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Isolation Kills.

23 April 2014

One of the things I hungered for, when in the final stages of my drinking, was isolation. I just wanted to be alone. Alone with my alcohol. I sat in the bath. I drank. I read terrible books. And I cut myself. There is a kind of toxic majesty to sliding as deeply as possible into mirthless misery. Slow, bitter silence while little scarlet rivers stream off into the bathwater. I simply wanted to be alone. I imagined that I was purifying myself by bleeding: replacing all this internal sludge with clear, clean water.

I was not well.

This is my portrait of terminal isolation. Yes, I was locked in a bathroom. But the isolation was, for lack of a better word, spiritual. I shared this intense hatred of myself with no one. Not the therapist I shared other kinds of pain and hate with. Not the woman I had married and said that I loved. Not the doctor who saw the scars and asked if I was hurting myself. No one. I locked my self in a chamber, meticulously maintained – or so I pretended – so that no one could see how utterly shriveled I had become. I was an unwatered vine, wilting from the light.

When I write about this, I still, after all this time, fear judgement from those who have no experience with these things. Or worse, I fear their pity. I was sick and I was undignified and I was miserable, but I neither wanted nor deserved any pity for it, and I still don’t. Because I was doing it on purpose. I knew my potential. I knew my privilege. And I was deconstructing it deliberately. One day at a time trading life for death. An iniquitous obsession with misery.

When I finally, indescribably decided that somehow I was to turn myself from this fractured persistence and look up and try to find the light again, when I came to the place where I could not go on, but I could not change myself, I went to where people who once drank like me congregated. And I told them through a sheet of tears how I lived my life, how I drank, how I bled. And the men and women in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous understood how I felt. Because they had, to a person, lived in the spiritual desert I had inhabited.

Through the shared understanding, the aggregated experience and strength in those rooms, around those pressboard folding tables and in those sheet-metal chairs, I began, slowly, to emerge from my isolation and share in the hope that fills those spaces. I am still not well. I carry the alcoholism, the depression, the rage, and the compulsion to isolate myself in small dark spaces. I always will. But I know where to go to find the people who know that obsession. Who have risen from those graves. And I know how to be sober and social and productive among them. One day at a time, living life for life.

This is what I believe. Most of us are ashamed of something within ourselves we want to hide. Most of us have challenges we wish we could surmount, but cannot. Most of us need help. I believe that most of us want to be better than we are. And I believe that we all need something outside of ourselves, bigger than ourselves, to achieve that.

I believe, dear reader, that the challenges you face are real, and daunting. But isolation kills. And you are not alone.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. BbyHeadedDEater permalink
    23 April 2014 16:04

    I’m not an alcoholic, but I see much of myself in this piece. I copy the last lines, to remember them, to be reminded of them, to be buoyed by them. Because I want to believe them, I believe they are true.

  2. 23 April 2014 16:06

    I’m not a drinker, and I’ve never cut myself. But that sense of isolation, the simultaneous need for and hatred of isolation – that’s all too familiar as a facet of severe social anxiety.

  3. Dee permalink
    23 April 2014 22:23

    As an alcoholic you have a place to go to deal with this. Unfortunately, people who aren’t alcoholics but experience the same may have nowhere to turn. That is tragic

  4. Syd permalink
    24 April 2014 09:34

    I know the feelings all too well. I am glad to have found a fellowship of men and women who understand those feelings. We are the lucky ones because we can share and be real and not hide. And we have the promise that if we keep going back and maintain spiritual fitness, our lives will be better.

  5. 24 April 2014 19:42

    AA to me today is my “sacred ground” . To be able to witness another’s recovery but also share my own is a gift. My alcoholism wants to kill me. I’m convinced its the sole desire of addiction…to destroy its host. Therefore I pray and remind myself that I am a child of God (or a force greater than me) and was born into purpose …that my body is a vessel and my soul on loan. I believe it is the hardest thing in this life to live according to the mantra “Thy will be done” It strips away all ego, all personal achievements, any SELF and turns my life over to this greater force. I ask daily for the courage to let go of my own selfish tendency and become a better person, for myself and for others.

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