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The Role of Loneliness In Recovery

Loneliness, when defined, is about as tragic as the experience itself feels: “sadness because one has no friends or company”. Few people like to feel lonely. Many people enjoy what might otherwise be called solitude which, by all other spiritual association, still means being alone and isolated. Yet somehow there is a distinction between being alone and being lonely. Spiritual gurus, self-help guides, and the average self-improvement writer will touch on cultivating the ability to be alone without feeling lonely- a sanctuary of solitude without the sadness.

In recovery, we learn about feelings. From happiness to sadness, resentment to anger, fulfilled to lonely, we learn to identify our emotional experiences. Once we learn how to identify them, we are empowered with the ability to become aware of them, move through them, and learn from them. Learning from loneliness, science argues, is the most important part of experiencing loneliness. The trick is being open-minded to the experience of loneliness as passing and not get caught up in the fear that loneliness is permanent.

The University of Chicago recently studied loneliness and its evolutionary history in the brain. Negative experiences in the brain are not warmly welcome. Reactions like PTSD are the brilliant mechanics of the brain to protect itself from what is too difficulty negative to comprehend. Negative experiences act as signals and those signals motivate the brain, according to Seeker. “When these emotions are negative, they serve as aversive signals that encourage us to change our behavior. Loneliness is one such aversive signal, and it’s designed to motivate us to ‘get back out there’.” Getting back out there, the article explains, means “…to take deliberate action toward maintaining, repairing, or replacing our social relationships.” Loneliness is a warning signal, creating urgency for incurred damage in relationships. For women in recovery, loneliness can signify a wealth of damages to a variety of relationships. Most importantly, if not most urgently, is the relationship with ourselves.

Loneliness is both a precursor to and a direct result of isolation. Isolation is spoken with a shudder in the rooms of recovery as it is sternly advised against. Using animalistic metaphors, professionals and peers speak of isolation like shoving yourself to the outside of the pack. Women in recovery are encouraged to put themselves in “the middle of the herd” so as to prevent being “picked off” by their predator: addiction. Isolation means staying away from others, avoiding relationships, and increasing feelings of loneliness. Women who struggle with addiction already feel on the outside of life, struggling also with shame and guilt. Loneliness and isolation perpetuate the false fears of their mind, which, when it comes to addiction, can be fatal. Recovery has to be different from addiction. Every therapy, modality, and 12-step program is designed to change the way women think about themselves, their addiction, and their lives. Learning to live with loneliness as part of life’s many experiences changes the experience of loneliness itself. Rather than take loneliness as a serious condemnation, cope with loneliness by taking it less seriously.  

Villa Tranquil is a transitional living opportunity for women seeking to extend their recovery beyond their treatment programs. Call us today for information on our beautiful home in Jupiter Farms, Florida: 214-799-3080