How Loneliness Can Get In The Way Of Sobriety

Feelings of loneliness and isolation can make it challenging to stay sober.

Generally speaking, the rates of relapse for people who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction are high. There are many different reasons why people relapse but individuals who get professional addiction treatment, aftercare services, and continue following their treatment care program are more likely to sustain long-term sobriety.1

Feeling lonely is a normal part of life, but that doesn’t make it easier to cope. Relationships play a significant role in our mental and physical health, and unfortunately, addiction tends to damage our relationships with people we love.

In recovery, intense feelings of loneliness and isolation can make it challenging to stay sober. Even adults who feel lonely but don’t have a history of substance abuse are more likely to use drugs and alcohol to find relief from loneliness.

Understanding how loneliness can harm your sobriety and having a plan to combat those feelings can help you achieve long-lasting sobriety.

Related post: What Does It Mean to Have a Spiritual Awakening In Sobriety?

Loneliness in Sobriety: A Trigger for Relapse

Feelings of loneliness in sobriety may not seem like they have the potential to cause relapse, but they’re more powerful than you might think. Evidence from research studies shows loneliness is one of the psychological variables related to high-risk behavior like substance abuse.1 As a result, people in recovery may relapse when they feel lonely because they may be more likely to revert to old behaviors in moments of weakness.

For example, perhaps you are separated from family members while you’re away attending treatment. Or, you’re living alone after rehab, and you don’t have a community of friends, family, or sober individuals to support you. These types of experiences might make you feel like you’re facing life’s challenges alone.

Additionally, losing relationships due to past addiction can produce feelings of loneliness. In the earliest stages of recovery, it can be painful to face the truth about how you have hurt loved ones and damaged relationships due to your addiction. As you work through those emotions, you’re likely to feel lonely and tempted to give in to anything that falsely promises relief, including alcohol or drugs. However, there are other healthier ways to cope with difficult emotions.

The Difference Between Loneliness and Being Alone

It’s also important to understand that there is a difference between loneliness in sobriety and being alone. For many people, being alone isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s often a necessary part of life that’s required to rest and recover so people can feel refreshed and ready for socialization.

Instead, loneliness isn’t just an emotion; it’s a state of mind. According to one study, loneliness isn’t necessarily about being alone. Instead, it’s the perception of being disconnected and isolated that is most dangerous.2 

People with low self-esteem and self-worth typically feel lonelier than those with higher self-esteem and self-worth. Factors such as feelings of worthlessness, guilt, mental distress, and poor coping mechanisms can all play a role in this.

Ways to Combat Loneliness in Sobriety

Despite how hopeless loneliness can make you feel, there are many positive ways you can combat loneliness in sobriety. 

See a therapist regularly.

If you haven’t already, consider going to therapy. Talking about your feelings and letting someone know what you’re going through can ease feelings of loneliness. It’s also an excellent way to uncover the root causes of your loneliness and process those emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

Enroll in a sober living program.

Sober living homes help prevent relapse. When you enroll in sober living, you live in a shared house or apartment with other individuals in recovery. You’ll be in a safe, sober, and supportive place where other people understand what you’re going through because they are also going through the same things themselves. Living at a sober living home makes it easier to build community and stay connected with other like-minded people in recovery.

Work to restore relationships.

After you get sober, it takes time and effort to restore broken relationships. However, staying committed to your sobriety and continually working to make amends with people in your life will help to combat feelings of loneliness in sobriety. Unfortunately, some relationships may not be repairable. However, you can continue to do your best to become the type of person you want to be and establish healthy relationships with others.

Lean into your higher power.

If you have a relationship with a higher power, doing things like praying, meditating, and just spending time with your higher power can give you inner strength and resilience to cope with loneliness.

Prioritize gratitude.

People often fall into the trap of self-pity when they feel lonely. However, prioritizing gratitude can help you remember that you still have so much to be grateful for. If you’re struggling with loneliness, try making a gratitude list and adding one new thing to it each day. Even just taking a few minutes a day to reflect on the things you’re grateful for can help you improve your mindset.

Attend AA meetings.

Attending AA meetings is a great way to build new friendships and establish a supportive sober network. Being around others who have experienced the same challenges can provide feelings of connection that will banish loneliness. The AA community also encourages individuals to carefully tend to their emotional and physical wellbeing, knowing full well that loneliness can often be one of the primary causes of relapse.

Get a sponsor.

An AA sponsor will provide one-on-one support as you work through the 12 Steps. They’ll also keep in touch with you daily and help you develop essential tools and strategies you can use to deal with challenging emotions.

Give back to your community.

Finding ways to volunteer your time and resources will promote a sense of purpose and connection. By taking care of others, you’ll also begin to realize the value of your own life too. Not to mention, the people who volunteer alongside you may quickly become good friends.

Be patient.

Battling feelings of loneliness, developing a new life in sobriety, and learning how to love yourself are things that all take time. Recognize this and be patient. With time, you’ll feel more comfortable in your own skin and build relationships that help make life worth living sober.

Related post: 5 Myths About Relapse Debunked

Sober Living Homes for Men, Women, and LGBTQ+ Individuals

Suffering from loneliness in sobriety can be debilitating. At Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, we’ve designed our sober living program to provide essential support services, a healthy living environment, and sober socialization and community. Our staff members understand what it’s like to struggle in recovery because we’ve been there too.

If you need help and support to stay sober, we’re here for you. Please call (512) 580-3131 or contact us online for more details about our programs.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4295122/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890922/ 

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