I read recently in the news that a ‘Minister for loneliness’ was to be appointed here in the UK, to tackle our growing problem with loneliness and it got me thinking about all the times that I had felt lonely in my life.
I have felt lonely many many times throughout my life, sometimes I have felt cripplingly lonely and other times I have felt that lingering loneliness, that loneliness that I know is there but is lingering in the distance and has much less of a hold on me but nevertheless, is there.
I often felt lonely at school, from what I can remember at least. You wouldn’t have thought it, but I felt it. I felt misunderstood, different, like my mind was set in a slightly different way to my friends, of whom I often had many. I always had big group of friends, yet the lonely feeling was there.
In the days before I began my recovery journey I felt lonely at home with my children. Unattached. Not present. An internalised feeling that I didn’t belong as a father, that I wasn’t worthy.
I remember the last day that I ever drank. It was May 13th and I was in the pub, it was rammed packed with people. There was a real buzz, it was the final day of the premier league, football fans will remember Aguero scoring a last second goal to win the league, the scenes were incredible.
In that moment I looked around, people were hugging, celebrating, cheering, and I felt completely alone.Completely unconnected to anybody around me. I had no idea why. I felt defective, put on the wrong planet. Here by mistake. I had no idea why.
Sometime after that, I was at Bestival, the music festival with some friends. I was now sober and sometime into not drinking. The feeling of loneliness hadn’t left me and at this festival, the feelings were becoming amplified, reaching that crippling point but I never pin pointed the feeling as loneliness, it just felt like pain. I went for a walk. I remember I reached some high ground and as I looked out I could see the thousands of people at the festival and as groups walked past laughing and joking it struck me just how lonely I felt despite the thousands of people around me. We all know they saying ‘feeling alone in a crowded room’ but in that moment I understood it.
I was completely unable to connect to anyone around me and in that moment I gained an understanding of what I felt. I felt alone, not just at that festival but on this planet. In my skin, in my body, and in my mind, I felt completely alone.
That loneliness was the catalyst for my honest and serious desire to leave this world. I began to feel completely hopeless as I looked back on my life with no connection to people, I realised that the 1 common denominator throughout my loneliness seemed to be that I did have people around me yet I still felt completely alone. I had no idea why, but the realisation left me feeling like I had nowhere to go.
My life saving moment came through my children. When you know you are going to die the past no longer matters and the future becomes irrelevant, or it did for me at least. I actually found some peace in that moment, but what I also found was enough presence, to feel my connection with my children, and my life changed again.
Since that weekend with my children I have been on a journey and in that journey I believe I uncovered some of the causes for this feeling, and I continue to do so. In fact as I write this I learn more about myself, a little bit more of me becomes untangled.
The trauma of being the child of an alcoholic has many complex and lasting affects and this feeling of loneliness I believe, is one of them. My loneliness was an internal ‘connection’ problem that I think has lot to do with having lost my sense of self, amongst many other things. As a child, I believe, I disassociated with myself on such a level, that I lost who I was. So I often felt like I was playing at it, because in many ways I was. I was unable to get vulnerable to any degree and vulnerability is important in the forming of any meaninigful bond. As I write I feel like the guilt I felt around the alcoholism in the family would have also installed a deep feeling of loneliness in me and perhaps given me that perception that I didn’t belong or was not worthy.
But does knowing all this mean that the only people that can help people who feel lonely in this way is lonely people themselves? I don’t think it does. I found out about myself, not when I was encouraged to talk, but when I heard someone else speak and I related. The first time I ever opened up about my pain was to a guy who was 18 months free from his gambling addiction.
He told me about his pain and so I instantly felt like I might be heard if I spoke about my pain.
It wasn’t just the fact we shared common experiences but it was that fact that created an instant feeling of compassion that allowed me a certain amount of vunerabilty to be able to talk.
So there is hope for everyone.
What I feel we need to do is continue to break down walls of stigma so that real and true, open conversations can be had, and in doing that people might feel they may be heard and in doing so might talk and begin the journey to healing that they need. We need to learn about listening and compassion to enough of a degree that people feel they can talk.
Loneliness can be a crippling feeling, it can make any life feel empty and hollow, and so I am glad we seem to be addressing it.
Nacoa have been vital in my journey to healing and that love and compassion is always on the end of the helpline phone should you feel you need it. If you want to share anything as a COA then please get in touch using the contact form or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also if you haven’t already checked out then coaisathing Twitter or Facebook then please do, I post on both daily.
Thanks for reading 🙂