Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Loneliness vs Solitude

Most people experience feelings of loneliness from time to time, but for the addict/alcoholic, isolation is a defense mechanism and a chronic symptom. Addiction is characterized by a sense of loneliness and a state of isolation. Often alcoholic/addicts describe feeling alone even when in a crowd. Solitude/aloneness and isolation/loneliness are often used interchangeably, but these terms imply different emotional states and subjective experiences. Isolation for the alcoholic/addict is a negative symptom of their disease. Guilt and shame keep the alcoholic/addict alone in society and shut off from themselves. Solitude is feeling safe and content while enjoying your own company. It is the experience of being alone without being lonely.

The pain of loneliness and isolation creates a significant obstacle to achieving a relationship with oneself. Avoiding healthy social interaction prevents us from seeing ourselves through the eyes of others and experiencing our humanness. The emotional pain from loneliness and/or isolation may also cause people to seek out the company of anyone who is willing to spend time with them. Often the alcoholic/addict will enter into a toxic relationship to avoid spending time by themselves. Both isolation and seeking toxic relationships enable the addict/alcoholic to avoid the person they fear and dislike the most - themselves.

One of the conditions for a satisfactory life is to be of use and to belong. Addicts/alcoholics need to find ways to cope with their tendency to isolate. Developing a safe, sober social network and participating in social activities are two ways to start. For many people, participation in a twelve-step program, a therapy group or individual counseling can be helpful. Joining a volunteer group, book club or a sports team are other ways to practice being social.

Solitude or aloneness, on the other hand, can be a rewarding experience that can help one to gain self knowledge and self acceptance. It can give an individual an opportunity to explore who they are and discover their positive qualities, gifts and talents.

Alcoholics/addicts need to learn how to experience solitude/aloneness without isolating. They need to spend time alone discovering their likes and dislikes. Solitude enables the alcoholic/addict to develop an appreciation of their strengths and their limitations. It is an opportunity to discover and accept their humanness and to not be afraid of who they are. Learning to spend time alone takes time and probably should be done in increments. A few minutes a day spent in meditation, listening to music, reading or just staring at the ocean or the stars are all ways to begin a journey of self discovery.

For the alcoholic/addict, isolation and the resulting loneliness is an undeserved, self imposed prison. Solitude/aloneness is an opportunity to be liberated from ourselves and to continue the journey to a sober mind.


singapuriano said...

great topic,
i am one of those. i just realized that i didn't like being alone and i am trying stuffs like going to the cinema, eating in Hawker centers(singapore style cafes)and reading in a coffee shop. in the past i would run to any place, seeking ppl even though it wasn't good places or activities.
thanks for the good article.

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