Isolating has always been my first response to anything difficult. When I look back I realize that I did it as a child and if I couldn’t isolate physically I could certainly escape mentally, I thought it made me feel safe.
I drank mostly on my own. Isolating was a friend to start with, until I got sober and realized it could be my greatest enemy.
When did I isolate? Whenever I felt uncomfortable, when there was pain of any sort, when I felt I was a failure or felt threatened. Sometimes there was no reason, sometimes it was just habit.
Why did I isolate? So many reasons. I didn’t think I was good enough, I couldn’t tell you my secrets in case you wouldn’t like me……and so on. When I came into AA I was afraid that if you got to know the real me you wouldn’t accept me. I remember times when the one thing I needed most was a meeting and I really, really didn’t want to go. To be with people and let them see I was hurting, tell them about my problems, was sometimes too difficult. Sometimes I would leave a meeting feeling vulnerable – the advice of those who had already been down this path was always -phone your sponsor as soon as you get home!
What effect did it have on me? It made me feel different, lonely, unworthy, misunderstood, less able to think straight, less able to follow the program. There were so many effects I can’t list them. Possibly the worst effect was that it enabled me to perpetuate the myth that I could do this living business on my own.
What makes me stop isolating? New, learned behavior, behaviour I have to reinforce day after day . As soon as I recognize what I’m doing, I pick up the phone to another AA member even though that’s the last thing I want to do. Excuses spring up like, they might be having dinner, perhaps they’ve got company. Most powerful excuse of all – they certainly wouldn’t want to hear from me. Hopefully, by the time I get to this excuse I already have the phone in my hand!
I’ve used past and present tenses. Isolating can still be an instinctive reaction to life.
When I recognize the behavior and make the effort to connect, it increases my self worth and reminds me that I am part of a family now. It puts space between me and a drink……
…..and it sweeps away the loneliness.
Whether you’re trying to stop drinking, have hours, days or years of sobriety it would be great to hear your experience. Please share with us when you isolate, why you isolate, what effects it has on you and how you manage to stop doing it….and, of course, share on anything else you need to even if it’s not connected to the topic.