Looking back, I think almost everything I ever did in my life before I began my spiritual journey, and even within it at the beginning, was about getting attention; specifically the attention of a potential mate. Any real happiness I believed I could achieve in life would have to come from a mate; from fame; from love outside of myself.
I was lonely, even though I had more friends than anyone I knew. I had chosen a ‘career’ as an entertainer/club personality that was based on outrageous performance, in order to obtain popularity and fame. I thought this would attract the partner, and therefore, the security and happiness I craved. I was lonely, even when my attention-seeking behaviour brought me in front of crowds that were cheering for me and laughing at my jokes and performances. I was lonely even when I “perfected” my body through obsessive exercise and dieting. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have a mate when I was accomplishing all these things.
It’s interesting to see from a new perspective, and with new clarity, how in trying to attract all that attention, I was really not being myself, and was actually pushing away any potential interests that were around. Who wants to date an act?
When I came into recovery almost 10 years ago, I was even more acutely aware of loneliness. I blamed my misery on it. There was an awful lot of loneliness in those first few months and years of living my new sober life. There were many sleepless nights of self-pity and incredible discomfort. I wondered why I was so alone, and I wanted to escape how I felt. Again, I blamed the absence of a loving relationship for the loneliness I felt, and I tried anything and everything to bring that elusive relationship into my life. As a matter of fact, when I first understood that I could recover from my messed up life, I went through a suggested recovery program with incredible enthusiasm in order to recover ‘perfectly’, not only to be happy and sober, but mostly so that I would finally be fit for a relationship. Guess what? I was still single.
Nowadays, through the character-building work I have done, I believe I am probably much more fit to be in a relationship. However, I also have a new perspective: Yes, a relationship might bring me some companionship and fulfillment and therefore aid in achieving happiness, but the real cure for my loneliness comes from within.
As a result of taking an honest, thorough and often painful look at myself and continuing to take that personal inventory, I realize that loneliness was a reflection of how I felt about myself. I was so insecure and self-loathing, that I required a relationship for validation, so that I could feel good about myself because someone loved me. So naturally, when I didn’t obtain that relationship, I was lonely and miserable. Continual practice of spiritual principles, yoga, and honesty to the best of my ability with myself and others, has brought me to a place of greater self-acceptance and self-love. I feel pretty good about who I am these days. I live with integrity now (Integrity—a word I’ve just come to understand the meaning of), wherein I am myself to the best of my ability at each moment, trusting that I am loved for it. And though sometimes I really like it, I no longer need the validation of others to feel good about myself.
I am rarely lonely today. I don’t focus on needing something or someone to make me feel better, because I’m ok with who I am. I now understand that in those old days of loneliness, it was not the actual absence of a person or thing that was causing the problem. The problem was that I was focused on my negative feelings about myself, and I would get stuck in the mindset that I would always be and feel that way. The trick, I’ve learned, is to change my focus to the positive aspects of myself—my success, my new life, the people I’ve been able to help—in those moments, and to embrace and accept who I am and what is around me, and therefore engage positively in the actual moment itself.
There’s another trick I’ve used when dealing with the little bouts of loneliness that will naturally always pop up here and there: Once, a few years back, when I was on vacation in Hawaii—I remember sitting with my family on the patio of a restaurant in the warm air, thinking about how it would be nice to have a partner to share this moment with. I began to feel some of those familiar feelings of loneliness pulling at me again. I remembered in that moment something that I’ve learned on this journey of self-discovery: that loneliness is a universal feeling we all experience from time to time, and therefore if I acknowledge it and express that I’m feeling ‘the’ loneliness, rather than ‘my’ loneliness, then I connect to myself to everyone…and suddenly, ‘the’ loneliness is gone.