
- Eating dark chocolate (in moderation)
According to author Johann Hari, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. 5 Connection is difficult, but not impossible to achieve during the pandemic and varying degrees of social isolation.
Prevent Relapse and for Loneliness in Recovery
These are challenging times. Sometimes the best efforts to remain sober and live a healthy life require outside support. The professionals at Silver Sands Recovery are ready to help you create a holistic and personal plan to achieve sobriety or heal from relapse that meets your individual needs. Contact us today.
About the author:
Lisa Waknin is the Founder and Director of Silver Sands Recovery, located in Prescott, Arizona. Lisa started Silver Sands Recovery after immersing herself in the addiction treatment world for several years to figure out what could be done differently to help her daughter and others like her to overcome addiction and stay sober. She believes in a hands-on treatment approach, which includes taking someone out of their environment, providing a 90-day program in a structured environment. During treatment, clients not only recover physically but also learn to live their life again. Lisa is a sought-after expert speaker for recovery support groups, charities, schools, communities, and companies wanting to educate themselves on the explosion of opiate and heroin abuse in our country and the best way to understand, treat, and beat it.