Learning How to Be Alone

affair recovery-survivors Blog-Elizabeth-Learning-How-To-Be-Alone-i had no idea that there was a difference between being alone and being abandoned

I stink at being alone. I have never been alone; not even my time in my mother's womb was in solitude—I am a twin. I have always shared birthdays, rooms, busses, spotlights, cookies, bathrooms, etc.

When I first arrived at college, I remember sitting in my new dorm room by myself. My soon-to-be roommate would never show. Apparently she got cold feet and withdrew from the university. I remember for the first time in my life having a very primal panicky feeling of "aloneness." This was the first of many times in my life when realized I did not like that feeling and felt the desperation to rid myself of it.

Without a clue of how to deal with that desperate feeling within, I started to fill the emptiness with people. I was already an extrovert, so it wasn't too much of a stretch for me to start filling my time with boyfriends, bars, parties, friends, classmates, and people. In a college full of students, my fix was never far away. When I was with "people," I could be whoever they needed me to be.

Fast-forward to the discovery of my affairs. I began to feel that similar, primal sense of fear of abandonment. Which sounds ludicrous because I was the one who "left." In what seemed like an instant, I realized that it was a very real possibility that I could be alone. My affair partner was not going to leave his wife; my husband didn't want to even look at me.

I had no idea that there was a difference between being alone and being abandoned.

As I started pretty intensive and necessary therapy, I began to unravel my lifelong battle with my relationship to other people.

I still struggle with this. My natural and instinctive response to others is to placate and avoid conflict. I'm lousy at setting boundaries sometimes; at times, it still requires an act of God for me to simply utter the word, "No."

Today I share with you something written by an Indian Jesuit priest and therapist. When I find myself discouraged and not doing well, I have to read this and remind myself where to find my strength. People are not my god, but boy how easy it is for me to idolize them.

"Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result, they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval or disapproval. They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company, to send your spirits soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection.

Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead. You live by their norms, conform to their standards, seek their company, desire their love, dread their ridicule, long for their applause, meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you; you dare not go against the fashion in the way you dress or speak or act or even think. And observe how even when you control them you depend on them and are enslaved by them. People have become so much a part of your being that you cannot imagine living a life that is unaffected or controlled by them."

-Anthony Demello

Here's to letting go and filling ourselves with something–or Someone–bigger and better.

Your fellow traveler in recovery,
Elizabeth

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