Since coming into recovery the difference between isolation and solitude could not be more apparent and important to me. Despite this, looking back now on my life it is clear that when I was drinking and using my illness would persuade me that they were one and the same. Here’s my experience.
For the most part of my drinking I would try to find people to drink with, in the end it didn’t matter who this was. My mind would tell me that being around other people meant it was ok to drink or use.
When whomever I was with had finished their drinks and went back home to their families, friends or normal lives, I’d be left alone, needing and wanting to continue. As my illness worsened, I’d find myself carrying on drinking long after everyone else had gone home. I couldn’t face drinking at a pub or bar alone, so I would drink at the office, long into the night, with work files open on my laptop screen but no work being done. Again this was my illness giving me a justification. I was in the office, this was fine, I was working late, I was working hard. these are the lies my illness would tell me to justify everything.
I never thought I’d get to the point where I’d bypass all of this entirely. To the point that I’d not even ask who might be around for after work drinks, to the point that I’d head straight home and drink and use at home, alone, into oblivion. But as with many alcoholics, I ended up in this place, not quite knowing how I got there, my illness having convinced me that this journey and place was not only ok, but perfectly normal behaviour.
That was just weekdays, weekends were a different story, I was able to drink without fear of going into work the next day. My illness actively convinced that me that I was spending time in solitude. That the drinking at home all weekend was ok because I was spending some much needed time by myself, that this was the reward for a long week at work, that I was having two days of much needed solitude. But this isn’t solitude at all. I was destroying myself mentally, physically and spiritually each weekend, with things getting rapidly worse and worse.
I now see this for what it was, Isolation. Addiction and isolation go hand in hand. Our addiction wants us to be isolated, isolated from those we love and from our inner selves. When I felt isolated, when I felt alone I would drink and use to disconnect myself from these fears and feelings of insecurity. That’s why being in recovery has been so powerful, through the fellowship I feel more connected to the world around me and to my inner self.
I can now recognise and enjoy moments of solitude. Moments alone, where I can rest, relax, reflect and experience peace and serenity. That is true solitude, that is a gift which I have been given through working the programme and being in recovery.