I chose this topic today because in recovery there is silence and there is loneliness. I am 6 years down the line, and I am still lonely in my soul. I do so love alone time though. I have learned that recovery is a long-term process and never really ends. The lonely times can be alone times. They are soul food.
I am not an alcoholic or an addict. I just drank wine. Too much wine. And then I decided one day to stop drinking. Yes, I was a grey area drinker, one of those people who just don’t see the point in having one glass when there is a while bottle to finish, dammit!
It was only when I got sober that I started to listen again. To really listen to the silence. As a young girl, I loved the silence. I was an introvert who hid away a lot at school, when I was with friends or when the house was full of people. I hid away.
When I started drinking in my late teens, I no longer needed to hide away. But my introversion ruled, and the alcohol helped to sidestep that alone feeling at social events. I was single until I was 37, living alone in country cottages – drinking my wine, loving my cats, and working.
Looking back, it was a great time. After the wine came my alone time. I have rediscovered the silence. I am listening. I am hearing my heart. It is sore. It needs peace and it needs alone time. I love being alone but sometimes I feel lonely. And often I feel lonely when surrounded by people. I never feel lonely when alone.
Alone vs Lonely
Lonely and alone suggest one person all by him/herself. The dictionary tells us that alone is an adjective and an adverb, and it means that no other person is with you. On the other hand, lonely means that no other person is with you – and that you are sad and unhappy as a result. We may choose to be alone but generally, we do not choose to be lonely. It is a feeling.
Do you feel alone or lonely in your sobriety? Or have you conquered those feelings and you are happy and gay? I feel both. I love feeling alone. I thrive on it. The loneliness for me is the way it is to be sober. In the early days of sobriety, we can feel like the black sheep of society. The only non-drinker in a sea of drinkers. It is hard to go out and relax when everyone around you is drinking and getting louder and funnier and more jovial.
I rarely get jovial or funny. I can laugh till I cry at a meme or my dogs but I rarely laugh in company at a joke really, or at things in life. I have sobered up a lot in terms of my gaiety. I love cracking dry jokes, but these have kind of dried up as I have discovered my inner silence.
The world has been taking a long, hard look at the meaning of lonely and loneliness since Covid-19 arrived two years ago. The levels of loneliness globally rocketed. Some people coped well, and others hit rock bottom. We all come from diverse backgrounds, and everyone was affected in unique ways.
From the billionaire in Camps Bay to the homeless man in the township slums, everyone faced loneliness and being alone in unique ways. Many people turned to alcohol. Others gave up alcohol.
As we all start to emerge from our hiding places, there is a sense of anticipation, urgency, and trepidation. What is summer going to be like? If you are in the northern hemisphere, what is winter going to be like? We forgot about the global climate crisis during lockdown and Covid-19. But it is real, and it is here and weather patterns are changing daily. Let me go back to the alone/lonely debate.
Humans Need Connection
According to Psychology Today, “Being alone is the physical state of not being with another individual, might it be human or animal… Being lonely is a psychological state characterised by a distressing experience occurring when one’s social relationships are (self-)perceived to be less in quantity and quality than desired. So, when the social contact you have at a given time does not fulfill you. Now, do you see the difference? Someone can be alone but not lonely and someone can feel lonely even when surrounded by people.”
It is important to remember that people are born to be social. People have always lived in social groups and need touch, hugs, affection, closeness to other people. It is our make-up, our DNA, our nature. Other animals are solitary (like a leopard, a polar bear, or a tortoise). But they still seek out a mate to reproduce!
If you are a mother, you will know in your heart that if your newborn baby does not get enough love and affection, he or she can suffer from “failure to thrive” syndrome. Can you imagine the abandoned babies, lonely children out there? Many adults who have addiction issues today come from homes where love was withheld, or the parents were not present, physically or emotionally, to meet the baby’s needs.
Old people can suffer without human interactions. Elderly people who live alone are prone to depression and ill-health, whereas the elderly who have privileges and family around them are able to live a healthier, happier life. People need connection.
You may well be a loner (like me) but we still need to come together with others during our lives. For me, having children was a blessing. It has helped me to grow and to see my need for alone time as something special.
Discover the Silence
How can we find time to be alone without feeling lonely? Find the silence. At least once a day. Silence is a panacea. It brings peace, it brings ease, it brings acceptance. Silence nourishes the soul. There are ways to find the silence even if you live in a busy household with lots of people. Get up earlier than anyone else. Bond with the birds and with the dawn. Or simply sit and enjoy the stillness. I always get up an hour before my family. I make my house perfect, I pour my coffee and I wait for the birds and the chickens. I feed the animals, I water my plants and I still have time to stretch a bit.
Remember that silence does not mean wearing headphones with that music playing to you. That music is still noise even though it is meditative to you. The Earth is our home, and we can find our silence in her embrace. Sit still and listen: to the wind, the birds, the trees, the flowers even will tell you a secret. Hear the raptor in the distance, the beetle’s wings rubbing and a cat miaowing. Hear it all. If you don’t like getting up earlier, then go to bed later than everyone else. Find your silent time.
If you want to create more silence, just do it! Turn off background noises (kitchen appliances, music, machines, and engines). Some people can sit still in the silence. I like to move. I sweep and mop, I stretch, and I water the plants. Others like to meditate. Or lie down. Do it.
- Reduced blood pressure
- Increased focus and concentration
- Calm a crazy mind
- Encourage brain growth – new cells grow to boost memory and emotions
- Decreases cortisol, the stress hormone
- Boosts creativity
- Improves sleep issues – relieves mental tension so that the brain can grow
- Become more present and be more mindful
If you are sober, there is plenty you can do to be alone and to enjoy it. Or to be lonely and enjoy it. But if you are lonely and it is harming your recovery, you have a choice: reach out, connect, find a tribe. Tribe Sober is here, your tribe. Connect with similar people every day. Heal and conquer!