If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction this article will cover a perspective proven through clinical studies that you must not miss. Society in general has led addicts to feel ashamed of the insidious affliction they suffer from, and the stigma can contribute to both addiction and loneliness. Addicts cause pain and confusion in themselves and anyone that truly deeply cares for them.
What Does Loneliness Look Like?
Loneliness may not be the same for everyone. The Huffington Post explains, “Being lonely is more of a state of mind and that state of loneliness can change on a dime if one so desires.” Loneliness in addiction can look like:
- Disconnection from others
- Little to no interest in relationships
- Feeling depressed and anxious
- Thinking there is no one to talk to
- Believing there is no hope
- Feeling like no one cares
A History Of Failure
A little over a century ago this country made the decision to ban and make illegal nearly all drugs. They instituted punishments as an incentive to deter people from abusing these substances. This makes sense on a basic level of thinking, but the issue is that it is clearly not working, as shown in this chart. In my experience When something doesn’t work, you either have to fix it or throw it away.
From the National Institute on Drug Abuse
Adapting To The Environment
In the early 1920s there were some interesting experiments conducted regarding addiction. They took a rat, placed it in a cage on its own and put two water bottles, one with Cocaine laced in the water and one containing fresh water. The rat drank the cocaine water until it overdosed and died. Bruce K. Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University conducted some similar experiments but added some new variables. He made a “rat park” with cheese, tubes, toys, and most importantly friends! In this rat park he put the same two types of water bottles, one with cocaine laced water and one with pure water. The following observation was astonishing. The overdose rate amongst the rats dropped to 0 percent. Most rats didn’t even touch the cocaine water, and the ones that did stopped before overdose. Professor Alexander questioned, “What if addiction is not about being hooked on chemicals but it is instead an adaptation to your environment?”
The message to be heard here is that humans want to bond and connect. If our self-esteem is low, or we have been beaten down emotionally, we will naturally feel a desire to bond with something other than people. This could look like food, gambling, drugs, sex, television, shopping…really anything that makes us feel okay for a short period of time and provides relief. Therefore, it is counterproductive to punish addicts, remove them from society, label them felons, make them unemployable, shun them, etc…it just perpetuates the cycle.
Finding Solutions To The Drug Problem
In 2000, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe with 1 percent of their entire population being hooked on heroin. Portugal decriminalized all drugs and set up social programs to help drug addicts reintegrate back into society. They took all the money they were spending on housing, feeding, arresting, and policing these addicts and put it into social programs where they would set drug addicts up with jobs and pay half their salary for the year, thus incentivizing companies to hire them and affording the addict the opportunity to reconnect with people and find a sense of purpose. Fifteen years after these programs were set in motion the addiction rate is down 50 percent, overdose is down, HIV rates have gone down drastically in addicts, and in EVERY addiction study shows massive decreases.
Hopefully one day our society can catch on and be this progressive and in the solution.
Helpful Tips to Overcome Loneliness and Addiction
- Build a social network from the ground up. We addicts are intelligent people; we can see who is healthy and working on themselves and who is not – stick with the winners and you will become one.
- Find someone that you can trust that understands addiction and talk to this person VERY REGULARLY about your feelings of loneliness, anger or whatever it is that you’re experiencing
- Volunteer work and support groups such as 12-step fellowships are great places to make new healthy connections this will take time and attendance and may not happen right away so you have to keep going.
- I want to reiterate the importance of cutting out negative connections – not all connections are good connections.
- Make friends and family a priority in your life. When you’re down and out it’s not going to be your online “friends” there that save your skin; the real connections that you make will be there for you when you need them the most.
- Commit to people and make a plan to show up for them and then follow through with that plan!
*This blog post was authored by Lawrence Briggs, Director of Operations at Pathfinders Recovery Center. Ph: 480.320.0752