This loneliness is killing me…

Tell me lies and hold me tight… I don’t want to be lonely tonight!

Loneliness is the worst emotion I have ever known. I can be lonely in a room of 100 people or at a quiet dinner with friends. It represents my downfall and I will do anything for just a few moments of relief. That saying “everyone looks good at closing time” is actually pretty accurate. How many times did I end up with a stranger just for company. It never provided anything more than the walk of shame the next morning.

I follow a pattern, I will begin to isolate from people and things that I normally enjoy and from the isolation develops loneliness. Unless you have felt the emptiness of being lonely none of this will resonant. For so many years, I silenced the loneliness with pills and alcohol. I turned to them as a friend at my lowest times and they turned on me with a vengeance. Loneliness is tough… being a lonely alcoholic is lethal. How many people do you know that have died from suicide or accidental overdoses trying to quiet the loneliness? Probably all of them.

It doesn’t matter how many people we’re around  at the end of the day, we are all alone. It’s impossible for anyone to ever truly understand what it is to be you, to experience all the things you have experienced, to understand your joys and happiness, your pains and sorrows? We can talk to other people about how we feel, we can draw pictures, we can play music, but with all these attempts to communicate we cannot always get our feelings, across exactly as we wish we could. Hoping for them to understand… yet, you find no relief and that’s where the painful reality comes that ultimately we are alone… by ourselves in this world. Unfortunately, loneliness is a universal phenomenon, that will visit every human soul at some point in their life.

So, what is loneliness? Loneliness is not the same as being alone, it’s a feeling that causes people to feel empty, alone and unwanted. You can be living alone and live happily without much contact with other people… but when the feeling of loneliness comes to someone it doesn’t matter how much social contact they have, whether they are in a relationship or part of a huge family they will still feel lonely.

Loneliness is not feeling part of the world. You might be surrounded by loads of people but… you’re lonely. Some people experience deep and constant feelings of loneliness that come from within and do not disappear, regardless of their social situation or how many friends they have.

There are many reasons people experience this kind of loneliness. You might feel unable to like yourself or to be liked by others, or you may lack self-confidence. This may come from having been unloved as a child so that, as an adult, you continue to feel unlovable in all relationships. Sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, people isolate themselves within their relationships because they are afraid of being hurt.

Remember, I have spent years in therapy trying to figure out why I was so lonely… once I got sober I could see the problems and how to work to improvement them …

So much loneliness can be alleviated by simply taking an action to get better…

1. Get Sober…. nothing is going to improve in your life as long as alcohol and drugs are in your body. It simply can’t happen. You have to be free of the chains that are keeping you enslaved. In your heart you know what I’m talking about ….

2. Take initiative. If you’re isolated find something you like to do outside your home…  this is a good ways to meet people. In addition, try going through your phone and email address books as well as your Facebook and other social media contacts and make a list of people you haven’t seen or spoken to for a while. Don’t psych yourself out and tell yourself they’re not interested.

3. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Once you’ve compiled your list of friends and acquaintances, reach out to one of them each day…. Those of us in AA call our friends and sponsors daily… Yes, they might not have been in touch for a while or returned your phone call from two months earlier but give them the benefit of the doubt. Invite them to have coffee, or even a catch-up on the phone and you’ll be surprised by how many of them will happily make plans.

4. Approach people with optimism. It’s perfectly normal to fear rejection, but you have to get yourself in the right frame of mind when you contact people so the vibe you put out is positive and inviting (rather than overly cautious and uninviting). Getting into a positive head-space is also important when you contact people on-line. Emoticons can be very useful. “How have you been? :)” is much more appealing than “Haven’t heard from you in two months, wanna get together?”

Loneliness controlled my life for far too long. Don’t let it control yours…

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

Dear God …. I’m thankful!

Thanks for a second chance…

I have everything to be thankful for today. I’m thankful I’m alive and not dying from advanced liver disease. I’m thankful for my friend Anita who stood by me through thick or thin the last year of my destruction… I’m thankful for my parents for getting me to Betty Ford and for their continued support. I’m thankful for two pugs that bring me life everyday…

God must really love alcoholics and drug addicts because he allows us to not realize how pathetic we look when we are wasted. Black outs take care of any memories of the night before …

My mornings went like this: “No way! I can’t believe I said that.” Or, “I did what with who in a public restroom? Is that even physically possible?”  It’s like waking up and having an argument with another person, and that person is you. A different version of you that you can’t get rid of, like a mild form of schizophrenia. The voice in my head would only produce the meanest most hopeless words, sort of like Darth Vader , but with a more nasally tone. My hangovers turned into living nightmares. Sometimes, I’d spend two days in bed before I was ready to leave the house again, and I’m just remembering this now.

My behavior after a night of drinking was sometimes worse than when I was drunk. Grumpy, distant, resentful, scared, paranoid, empty and completely self obsessed. I want to remember how bad hangovers are so I can be grateful for the person I am when I’m not hung over: aware, willing to change, and genuinely wanting to help others.

The old hung over me would want to stab the sober me in the face.

2. Looking Good 

Why not add a little vanity to a gratitude list? I’m grateful my face is no longer bloated, I used to look like I had a blind trigger-happy Botox doctor. My face was huge and my skin was stretched to maximum capacity trying to contain the bloat and excess fluid from exploding out of my skin. I no longer have mystery bruises all over my body. I used to wake up wondering if I got in a fight but then a friend informed me that I threw myself down the stairs because I was pretending to be a stuntman. I’m sure it was hilarious and worth it. The bags under my eyes have decreased by at least 75% and the red blotches I used to get all over my neck and chest are no longer there. I don’t sweat like a pig when I walk down the street and the color of my skin has returned to normal. My eye makeup is on my eyes and not on my forehead, and my hair only sometimes has crumbs in it.

3. Relationships With Other Sober People 

It has taken me a long time to want to be friends with other sober people, not that I ever thought anything was wrong with it, I just didn’t think I needed them as real friends. I knew they could help me, but I didn’t want to build a relationship with them. I already had friends, mostly normal people and active alcoholics. I work in an industry where you can create an image out of being a drunk and get paid lots of money for it! I like that idea! And honestly, alcoholics are very interesting people who keep other people in their lives on their toes.

But, after a few years of drunks doing to me what I did to others when I was drunk, I was like, “Oh, right. I know this game. I used to play it and it’s never going to end.”  The highs, the lows, the drama, the fun, the nightmare, the delusional thinking and the confusion. Are they crazy, or am I crazy?

I started hanging out with sober people and it’s really  incredible. To be able to say your horrible truths to someone and they laugh and then tell you theirs is beautiful—it feels like you’re putting all the inspiration you need to stay sober in your heart. Sitting and talking with another sober person sometimes reminds me what it was like when I connected with someone at a bar after a few drinks. The jokes flow, maybe a little over sharing happens, and this cheesy feeling of “you get me” washes over you. Except you don’t blackout and have sex with that person then never talk to them again.

Before I quit drinking, and even in early sobriety—I used to think of sober people as self-righteous and judgmental—but it’s the furthest thing from the truth. Most of them have done really disgusting things and have the most insane stories so they won’t judge you for all the bad stuff you’ve done. And they have a pretty good idea of how alcoholism works, so they’re more understanding of someone else’s drinking because they’ve experienced the insidiousness of the disease themselves. I’m grateful I’ve opened up to having closer relationships with them.

4. Having the Guts To Make Hard Decisions 

One of the hardest, and most beautiful things, about sobriety is awareness, mostly about yourself. I’ve learned some harsh truths about myself that I used to drown with booze because it was too painful to admit. I’ve realized I’m manipulative, jealous, and make myself small for others so they feel good about themselves. I also blame others for my problems and am always looking for ways to cut corners in work situations. Pretty gross and not fun. But, the magic is the shift that begins to happen when you recognize bad patterns, and make choices that move you out of your defects and closer to a better self. I’ve SLOWLY experienced this throughout my sobriety and I sometimes forget how far I’ve come as a person. This may sound like bragging, but I think it’s good to give yourself a pat on the back, because it’s too easy to think you’re a piece of crap, even in sobriety. 

To go against the bad behaviors that you’re used to, whether they are survival skills you developed as a kid, or from another time when they used to work for you, to be willing to change them for the sole fact that you want to be a better person is courageous. It might not be cool and edgy, but I’ll take a changed destructive behavior over a drunken night any day of the week.

5. Not Wanting or Needing To Drink

The fact that I don’t want or need a drink or pills is a  special miracle. Wanting and needing a drink ruled my life for about a three decades, and that obsession has been lifted. I don’t know where it went. I like to think that it’s buried in a “Bad Obsession Cemetery,” and I’ll still visit it and put flowers on the grave because I respect it. I know it can rise from the dead and take over my brain again if I’m not careful.

I need to create a wall of awareness and gratitude around me so if the demon comes a knockin’ I’ll be like, “Hi Demon, it’s nice to hear from you again, but I’m feeling pretty good right now so please fuck off really hard.”

OK. That’s it. I hope this helps other people if they are feeling a little antsy in sobriety, and I also hope it helps anyone who wants to get sober.

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

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