Alone vs. Isolation

by Bill Brenner on September 13, 2010

One of the big things I’ve struggled with over the years is when it’s OK to be alone and when it’s not. I spent a lot of years in isolation. I’m slowly realizing isolation and alone aren’t necessarily the same thing. Isolation never amounts to anything positive for me. Alone does — when I let it.

Mood music:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pk7jVsiWb3o&fs=1&hl=en_US]

I spent a lot of years in isolation when I was sickest with the OCD and addiction. You isolate when it’s time for that next binge, whether it’s drugs and alcohol or compulsive overeating. I always did it in the isolation of my car. Addicts typically get their real fix out of view from other people.

At the same time, I never liked being alone. If I’m left by myself for too long, I get into trouble. And I don’t want to go there.

I seem to always be around people these days. There are the folks in my 12-Step program, including my sponsor and the three people I sponsor. There are the one-to-three meetings a week, and the daily phone calls. For someone who hates the telephone, I spend a lot of time on it these days.

I spend a lot of time around parents of the boys’ classmates. I spend a lot of time around business associates. When there’s downtime, I increasingly seek out friends. Fortunately, they seek me out, too.

But while it’s never good for me to be isolated, I’m finding that I DO need to be alone sometimes.

Not alone in a brooding, depressed state. That better fits the isolation category for me. It’s more like being alone in a state of prayer or creativity.

I’ve come to treasure the alone time I get first thing in the morning, when I can listen to music, write or just flop my head back. My relationship with the car has changed. Instead of using it as a place to isolate and feed my addiction, it’s now a place for reflection, music and sightseeing.

It used to be on business trips that I would isolate in my hotel room whenever I didn’t have to be out in public. There’s a lot of trouble you can get into with yourself when you’re holed up in a hotel room.

Now, I make some alone time for myself so I can walk around the city I’m in and take it all in. Yesterday I roamed the streets of NYC and spent a lot of time at Ground Zero in contemplation and prayer. I continued praying as I walked back across the Brooklyn Bridge to my hotel.

It was excellent.

Later in the evening, it was time to mix with people again and I did — having a long overdue reunion with my cousin Andrew and meeting his beautiful bride-to-be, Violet. We inadvertently wound up in a gay bar, but it’s not like there’s anything wrong with that. And the other patrons were friendly and polite. It’s been years since I saw Andrew. Shit, I remember when he was small enough to fit in a beer mug.

Afterwards, it was time to be alone again. I went back to the hotel and read myself asleep, which didn’t take much.

If the whole concept of isolation vs. being alone is confusing to you, it should be.

It’s certainly something I’m still trying to figure out.

I’m getting there. Slowly but surely.

Of course, it’s time to go mix it up with people again, so off I go to listen and then write about day 1 of the CSO Security standard.

Seize the day.

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