Recently, I read a post from a person in sobriety that said, "Sobriety is so lonely, how do people deal with it?" To which I replied, "It's interesting to me. I felt so much more lonely when I was drinking with 20 'friends' than I ever do spending time alone, sober." Interestingly enough, this idea plays off my last blog, Unfriending Alcohol quite well. I wrote about how, in active addiction, we tend to view alcohol as a friend, something we lean on, something we count on, and something we can't live without. It stands to reason, if we feel that way, when we are without alcohol we would in fact feel quite lonely. I have said this many times before, but I will say it again anyway, if we try to quit drinking by not drinking, we are far from successful sobriety. Even if we manage to stay sober, we will remain in sobriety indefinitely because we still miss it as we would a dear friend who moved away. Truly successful sobriety comes when we recognize our friend didn't leave us, we left it, voluntarily and with good reason. When we do this, we no longer feel lonely without it.
My temporary relief from loneliness slowly pushed me into a deeper and darker corner of isolation.
I remember someone telling me a long time ago we cannot be happy if we cannot be alone. I never understood this sentiment. I always thought, why would anyone be happy alone? As human beings we are fundamentally designed to be together, to be a community, to be a part of something. I could not for the life of me understand why someone would be happy, alone. I found time alone to be loud, uncomfortable, disorienting, and even painful. The moment I found myself alone, I would immediately seek out anything I could to distract myself from the loneliness I felt in my own skin. I found alcohol took care of the loneliness very early on in my life. It was relatively easy to come by, socially acceptable, and it did the job. Within minutes, any loneliness I felt disappeared into a cloud of inebriation. I remember literally sighing after the first drink, knowing all my problems were over. What I didn't know, was none of my problems were actually over. They were only temporarily hidden from sight while they worked in cahoots to build bigger, more complex, and more difficult problems for me to deal with later. My temporary relief from loneliness slowly pushed me into a deeper and darker corner of isolation.
If we drink to avoid loneliness, and drinking exacerbates our loneliness, then in order for us to not feel lonely in sobriety, we must learn how to be comfortable alone. The idea of feeling comfortable alone was as foreign to me as trying to fly an airplane. I would not have even known where to start to learn how to do either. The interesting thing about my active addiction was how most of the time, I drank at home by myself, so I was still effectively alone, just not coherent. With this in mind, I cannot help but acknowledge it was not the isolation itself that made me uncomfortable, it was what happened to me in isolation that was unbearable. Thoughts. My thoughts would begin to run wild, and I did not like where my thoughts took me. All-day long, I found ways to keep myself busy enough to avoid letting my thoughts emerge in the forefront of my mind. I didn't know it, but this was the only thing keeping me productive on any level. Since I couldn't drink at work, I had to find ways to occupy my thoughts, so I worked hard to avoid the consequences of silence.
If we do not learn how to sit in silence, then our sobriety will in fact
be quite lonely.
The silence we were so used to not experiencing became enemy number 1. Obviously, when we quit drinking, we find ourselves with ample time and no way to silence our thoughts. The noise associated with silence (Silencing the Noise of Quiet) is what makes us feel so incredibly lonely in the beginning days of sobriety. If we do not learn how to sit in silence, then our sobriety will in fact be quite lonely. After decades of avoiding the dreaded silence of being alone, how do we then learn how to be okay in solitude? Again, this is different for everyone, but it all begins with Finding our Why's. Most of the time, we did not start drinking for no reason. We had already begun to develop core beliefs that made us feel alone. We started drinking when we found alcohol numbed those unwanted feelings. Here's the thing, those feelings were only perceptions we created about a false reality.
You have heard me say this before, and I will say it again. At any given time, we can change the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. It is necessary to change these negative false perceptions in order to let go of the fear of being alone. The noise we hear in silence is simply our thoughts running amuck trying to validate the core beliefs we have unwarrantedly justified in our minds. They are not valid, we make them valid. With that said, if we can make them valid, then we can invalidate them too. The way we do this is by not feeding our negative core beliefs with inaccurate or incomplete information. Do we do things, at times, that support our negative core beliefs? Certainly. Do we only do things that support our negative core beliefs? Absolutely not. The difference lies in where we place our focus.