Alone time is good occasionally but beware too much time spent alone when feeling depressed over something. Old timers in A.A. tell newbie’s “Don’t let yourself get too tired, too hungry, or too lonely.”
For many alcoholics and problem drinkers the feeling of loneliness can be overwhelming. We could be surrounded by people at a social gathering and still feel alone or like we don’t quite belong. Many of us drank to cover up this feeling, to feel like a part of the group and in doing so tried too hard and inevitably learning the next day how we acted foolishly.
It was odd that others just assumed we were outgoing and fun to have around when really we were anxious and uncomfortable until the alcohol flowed. When the night ended, we felt lonelier than ever since we drank to be sociable and were disappointed with ourselves because of our inability to be affable or good company without drinking.
We didn’t let those lonely feelings interfere with our thoughts too much since we continued to drink excessively in an effort to be accepted and we didn’t miss that edge when it was off. The alcohol was doing the trick and we continued to drink and learned to accept the loneliness as a condition of feeling whole if only for a few hours at a time. So the drinking was necessary to feel less lonely and the more we drank, the more detached we became from others. As usual, alcohol was beginning to do the opposite of what it was intended to do in the first place, make us more social.
The more we drank the more we retreated into ourselves, soon the only person we felt we could really talk to was our self. We began to speak to our inner conscious and listen to it as well. Being alone gave us comfort and a reliable source of opinion and judgment we could count on. Loneliness was where we could think and formulate our plans and actions relying on alcohol as the fuel to get us through the day and night.
Family and friends thought we were becoming more cerebral or were just tired or moody. The excuses to be alone came fast and were plentiful. It wasn’t long before even we began to suspect something was wrong with our behavior and that we were an outcast; not fitting in even with the alcohol. Regardless we continued to drink, telling ourselves we didn’t care what others thought and the only opinion that mattered was our own because we trusted those instincts. With an outlook like this, little wonder we drank to block our feelings of loneliness, the same feelings we had come to understand and feel comfortable with. We were trapped and we knew it but this solitude was better than facing our weaknesses.
Accepting treatment was not easy since we had become independent and inflexible, by products of a loner lifestyle. Now we had no choice but to accept the help of others and begin to trust someone other than ourselves. Recovery was difficult since we had to fight the urge to drink as well as trying to evade withdrawing into ourselves once again. Retreating to the dark side was to be avoided at all costs. Sobriety meant getting out there even if it was to a support group or seeing a counselor. Being around people again and contributing rational thoughts to conversation, trusting others, these things made us feel ill at ease. In some cases, we needed to relearn social graces. We were all about not fitting in and now we had to adjust and we were fish out of water but perseverance was the key. Speaking to other alcoholics made us realize we weren’t alone and that others could understand exactly what we were going through. This gave us hope. Now alone time is occasionally a good thing but too much time spent in solitude and we begin to think about the old demons. We know now that we can only seek solitude when we are in a good place mentally; even slight depression and alone time can mean trouble.
We need to be physically fit and emotionally strong to circumvent those destructive behaviors that stole a piece of us. In church basements around the world old timers at A.A. like to tell the new members, “Don’t get too tired, too hungry or too lonely” as these are warning signs of trouble we are all too familiar with. We now know that being social is not something we should dread but embrace. Sober time with others is something we can control and should enjoy knowing that others do not expect nearly as much from us as we once suspected they did. We are once again in control.
To set up an appointment with Michael Pearlman, M.D., Call 1 (866) 285-3400 toll-free or (617) 620-2230,