It's Totally Okay to Feel Crushing Loneliness!

February 14, 2018

Wow, can't believe that clickbait title worked for you. Really? Anyway, since you're here: Something I hear in meetings a lot is "I'm afraid I'll never find anyone again." Something that I hear on stage a lot is, "So Tinder is weird." Something that I say at home a lot is "You better not leave me, because I don't like anyone else."


It's taken me a long time to realize that most people are afraid of the same, basic things - being alone, opening up, trying to make a human connection with someone and failing. All of the past negative attributes I've ascribed to my exes had something to do with these fears. My dreadful past behaviors were probably due to those fears, too - plus a healthy dose of binge drinking that always complicated whatever messy situations I sought out. Not an excuse - just a sad reality that I'll fess up to now.


A big part of sobriety is having to take stock of your past behavior through clear eyes. For most people I have talked to, every cringe-worthy thing you said, every time you royally screwed up, every person whose feelings you stomped comes up in the recovery process, even if you aren't someone following a strict recovery program. It's as if your stupid brain's browser cache stores all this bad shit for you to access after your brain dries out. 12 Step folks even fill out charts about their resentments - if you wanna get real gnarly with it, Hazelden has a good one that's specifically for relationships and sex relations. 


With these moral inventories, you're asked to talk about who you resent, why you resent them, what part you played in in that and what wrong-headed idea was the result. It's brutal, honest work that I'm putting it off by writing this! It's also a very slick way of getting you to admit that, even if you were wronged, you played some part and that whatever residual badness you're feeling is treatable - by you. (Abuse has no place in those "moral inventories." That part isn't your fault at all and anyone who tries to say you played a part doesn't know what they're talking about, just FYI.)


If you're a person reading this and shaking your head that I had to get sober just to take basic stock of my life and relationships, well - like, good for you, maaan. It's taken lots of therapy (individual, couples!), gut-wrenching conversations with friends and family and a significant amount of 12 Step meetings to even begin to resemble an Okay, Healthy Person.


Writing about this sort of thing makes me feel like less of a mutant and I hope some of you reading this are beginning to feel the stirrings of a desire for change that will improve your life. I was just telling a good friend that every time I begin to judge someone in recovery who says something nuts, the next thing they say is wholly relatable because I, too, am nuts. People in recovery don't mince words because they don't have time. When you want to get better, you wanna get all that shit out on in the open immediately so you can move on.


So let's talk about crushing loneliness, after all. If you're a person in recovery, odds are you used [something real unhealthy] to fill that void or to be extremely distracted, whether that was having your senses dulled or, like I preferred to, obliterating your memory. Behaviors like that can distract you from those fears I talked about - they can make you feel like you don't have to confront those scary problems. This works well until it doesn't, and sometimes suddenly, those fears can come true because of the mess you've made out of your life.


A psychologist specializing in such matters summed it up like this, "The antidote to addiction is learning to tolerate reality." By the way, you don't have to be an addict to be delusional and toxic and make a huge mess of your life - addiction just accelerates the bullshit and makes the crash harder. Regardless, the happiest and healthiest people I know acknowledge their loneliness and then try to take steps to fix it.

Hey, especially on Valentine's Day, if you're feeling lonely, THAT MAKES SENSE. Every ad online and in person is screaming "buy something! buy more! buy their love!" and many an insecure dummy on social media is sharing their most flattering couples photo just to try and fit in for the holiday. The ridiculous history of the holiday aside, that stuff can make you feel sad and alone. Social media can create unrealistic expectations and make you feel even more alone.


That newly sober FOMO is legit and still gets me. Basically, it's okay to feel alone. What's not okay is to make things worse by embroiling yourself in addiction stuff, harmful behaviors, poisonous resentments that will slow your progress. If you do some of that stuff, it's okay, you're human, but know that you can get out of it. I'm pulling myself out. It's a process. Here's  some tips for combatting loneliness and don't smirk at me for suggesting them because we're all just out here trying to make it work, OKAY? Okay. Here:


  • Write down why you are unhappy. And be honest, as petty and small and embarrassing as those things dragging you down may be. If possible, write them by hand for added benefits. Once you've written things, down review them. f you want, crumple up that list or set it on fire. RESPONSIBLY set it on fire, please.

  • Okay, say it IS that bad: Call someone. Whether you like it or not, I bet there are people in your phone who would like to hear from you. I know calling feels bizarre in this day and age, but talking over the phone is a thing championed by sober people that actually feels nice once you try it, I promise. If you think what you're going through is too rough to expel on a friend or family member, call a hotline

  • Aromatherapy isn't just for hippies. I scoffed HARD at my boyfriend and his mom, who love to burn essential oils. What kind of witchcraft is that?! Then I realized that it was silly for me to bitch about lavender, which smells lovely and allegedly serves as a stress reducer. If you're in a pinch, get a damn Glade candle ($3-4) at Walgreens or CVS and light that bad boy up. Sit on your couch. Just sit on the dang couch and chill for a sec. It is a Nice Feeling to chill.

  • If you hate being home, go elsewhere. It sounds simple, but if possible, get out of your home. Depression for a lot of people can mean immobility, but sometimes it makes things a lot worse. I've spent a significant portion of time in coffee shops just Being Done With Everything. I've also, having had long stretches of un(der)employment, been so broke that I couldn't afford a coffee, in which case I went to the library. I love libraries.

  • Okay, change of heart - turn OFF your damn phone. If you've made calls to loved ones or even strangers, you've lit a candle, and you've even gone for a walk, maybe try turning off your phone. All sorts of studies show that compulsively checking your phone can make you less happy, and there are even apps you can download that will help you kick that habit.


​Sometimes, you just are gonna be lonely. That's just how it's gonna be. It doesn't mean that you're a terrible person, undeserving of love. It just means you're human and feelings are hard. You can try all sorts of things but at the end of the day, you've gotta be at peace with yourself.


If you're someone who is always on the verge, always struggling, I urge you to try to make the changes that you talk about and maybe even changes that have been recommended to you by well-meaning people in the past.


My last prescriptive note is: don't text your ex on Valentine's Day. Don't be that person! They're out of your life for a reason and now they've made way for someone new. Stay strong, friend.

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