“People who take time to be alone usually have depth, originality, and quiet reserve.” John Miller
In my disease I spent a great deal of time alone. I also spent a great deal of time feeling lonely. And I spent a lot of time wishing it wasn’t so. I hadn’t completely isolated myself. I wasn’t barricading myself in my room and hiding under my bed–yet. I still went out occasionally, but not really to socialize, more so to get what I needed. I preferred my own company and loathed it at the same time. I wanted friends but didn’t want them around me. Addiction is full of contradictions.
I have always known that I need time to myself. It’s how I process my thoughts. I am an introvert and I know I need to be alone to recharge. My energy comes from silence. I need my Fortress of Solitude in order to restore myself. It’s not being alone and wishing I wasn’t. That’s loneliness and loneliness is an ego driven downward spiral. The times when I feel lonely are the times when I would rather not be alone. I can solve that. I can pick up my phone and chat with someone or go down into town.
Solitude is a time for repair of the body, mind and soul. My cell phone is in another room and away from the temptation to pick it up at every beep or burp it makes. I prefer the ambient sounds of where I live when I am in my solitude, but some may like some relaxing music. I like to have a notepad nearby should a thought pop into my head that I know will slip out as quickly as it came if I don’t write it down. I can use my solitude to read. I can use it to think. I can use it to meditate. In solitude I unplug and detach from life.
Solitude, used in this way, is a contradiction. When I am in solitude I am making and restoring connections. I connect with myself. I use my morning time to analyse how I am feeling about myself and life. I use it to think about what is important to me. I believe that it’s important to think about things, mull them over in my head, question my beliefs around a particular topic. I need to do that for my writing as well as for my sanity.
Sometimes solitude takes planning. Depending upon your life, you may need to schedule this time alone. In my readings of the past year I’ve learned that people who are successful in many aspects of life make time for solitude because they know how important it is as part of their creativity and drive as well as in maintaining balance in their lives. They do this as part of their daily routine as well as taking vacations from their job whether it’s an afternoon away or a sabbatical year. I really ‘need’ that time in the morning from 5:30 to 7:00 and I see the difference when I don’t get it.
I live a fairly quiet life but even so, I can fill a day with odd jobs and tasks. I am conscious of the amount of time I spend on social media, watching TV (How did we survive before Netflix?) and the ubiquitous cell phone with all of its apps and time wasters. I need to unplug from the business of life in order to tune into what’s really important and I’ve learned that I can’t figure that out on the fly.
I need my solitude.
For many of us, the holiday season is a very trying and tempting time. It’s a time when we get together with a lot of others: family, friends, perhaps strangers. There are a lot of parties to go to and things that one simply ‘must’ do. It can all be very overwhelming.
A lot of the stress comes from the extra people around. We are creatures of habit and we like things to remain the same, but with others around, our flow is interrupted. It causes us to think and react differently than if we didn’t have all of those people around us. In situations out of our routine, it is easy to fall back on only patterns and habits. This is especially true of family. We have years of practice at pushing each others’ buttons.
We can survive the stress of this time of year by concentrating on the things that we can control. As much as is possible, stick to your regular routine. There is nothing wrong with scheduling your day to include time for yourself and your sanity. Keep going to as many meetings as you usually go to, or more if possible. This will keep you fresh and on point in your program of recovery. You need not justify your attendance. It’s what you need. If they don’t understand, it’s not up to you to explain.
Keep up your practice of meditation. Having others around the house may cramp your style. Perhaps someone is sleeping in the room where you usually meditate. Maybe there is more noise in the house than you are used to. Take the dog for a walk, go to the corner store for something, and when you’re out of the house, take time to be quiet and get in contact with your Higher Power for a moment or two. Get up earlier if you don’t see that you have any other time. It matters not how or where you do it, but do it.
So many parties are concentrated around this time of year and it’s expected that we attend. I’ve discovered that a call ahead, asking the host if there’s something we can do to help them set up is very appreciated. Remember they could are also stressed. The ‘arrive early and leave early’ recommendation is very good advice: there are often a lot of temptations at seasonal parties. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. You don’t need to put yourself to the test. No one has ever blamed me for leaving early and once I am gone, I know that no one will miss me either. And more often than not, I am told the next day that I was very wise to leave when I did.
Keep that routine in your life as much as possible. Keep your balance. If you have to, break the time down into increments. Give your sponsor or other program members a call. They are probably going through similar situations and could use the distraction as well. You will get through this stressful situation. Know that this situation is temporary. If this is your first time going through this in recovery, know that you will get through it and you are not alone. We all have to make our own unique plans for keeping it all together during a change in routine. Soon January will be here, the decorations will come down and your routine will get back to normal.
I’ve spent a lot of my life wanting and trying to have the ultimate spiritual experience. You know, that mountain top experience where you become one with everything and everything makes perfect sense. A glimpse at the bliss of Seventh Heaven or the special touch of an angel; an experience that would forever alter my existence. It still eludes me.
I know I am not alone. Most of us would like this type of experience that we sometimes read about or have recounted to us. Some gurus tell us that if only we would go to this place, sit this way and chant this ancient saying, it will magically happen to us. If it were true we would all be in a floating bliss. I think the only thing that would help me achieve it would probably give me the munchies, so I’m not going to try that. The thing about those “mountain top experiences” is we don’t live on the mountain top. We have to come down and continue our lives. Gradually the electric current that lit up our minds begins to fade and we long for another ‘fix’ to connect with the Universe.
What I have experienced however, is the spiritual awakening of the educational variety. It’s one that gradually pervades my body, mind and spirit. Through working the twelve steps of recovery I have had a spiritual awakening that we hear about in Step Twelve. It started with the realization that it’s not all about me and continues through living the steps. I am constantly growing in contact with Consciousness, or whatever you wish to call your Higher Power. For me, the steady growth in awareness doesn’t carry with it the need for a regular fill up. The steady drip by drip of awareness allows me to take in what I need in smaller increments so that I can understand and internalize the whole process better.
I’ve learned that the slower I learn things, the deeper it can penetrate and the easier I can incorporate it into my day to day life. It’s like those times when folks make a whole pile of New Year’s Resolutions. Once one goes by the wayside, it’s very easy for the others to slip off as well. But if we make just one that we are truly committed to, then there’s a far better chance that we will create a new habit that will last a lifetime. Slow and steady she goes.
Working drip by drip to increase my awareness I become more aware as well of those around me. What I have learned has to be shared. And in the sharing, my own knowledge deepens further. This is our program, not mine alone. I seek, learn, grow, share with others and then repeat the process.
I’m not saying that I would not welcome being struck by lightening and having a celestial experience. I think it would be pretty neat. But I am not going to feel incomplete if I never have one. If it requires sitting in the lotus position for several months under a bodhi tree in quiet meditation, it definitely won’t ever happen. But the same teachings about body, mind and spirit can still be learned one step at a time. With patience, I believe we can all get to our Nirvana.