Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Loneliness, Being Alone, Isolation, Withdrawal, Solitude…NOT the Same Thing!

It seems like the last few months I have been on hyper-speed. It has been a bit of work to maintain lane control while so many things have been surfacing, yet there have been monumental breakthroughs. This last weekend, though, an amazing thing happened. The Lane took a turn and unbeknownst to me, a whole new scene appeared and I got to witness such magnificent beauty! The Healing Lane offered absolutely breathtaking views. The views were from within, and they were of me.

I decided to recognize my one year anniversary of being in recovery and the many efforts I've made by attending a workshop. I gave myself this reward. I went to Scottsdale to the Franciscan Renewal Center to be a participant in REAC2H (Restoring Embodied Awareness, Compassion, Connection, and Hope) which is a workshop on mindfulness led by Dr. Jon Caldwell. It was one of those times when God was at work orchestrating what I needed because it couldn't have been a better fit for me right now. I couldn't have scripted it better if I was in charge.

Let me first provide a context. Just a few weeks ago I was struggling with my compulsive urges – wanting to eat, smoke, drink, and spend – and was frustrated with myself. Debra suggested that I spend some time alone allowing myself to “just be”.  Let the thoughts come in, thoughts go out. Feelings in, feelings out. No food, drink, music, journal, or other distraction was to accompany my solitude. Me. Just be with me. She had noted my anxiety about being alone and wondered if I had really allowed myself to feel the loneliness. Her talking about it brought on anxiety. Not a loner. Never have been. So she recommended 10 minutes in a comfortable chair. She acknowledged that I might not make 10 minutes at first. I referred to this exercise as “the loneliness exercise”. I had forgotten that she spoke of mindfulness. My mind had been hijacked with the thought of being alone.

That night I moved right into the assignment, ready to face this fear of feeling and being alone. I settled into my patio chair, noting the time of 8:30pm, My thoughts began... “I’m good to go. Not bad…oh, look at the beautiful mountain. And isn't it rather serene out here…but awfully quiet. And alone. Oh, so alone.” The tears start to flow, increasing in intensity and amount. After a bit of that, I think, that should possibly do it. So I check the time: 8:31pm. I exaggerate not. That is being uncomfortable with myself, and that has been present for most parts of my life. I persevered for three more cycles of the being ok, crying, and then comforting. I did survive for 10 minutes, but I did not enjoy that exercise even those the awareness of this was a gift in itself. That experience was just a little over a month ago.

This past weekend I spent a lot of alone time. I stayed at the Renewal Center by myself. No TV, by the way. I went to a movie with myself. I also learned mindful meditation and the gift of solitude. I found that I can show myself some compassion. I discovered that I am not only ok with myself but that I am actually becoming comfortable in my own skin! On the last day, I wrote “I feel like I have found a new friend in myself.” I put this kind of transformation in the miracle department. That void I have wanted to fill isn't so empty. The me I’d been avoiding is now being welcomed…by me!

I suppose in a lot of ways, this is what I've been seeking all year. I’m not only showing fully function adult behavior but I’m learning my own worthiness and lovability. This change that had been in the works recently hadn't been quite recognized since I’d been so accustomed to my disdain for my failures, my body, and the thoughts that seemed to betray me. However, there were signs…the day before I left for the workshop I had written, “I feel like a bud ready to blossom.” God was indeed at work. That alone was a huge breakthrough! I have not only bloomed, but I can smell the fragrance of the blossom and see that it is beautiful. Now that is some recovery! I can hardly believe I’m even writing this, which is a good reason for me to do just that.

I've contemplated whether I should share this. It seems a little over-the-top and a departure from my usual sharing. I thought on this some more, including the reasons why I write this blog (for insight, reflection, and to chronicle my recovery journey). I endeavor to be authentic and genuine. This posting requires my being just as vulnerable, to dare greatly, and to feel just as deeply as I do when it is raw pain, guilt, shame, or anger. In some ways, I feel even more vulnerable because there seems to be an expectation about sharing the victories and the high notes. Perhaps it has been my exposure to the cynicism of those who are judgmental of those in healthy and happy spaces.  That cynicism, however, I can finally say is not about me. This blog is about me, The Healing Lane, and my journey, which has been a true joy ride this past week. 

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