Ironic to say I had a few people contact me about writing about loneliness, as it feels and as it felt both before and after entering a life of recovery and sobriety… Their notable, coincidentally collective yet completely independent inquiries, along with my own desire to write something that would hopefully resonate with others who are out there searching for connectivity (direct or indirect), and ultimately lessen their feeling of loneliness as it stands at this time, led me to write this post.
Which is good, because I’ve been wallowing back-and-forth in my own loneliness and solitude (AGAIN) and feel this is a super good topic to discuss, especially as it pertains to sobriety and recovery.
Side note – I swear I don’t hate all the *things* I also promise you I’m not glum or despondent… I’m actually a really optimistic, bright and vibrant soul who’s deeply aware of how complex they are as well. It’s a double-edged sword, and something I’ve been digging deeper into, the longer I’m in recovery. People like myself (those who are sober and/or in recovery) have to be fairly careful when it comes to doing self-exploration, because it can be triggering for some, and I’ve had a few triggering moments already… writing some of these posts… that haven’t made me want to relapse, but they’ve definitely triggered depressive spells.
Given my wake-the-fuck-up call I am “fortunate enough to have something to sink my teeth into” as somebody who’s a former intensive outpatient once told me, and my flashbacks alone are enough to act as naturally occurring deterrents that literally repel me from wanting to drink. As fucked up as it sounds, I’m glad these things are ingrained in my memory and as much as I want them to lose their vivid grip on me, I also don’t, because they are the “who/how/what/why” I am sitting here comfortably reflecting on some seriously uncomfortable times.
While I feel I’m pretty well armored against having to worry about cravings or desires to ever want to be willingly mentally altered again, I am not as guarded nor impervious to falling victim to the occasional depressive spell. Some spells can be short-lived and not affect me that much, others can go on for days or weeks, and it will feel like I’ve got the darkest, densest fog stubbornly suffocating me. I can’t honestly tell which one I’m in right now, but it maybe feels like I’m getting a little bit of both types of spells.
No less, I digress, and here I write. For me, for you, and anybody else who may need this one day.
Let’s rewind it a bit, back to my days of active alcohol abuse and addiction, and the weighted emptiness that felt as though it was swallowing me whole — the infinite amount of loneliness that kept itself tightly tethered to me. How much of this was purely related to alcohol? Who’s to know or say. I’ve personally suffered from depression for nearly 15-16 years now, and there’s been A LOT of times I can’t tell which spells are naturally occurring (psychologically speaking), and which ones are more situation induced. I do know that the alcohol (and the on/off benzodiazepines and the on/off puff-puff-passing) were doing nothing more than exacerbating a pre-existing issue.
Looking back in hindsight — after my “spiritual awakening” and having had “something to sink my teeth in” as well — was it better that I had nobody to turn to anymore? Nobody to explain myself to? I had a very small amount of people still in my life, that weren’t family, that I needed to apologize to, but does being that alone make it a slightly softer blow, after hitting rock bottom? I honestly don’t know, and am trying too hard to not over analyze it, because I’m not that person anymore and my life is drastically different now. Another realization that is fucking invigorating but still fucking lonely as hell.
It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, these *things* twisted and mangled yet deeply rooted and giving me life — this blessing and curse that is FEELING TOO MUCH.
I feel EVERYTHING. I am this hypersensitive empath, who deals with a very persistent sense of loneliness. Feelings turn into thoughts… which are either manifested into conversation or bottled up inside until they erupt into introspection (which has its own set of pros and cons), and you can feel like a completely liberated spirit or you can feel like you’re being held hostage in your own mind, body and soul. As Glennon says, “it is brutiful.” Brutiful being a portmanteau made up of brutal + beautiful. Brutiful is what G likes to describe life as, which it most certainly is, but it’s REALLY FUCKING BRUTIFUL if you’re an empath. (And while we’re at it, it’s REALLY, REALLY MOTHERFUCKING BRUTIFUL if you’re a lonely empath.)
Now, just to give you a loosely based frame of reference, from my point of view and offering you a revolving glimpse into my real life (I say real life, because sugarcoating or tiptoeing around anything is bullshit). We’ll do a before-and-after type of preview, so you can see how things have changed/not changed, as far as who and how I am, both before and after entering a life of sobriety + in recovery.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
Life as a Lonely Empath Before I Got Sober: (FYI – I will have to discuss some of this things in a more vague-ish manner, because even though I’m talking about my life, some of the people in my life don’t want to be publicly brought into my whole recovering out loud thing, and I will honor and respect their wishes.) Plain and simple: for the most part, I used to combat my feelings with alcohol and my loneliness would serve as my motive to instigate conversations with people I shouldn’t have been exchanging certain information with. These two went hand-in-hand, and had a great deal to do with me being forced into deleting all my social media accounts the day after I was released from jail. I had been literally caught in the act while I was already in a physical jail cell, and this evidence put me in a mental holding cell for months… almost a year+ following. I had broken and betrayed the trust of the man who’d stood by me through EVERY-SHITTY-THING I’d done, and while I’m confident he’s forgiven me (not forgotten), it’s still very high up there on my list of things I haven’t forgiven myself for. I hurt several people doing that, some I’ll never meet or be able to apologize to, and that’s still something that haunts me frequently to this day.
The alcohol would serve as my liquid courage; I felt invincible and was contented with this idea of acting out as an expired version of the “manic pixie dream girl” persona, and relished every second of attention I could selfishly drum up.
I thought, in my nightly drunken state (or sometimes mid-afternoon, or before or after all of these mentioned time frames), that since I was dissatisfied with the way things were between my guy and I, I would just seek out what I couldn’t get from him, no harm, no foul. Though I never physically did anything, by the end of it all, I might as well have because of the amount of pain I had inflicted upon him was that severely piled up.
On a separate but related note, I was also so desperate for female companionship that I’d make plans with the few girlfriends I had (or the gals I attempted to rekindle old friendships with online), which would then be forgotten amidst a blackout state of mind… Then come time to hang out, the guilt, shame and anxiety that would wash over me when I couldn’t remember having made aforementioned plans was usually enough ammunition for me to ultimately cancel, retreat back into my self-centered dark hole of drunkenness, and go back to wishing I didn’t feel so alone.
I did a lot of irreparable damage to almost all the people that were still in my life at that time, and while I’d be willing to bet almost all of them have moved on, I have not.
And now, seeing as how I’m I’m still every bit of this lonely empath I’ve always been… all these uncomfortable feelings are amplified, only now I take what I’m missing and try to give it away to others. Which leads me to…
Life as a Lonely Empath After I Got Sober: (FYI – I will have to discuss some of this things in a more vague-ish manner, because even though I’m talking about my life, some of the people in my life don’t want to be publicly brought into my whole recovering out loud thing, and I will honor and respect their wishes.) Plain and simple: I’m still very much the same, probably even more so now, but because I feel things so purely these days.
Currently in my free evenings, the conversations I have with others are primarily focused on sobriety, recovery, dreams, the future, art, writing — things that offer a positive impact. I have a sense of community, something I didn’t have when I was a total masochistic, manic pixie dream girl lush to the max.
This community I’ve devoted myself to has saved me during some dark times and helped carry me back into the light (even if it felt like I was silently kicking and screaming some of those times). The way I see it though is, despite having a group of people or a specific person that you belong to, it can/will only carry you so far. At the end of the day, even if you’re in a committed relationship, you still go to sleep alone every night.
“We all have forests on our minds. Forests unexplored, unending. Each one of us gets lost in the forest, every night, alone.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin
For once, a quote does a perfect job simplifying how complicated our beautiful brains are. Each night, you/I/we get a “little lost” whilst retreating into our minds, some for better and some for worse, but no matter how busy our lives are, we are always alone. I commonly feel like I straddle *right* over that line of retreating for better and for worse… it honestly depends on what and how much I felt that day.
I thrive on the amount of ideas and conversations that are exchanged in the sobriety + recovery community specifically, but it’s somehow still not enough to make up for the physical connection I lack with others on a daily basis. My kids don’t count (for obvious reasons), and my common law husband can honestly intensify the amount of loneliness I feel sometimes. That’s not to point blame, because he’s always been like that and I failed to fully pay attention to it, but the longer I’m in sobriety… the more it becomes obvious (to me) how large the rift is between us in a lot of facets of our individual lives.
It’s a very lonely place. It’s not pleasant, it’s confusing, and I try to think about these whirlwinds as little and as much as possible. While I’m not nearly as co-dependent as I once was, and I’ve stopped acting out in the ways I once did… I mindfully choose to cope and communicate, but how much I’m actually *heard* is anybody’s guess. Also not his fault, that’s another example of the way he is and has been, but it can become and feel extremely unsettling, disheartening, and bothersome for somebody like me.
Which brings us to…
Current Life as a Lonely Empath, at 598 Days Sober: To ease the loneliness now, and better manage the *~feelz~* I get, I do my best to use all this vast overwhelmingness (another word I just made up, kthx) currently held inside me, but I do things like: write, curate playlists that reflect the various things stirring around inside me, seek out literary pieces that resonate with me and enjoy the research in the process, I’ve started working on digital collages that also convey + depict my moods, and above all else, I do the best I can to help others who are in far worse shape than me. I do this mindfully because I’m incredibly aware that you can’t give from an empty vessel, and I’ve found that trying to help others when I’m certain I need to be helping myself at that point in time, makes my offerings feel less authentic or genuine to me — and I’m not okay with that. So I don’t do that anymore. If I need to take a step back, I take a step back. If I know I’m in a good enough place to help or give to others, I do those things. And I take it one step at a time. One day at a time. Just taking it as it comes. And that’s all we can really do and expect from/in this life, right?
Thanks for bearing with me as I bounced around on this post.