I needed to understand that other people are going through the same thing as me.
The truth is that most people reach for something to soothe their feelings. It’s normal. Trying to numb the pain of feeling alone is a common reaction- and is very hard to stop.
You may feel alone even when you’re surrounded by people. It hurts when you feel that people who are supposed to love you don’t trust you. Realizing that life isn’t going to be perfect is the start of recovery. Life is hard. That’s the raw truth. The main thing to remember is that you’re not alone.
Why do I feel alone?
There are many reasons you may feel alone—your living situation, mental health, school, relationship troubles, divorce. These factors and many more can lead you to want to turn to drugs or alcohol to mask what’s really going on inside you.
Being with judgmental family members who treat you differently can also make you feel very isolated. For example, holidays can be tough times, especially if there’s fighting going on. Sometimes if you’re living with addiction, your family and friends may not be supportive, or if they’re the ones using, you may feel more alone than ever in your recovery.
Remember, no matter why you feel alone, your feelings are valid. Try not to discount your true feelings. Name them and claim them. While it’s not easy, you have to face them head on so you can feel, acknowledge and address them so you can move forward and continue with recovery.
Feeling your feelings
Why is it important to feel your feelings? Because being unable to bear those feelings is what’s driving you to use. If you expose yourself to the negative feelings without using, you’ll learn that you can survive loneliness without using or drinking.
Negative emotions like loneliness provide information. If you numb your feelings whenever you start feeling lonely, you won’t take the necessary steps to become less lonely—like making new friends or learning to maintain healthy relationships. So over time, you’ll only become more and more lonely. Actually feeling your feelings is a good starting point for making positive changes in your life.
It’s really difficult and uncomfortable to feel alone, but it will help you heal. Being able to deal with bad feelings is important, even if it feels impossible to do. Ask yourself:
- What am I actually feeling?
- Am I really feeling my feelings?
- How can I be alone with myself?
If you’ve been neglected before or had to take care of yourself and be on your own a lot, it could lead to feeling you’re all alone and that no one cares—or that you don’t matter. Truly understanding why you’re feeling alone is a major step.
It’s important to learn to be alone without feeling lonely. This worksheet can help you fill the void that may lead to using or drinking and explore your feelings.
How can I feel less alone?
The overwhelming feelings of loneliness can creep up on you at any time. There are tools, interventions, and resources that can help. The next time loneliness strikes, give these tips a try:
- Distractions: Find activities that you can do alone that will distract you from using or drinking. You can take a walk, drive to a crowded place like a pier or walk around a store. Sometimes just being around others can distract you from feeling alone. Or you can write, draw, play video games—take up a hobby or do something that interests you.
- Set limits and boundaries: Try to avoid places and people that cause you physical or emotional harm. Build relationships that make you feel acknowledged, included and important.
- Call a warmline, hotline, or 988: If you need immediate help, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or use the chat box at 988lifeline.org. You can also text “MHA” to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Warmlines are great for non-crisis support. If you feel alone you can call 988 – drinking or using alone can lead to accidental overdoses.
- Take a pause and some deep breaths: Grounding yourself, deep breathing, and meditation can help you pause and be more aware of your feelings and the moment.
- Find resources that help you talk about how you feel: Writing and journaling your thoughts, talking about how you feel can help you process your feelings.
- Remember that progress goes up and down and sideways: Go easy on yourself. Changing your self-talk and practicing self-compassion can help you say motivated when times are hard. This tool can help you reframe your negative thoughts and gain perspective.
You can treat being alone as a chance to grow, reflect and connect with yourself. Whether you’re feeling lonely or empty, these are emotions you can overcome. You can regain hope. The Addictions: Answer, Share, Explore tool can help you reflect on your experiences with addiction.