Dealing with Loneliness
When we make the decision to remove alcohol from our lives, it may feel a little like we’re the only person in the world who doesn’t drink. If you’ve come from a circle of people who drink often, or even if your circle doesn’t drink much but seems to have “control” over alcohol, you can easily end up feeling like the odd person out. There’s a certain loneliness to this experience; when it doesn’t feel like there’s anyone who understands what we’re going through (both the challenges and the victory of removing alcohol from our lives), it can be a lonely experience. Our sense of self has changed dramatically, and we may be experiencing identity loss and separation. We also may be experiencing literal or figurative isolation if we don’t have a support network in our toolbox yet.
So what do we do about this loneliness?
First, we understand that it’s normal and something we may experience in early alcohol-free living. When we first quit drinking, it’s a shedding of old ways and identities in many ways. We cannot be the person we were when we used alcohol habitually, and you may be experiencing an intense amount of personal growth in a short amount of time. The “outside world” often cannot keep up with this beautiful, rapid transformation you are going through. We hope that we have a few people who stay on our vibrational level, but we may not. When we anticipate and understand that this experience is a near-universal experience in early alcohol-free living, it can help to lessen the impact of loneliness.
And then we allow ourselves to grieve. We allow space to mourn our past, the people we no longer connect with, and any feelings that are coming up for us in this time. We’ve spent far too long pushing away feelings with alcohol; without it numbing our experience, we allow these feelings. Process these through journaling, meditation, therapy, exercise: whatever helps you move through physical and emotional feelings of separation and loneliness.
We also go out of our way to seek connection. If this sounds impossible right now, be gentle with yourself. Take some time to recognize that this is difficult, and then begin building your new circle. To start, you can make a list of people who are there for you, whether that connection is real or perceived. Family, close friends, care team, alcohol-free peers. The guided meditation teacher you like on Youtube, the podcaster who you relate to, the spin instructor who pumps you up. These perceived connections are important in helping us feel less alone, and are sometimes more accessible to us when we first enter living without alcohol than close personal connections. Have this list handy, in hardcopy, to reach for when you’re feeling lonely.