Alcohol is a nervous system depressant, and heavy drinking can also cause isolation and depression. But many resources exist to help you create social circles.

Alcohol and loneliness can create a cycle that’s hard to break. Often, people drink to relieve feelings of loneliness or to distract themselves from those feelings.

But alcohol can cause people to further withdraw from loved ones and can increase feelings of depression and isolation. Addressing loneliness without involving alcohol is the best way to break this cycle.

Drinking can make feelings of loneliness worse for many people. It can cause people to withdraw from friends and family.

If drinking becomes alcohol use disorder, it can lead to shame, denial, and other negative emotions that can make someone reluctant to spend time with others.

Even single nights of drinking can lead to increased loneliness. A hangover can decrease your motivation to engage in social activities.

Plus, alcohol can affect your mood. It can make the symptoms of conditions such as anxiety and depression worse, leading to more intense feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Why do I want to drink when I am alone?

It’s common for people to turn to drinking as a way to cope with a range of negative feelings. If you’re feeling alone, drinking can seem like a way to make it through a hard day. It can temporarily mask or numb some negative feelings.

But it’s not a long-term solution. It’s always much better to reach out to your support network of family, friends, neighbors, or anyone else who can talk with you. If you need to find support, check out these resources:

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline: SAMHSA’s free helpline can connect you with local resources such as support groups and counseling. You can reach them 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1-800-662-4357 or by visiting their website.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): AA has both online and in-person support groups around the country to support people who want to quit drinking. You can use their website to find a group that fits your needs.
  • SMART Recovery: SMART Recovery is an online recovery program dedicated to giving people the tools they need to succeed. With SMART Recovery, you’ll have access to 24/7 support in chat and forums.
  • Sober Grid: Sober Grid is an app that connects you to other people who are no longer drinking in your local area. You can use it to make connections and get support when you need it.
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Several things might make you feel lonely when you quit drinking. For some people, the loneliness might be because they no longer have the alcohol to push down their feelings or to act as a distraction. This can mean dealing with tough emotions, including loneliness.

If you quit drinking after heavy alcohol use, you might experience loneliness because of changes to your circumstances that happened as a result of the alcohol use disorder.

For instance, some people with alcohol use disorder might push away friends and family and quit participating in activities and events. They might also have financial or legal difficulties that feel overwhelming and add to the feeling of being alone.

People who consumed a lot of alcohol in settings such as bars and parties can also feel lonely after quitting drinking.

For some people, drinking alcohol is a big part of many social situations. It can be difficult to meet friends and family without being around alcohol, and that can lead to loneliness after quitting.

Talk with your doctor before quitting alcohol

Some people who have become used to heavy and regular alcohol drinking may experience severe or even life threatening symptoms when reducing or quitting.

A doctor can recommend a safe schedule for tapering off alcohol consumption and advise on which symptoms to look out for.

Depending on individual needs, they may suggest inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation centers.

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If you’re used to a social life that involves drinking at bars, parties, or other settings, it can feel difficult to make friends in other spaces.

Some people also worry that they’ll feel uncomfortable around new people without a drink or two to help them relax. But there are ways you can meet new people and form friendships without any alcohol involved.

You can try steps such as:

  • Focusing on your hobbies: Often, the things you enjoy are the best place to start looking for new social connections. This could be local book clubs, recreational sports leagues, art classes, community theaters, and more.
  • Checking out friend-making apps: You may be familiar with dating apps, but there are apps designed for friendship, too. You can look into apps such as Meetup or BumbleBff to find people to connect with.
  • Joining a volunteer group: Volunteering can be a great way to help your community while meeting new people.
  • Attending community events: Street fairs, local festivals, farmers markets, and other events in your community can help you meet your neighbors and make connections.

Alcohol can leave people feeling lonely and isolated. It can make people push away family and friends. But quitting alcohol can also result in loneliness for many people due to factors such as decreased social opportunities and strained relationships.

It can help to meet new people through alcohol-free activities such as hobby groups, sports teams, volunteer groups, and community events. If you feel you need support to begin this new chapter of your life, talking with a therapist can be a great way to start.