Are you using alcohol to cope with loneliness?
There are millions of people around the world suffering from a miserable condition. However, only a comparatively small number of them will admit to it. Yes, there is a lot of shame and stigma attached to openly acknowledging that you are lonely.
Declaring yourself to be lonely is almost an admission of failing at life, for we tend to use our social and professional circle as a litmus test for our success. This is understandable; we are programmed with a set of needs that must be fulfilled in a specific order.
First on this list of human needs are the basics of shelter, food, and safety. After that, we start to get into more emotional requirements. We are born with a physical need to love and be loved, but also to feel significant. To be happy, we need to feel that our existence means something.
Does your life matter?
Unfortunately, we tend to give other people the power to decide on whether we are significant or not. So, to admit that you are lonely is to have to courage to say that you do not have that public stamp of approval.
Social media is making the problem worse, not better. Actually, these modern-day networking sites should be called Anti-social media. Spend thirty minutes digesting some of the outpourings of hate on Twitter, and you will understand why.
Online platforms only create an illusion of friendship. Ten years ago, I had nearly 2000 ‘friends’ on Facebook. The truth is, I probably would recognize 1900 of them if I met them in the street. Last year I trimmed my social media’ friends’ list down to around 150. If I am honest, I see less than 5% of them regularly.
Anti-social media feeds the trolls.
The real danger of platforms like Facebook is it always appears that the people we know are having a much better life than us. The constant stream of good news, exciting check-in’s from fabulous places, loving gestures from their perfect partner’s and not to mention just how amazing their kids are doing at school. All this makes us feel that our life is only a pale shadow of an existence.
We must always remember that the world we see on our Facebook feed is no more real than the storyline that might get played out on TV soap opera later that evening. It’s a fantasy that often bears no connection to the real world.
Not so much publicly, but certainly by email and direct message, I hear from many people who say that they want to quit drinking, but they are afraid. They worry about how they will cope with loneliness without the nightly bottle of wine or six-pack of beer to numb the pain.
I do understand.
I have suffered terribly with loneliness myself. That might sound strange coming from a public speaker and coach. I describe myself as an extroverted introvert, by which I mean I can turn it on when I need to. However, my default position is solitude, and I have to force myself to be social a lot of the time.
The problem with the question ‘how will I cope with loneliness without alcohol’ is it’s loaded with an erroneous presupposition. The question pre-supposes that alcohol alleviates loneliness.
It doesn’t! No matter what the problem, alcohol is never the solution. I will go even further than that; drinking not only fails to fix the issue at hand, but it actually ends up giving you more of the very thing you are trying to get away from.
For example, Sleeping problems – alcohol claims to help, and while it might knock you out and turn off your overactive brain. It does not result in a long, peaceful sleep. If that were true, then us problem drinkers would be very easy to spot. They would be the folks bouncing around the office every morning, fresh as a daisy.
Alcohol lied to you
Of course, the opposite is true. Drinkers virtually never get a good night’s sleep. Sure, they may be unconscious for eight hours, but the body and mind can never really rest because there is a pressing emergency to be dealt with first. The poison flowing around in the bloodstream must be processed.
Alcohol does not help with insomnia, anxiety, or loneliness. It amplifies all those problems significantly. Loneliness is the perfect example of this action of the drug. Problem drinkers more often than not prefer to do their drinking on their own. The reasons for this are many fold.
Firstly, drinking alone allows for the unrestricted application of the drug. Nobody to keep pace with or admonish the drinker for drinking too quickly or too much.
Drinking alone also allows the individual to cling onto any plausible deniability they are using to justify their addiction. Our excuses to drink are flimsy at best; we don’t need those pesky well-intentioned friends and family members smashing them apart.
Alcohol makes people lonely.
So, often lonely drinkers will turn down social opportunities because it interferes with what the drug wants. Alcohol actually makes lonely people even more isolated. This drug is very good at creating vicious loops.
At Quit Drinking Bootcamp, I help people better understand loneliness. That might sound strange, after all surely everyone knows how it feels to be lonely, right?
However, we have created a false reality around the concept of being lonely. We have leaped to the assumption that the solution to our problem is external and largely beyond our control. Hey, if I had more friends, I would not be lonely anymore.
This sounds logical, but it’s incorrect.
It is entirely possible to feel lonely in a crowded room, and equally, it is feasible to live in total solitude and not feel in the slightest bit lonely. This proves that, just like all other problems in life, the solution is found internally.
Loneliness is a state of mind; it is a reflection of your internal state. This is very good news because it means that the solution already exists within you. You are not reliant on other people to fix the problem; you don’t need to find something or buy something – you already own the cure.
The other key secret I have learned about overcoming loneliness is to understand that the label itself is incorrect. It doesn’t matter where you live in the world; there are things you can do to break your solitude and be around others. You could take up and art class, learn a language, go to Zumba or take up some other sport.
All these options and more are open to every lonely person on planet earth, and yet they chose to be alone and miserable, why?
Because loneliness is often just a piece of sleight of hand which disguises fear, fear keeps us trapped in our comfort zone, and while it is perfectly safe in this warm and cozy bubble, it is also barren, desolate and sterile. Nothing grows in your comfort zone, ever!
Don’t let the void get you.
If you quit drinking, you have to replace the activity with something else. There is no point taking away the anesthetic if all you are going to do is sit on your sofa, enduring the pain of loneliness. You are practically ensuring your relapse. I always tell my members that the first two weeks of your sobriety journey should see your diary fit to burst.
Remember, nothing happens until somebody moves. That somebody is you, if you are lonely, then take responsibility for this state. Commit to action, commit to stepping outside your comfort zone, and doing something that exposes you to other human beings.
This was an important lesson for me to learn. For many years I felt like I needed more friends, but while I was meeting lots of people, I felt like most of them were my ‘friend’ because of what I could do for them.
That’s okay; it’s human nature – we are all listening to our own radio station 24/7. It’s called WIIFM, and it stands for ‘What’s In It For Me’. If you are hoping to find people out there who genuinely love you, care for you, and will put your needs above their own, you will be waiting a long time.
Be with other humans.
You can spend a lifetime searching for these people and, at the end of the journey, still be able to count them on the one hand. These people are like rocking horse poo, very rare! I learned that I don’t need lots of pretend friends to make me feel better about myself.
These days I only have a couple of good friends. When I feel lonely, I don’t lament that fact I go and be with other humans. I go to the gym three times a week; I have my Greek language class on Mondays, Wednesday’s and Fridays. I am always getting little blasts of energy from other people, but I don’t need them to listen to my problems or play the ‘friend’ role to make me feel better.
What’s stopping you?
If boredom and loneliness are obstacles to you starting your own sober journey, I want you to understand that I know how you feel, and I can help you with this tricky, stigmatized challenged.
Don’t let fear stop you from escaping the trap of problem drinking. Come to a live coaching event with me or sign up for today’s Free Quit Drinking Webinar to find out more about the online course. Take action right now, and take the first step on the road to a much happier and peaceful you.