After you stop drinking, life without alcohol may seem daunting. This is especially true for individuals who used alcohol to cope with the many stresses of life which include loneliness. In fact, loneliness has been reported as one of the leading causes of alcohol abuse, by the National Library of Medicine, with over 66.1% of people who drink excessively admitting that they sometimes or often feel lonely.
While many people who develop an alcohol use disorder may have done so due to their using alcohol to cope, it is no secret that alcohol is only a temporary distraction. While it may temporarily dull negative feelings, it also contributes to their causes as it wreaks havoc on your health, social life, and emotional wellbeing.
Despite contributing to many adverse effects and consequences, you may find that you don’t know how to live without alcohol after using it for so long. After using it to “unwind” or relax for so long, you may be at a loss of how to do that without it. Fortunately, there are many ways to both live without alcohol and enjoy the life you live without it.
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Loneliness and Coping with Alcohol
Before we discuss how to deal with life without alcohol, it is important to understand the connection between loneliness and alcohol abuse. Loneliness is defined as “the feeling of being alone, isolated, or deserted”. Loneliness can be caused by a number of things including social isolation, feelings of inadequacy, and depression.
It is not uncommon for people who deal with loneliness to try and cope with alcohol. In fact, research has shown that there is a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and feelings of loneliness. This is because alcohol can act as a form of self-medication. It numbs the pain and loneliness that someone may be feeling. However, this is only a temporary solution. In the long run, alcohol only makes the problem worse.
There are a number of risks associated with using alcohol to cope with loneliness. These include developing an addiction to alcohol. Alcohol abuse can also exacerbate loneliness by contributing to a person committing risk-taking, erratic or violent behavior, or abusive behavior. While using alcohol to cope with loneliness, the use of the substance can have the opposite effects, instead making loneliness worse as it causes an individual to push the people in their life away.
Risks Associated with Loneliness and Alcohol Abuse
The consequences of loneliness go far beyond negative feelings. When a person is lonely, the body produces the stress hormone called cortisol. Prolonged exposure to cortisol can lead to increased blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Additionally, people who feel lonely are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
One of the most significant risks associated with loneliness is that it can contribute to alcohol abuse. When people are lonely, they may turn to alcohol as a way to numb their feelings. This, of course, is only a way to avoid making genuine connections that will truly end loneliness. Further, alcohol consumption can lead to more serious consequences in the long run as individuals try to mask their emotional pain. These consequences include the development of the following health risks:
- Cancer (breast, throat, esophagus, liver and of the mouth)
- Cardiovascular disease related to sudden deaths
- Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy)
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Serious injury
- Accidental death
- Brain damage
- Problems in an unborn child
- Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
If you are using alcohol to escape feelings of loneliness, it is important to know that the risks are not worth the temporary relief you may feel while drinking. There are many other ways to cope with loneliness that do not involve substances. In the next sections, we will list ways that you can combat loneliness and make genuine and long-lasting connections with others.
How to Deal with Loneliness Without Alcohol
Loneliness affects many people in the United States. A February 2021 report published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education indicates that 36% of all Americans experience extreme loneliness. Percentages are even higher among certain groups, such as mothers with young children (51%) and young adults (61%).
We all feel lonely from time to time, but chronic alcohol use to combat feelings of loneliness is not worth the risks. There are many other ways to cope with the loneliness that can be just as effective, if not more so, than using alcohol. Rather than masking the feelings of loneliness, developing genuine connections with others will address the source of the loneliness. Some excellent coping mechanisms for loneliness during life without alcohol include:
Sometimes, all we need is someone to talk to in order to feel better. Talking openly with a loved one or a family member about feelings of isolation or loneliness can help reduce those feelings. If you live far away from family members, weekly video chats or frequent phone calls can help you feel more connected to them.
Often, alcohol abuse can cause a person to isolate from their friends. As an individual tries to hide their alcohol consumption, they may reach out less. This can cause a rift between what were once close friends. Living your life without alcohol gives you an opportunity to reconnect with friends that you may have grown distant from.
If there is no one available to talk to, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional. A mental health counselor or therapist can help you manage life stressors and work through any feelings of loneliness you may be experiencing.
When we focus on our hobbies and passions, we can take our minds off of feeling lonely. Often, people who succumb to alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction lose track of who they are and what they love. Doing things you love can help bring back a sense of self and purpose, which can bolster your self-confidence and make it easier to connect with others.
During life without alcohol, it is important to stay busy. If you previously loved playing sports, joining a local rec league can connect you with others who also love the same sport. People who enjoy activities such as gaming can find local groups that meet regularly too . If you love to read, many libraries and bookstores offer book clubs and literary events that are free to the public.
No matter what you loved to do before you began life without alcohol, there are ways to connect with that love and with others who also enjoy the same hobbies, interests, and passions. Life without alcohol can be rich, full, and satisfying when you spend time doing things you care about.
When living life without alcohol to combat loneliness, volunteering can be a great way to connect with other people. It can help you feel good about yourself and your life. While volunteering you will constantly be in contact with others, giving you opportunities to interact, make connections, and potentially make new friends.
The regular interactions that occur during volunteer work help develop healthy support systems. Not only will you meet new people, you will also meet other volunteers who are empathetic and care about the world and people around them. Creating genuine social connections during volunteer work can lead to lifelong friendships that combat feelings of loneliness.
There are many places to volunteer. You can reach out to local hospitals, animal shelters, long-term care facilities, soup kitchens, environmental organizations, or political campaigns. You can also search online for volunteer opportunities in your area. Many communities have entire websites dedicated to volunteer opportunities in your area.
Abusing alcohol can take a serious toll on your health. During life without alcohol, practicing self-care helps you feel good about yourself as you reprioritize your wellbeing. Self-care takes many forms and can include:
- Eating healthy foods
- Getting enough sleep
- Taking breaks when you’re feeling overwhelmed
- Doing things you enjoy
- Spending time outside
- Getting enough sunlight
There are many ways to practice self-care, including connecting with others. When you feel good about yourself, it’s easier to stick to your goal of avoiding drinking. Moreover, the confidence you build by taking care of yourself will make it easier to meet and connect with people.
Seeking Help for Alcohol Abuse with Intrepid Detox
There are times when alcohol abuse has gone beyond drinking too much. If you feel like you can’t control your drinking, or that it’s negatively impacting your life, it may be time to seek professional help.
At Intrepid Detox, we understand how difficult it can be to give up alcohol. That’s why we offer a safe and comfortable detox program that will help you begin the recovery process. Our residential alcohol detox program in Riviera Beach, Florida can help you begin the process of healing from prolonged alcohol abuse.
For more information on the services we offer at Intrepid Detox, contact us today. Our team of dedicated and experienced professionals are here to help you on your journey to sobriety.