Loneliness

Hangovers

READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.

Fred has been a recovering sex addict for 5 years. Sexual acting out used to be an organizing principle in his life. He woke up everyday thinking of numbing out with porn and hooking up with whoever he could find on the internet. It nearly cost him his family, his job, and even his life. One day an escort and her pimp robbed him of everything he had. At gunpoint, they forced him to go to his bank and withdraw $10,000 from his account. He was told that there was a gun pointed at his head throughout the entire bank transaction and would be killed if he did not bring them the exact amount. This was hitting bottom for Fred. He promised that if he escaped this predicament, he would seek help and change his lifestyle. And he did. He sought out a certified sex addiction therapist. He began going to 12-step meetings, worked the steps, changed his life, and experienced healing within and in his marriage and family. That was 5 years ago! 

Moving forward he managed sexual addiction cravings with the tools that he had learned in therapy and 12-step groups. Things were headed in the right direction. Then COVID hit. He was laid off from his work and had to scramble, doing anything to pay the bills. There was a lot of stress and anxiety that persisted throughout the 2 years since the COVID lockdown. Eventually fatigue, stress, and anxiety wore him down. One night while driving home he pulled into the parking lot of a strip club, drank, and paid for several lap dances. The next morning he woke up with a hangover not only from the alcohol but from the reality that he surrendered all the vestiges of meaningful sobriety and serenity that he had accumulated in his recovery program the 5 years before. He was sick to his stomach, dulled with brain fog, and profound loneliness and emptiness. The emotional pain was indescribable. Alone, he screamed in despair. He was suffering from the hangover of relapse behavior. 
Hangovers suck! Hangovers always deliver what they promise—headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, irritability, and other symptoms. Most people associate hangovers with drinking too much or other drug abuse. But, hangovers are the result of many behaviors. Other than its relationship to chemical abuse, the dictionary defines a hangover as something that remains from what is past. Its the letdown that follows great effort and excitement. Hangovers follow every act out and trigger further use of a substance or process.

Every addict knows the pain of a hangover that follows an addictive behavior. Addicts who succumb to relapse are highly susceptible to repeating the destructive behavior until the old addictive lifestyle is once again in place. It happens amazingly fast! Hangovers play a significant role in the reconstitution of addiction. Surprised by the relapse, addicts fall victim to the power of shame and the staggering emotional pain that is part of the hangover aftermath. 

Most addicts relapse in their attempts to gain control of their addiction. Listed below are suggestions to consider in working through the hangover that accompanies relapse behavior.

1. Get out of harm’s way. You may have to drag yourself away but don’t let the bus of addiction run over you repeatedly with added relapse behavior. Call someone in recovery. The risk of further addictive behavior increases exponentially on the heels of a hangover. Loneliness, shame, depression, failure, etc are intense feelings that overwhelm and tempt you to medicate with addictive behavior. You must take the power away from the junkie worm with a radical behavioral pattern interruption. Examples include going to a 12-step meeting, calling a recovery friend (even in the middle of the night), throwing your keys down a storm sewer to keep you from driving under the influence, or whatever you need to do to remove yourself from harm’s way.

2. Surround yourself with support. When you relapse, shame wants to force you into isolation. Rather than isolate, you must insulate yourself with people who you know love you, understand, and will support you no matter what. Addicts in recovery who engage in a 12-step meeting with openness and vulnerability create connections that are helpful during a time of crisis in their recovery. It is critical to reach out to other addicts in recovery when you face relapse. You will falter. Create a community that will be there and help you restore yourself to sanity and centered living.

3. Practice sitting with the pain that accompanies relapse failure. No matter what you do after a relapse, you cannot escape the pain of the hangover. You can mitigate its effects with self-care and reconnecting with your program. That said, relapse always produces intense emotional pain and disappointment. Rather than try to escape, which might increase the possibility of relapse, practice accepting and leaning into the emotional pain. Leaning into the pain of relapse differs from choosing to wallow in the failure of relapse which quickly becomes a way to escape and avoid doing the next right thing in self-care. It hampers a mature response to failure. Leaning into the pain is accepting what happened and moving forward with the next right recovery steps toward re-centering yourself in a healthy life balance. The good news is that the hangover does wear off in time.

4. Divorce yourself from the behavior. You are not your behavior. You will have to condition yourself during this moment of discouragement and shame. Put the shame on the behavior and not your sense of self. Separating the behavior from your personhood will help you nurture compassion for yourself and those you hurt with your destructive behavior. There is no greater prevention for further relapse than compassion and empathy.

5. Learn from every relapse failure. While you are not a failure, you can learn something about yourself that can cement future sobriety in every failed experience. The lessons you glean from your failed experience are the gold you create to fulfill your recovery destiny. Allow yourself to be a mistake-making person. Take away the treasure of wisdom from each mistake before you throw away the rind of failed behavior.

The loneliness and emptiness that is core to the experience of relapse hangover paralyze many addicts who have relapsed. The way through the hangover is to fix your eyes on re-centering your vision of recovery. Move through relapse behavior by anchoring your heart with actions of recovery practice. The hangover will wear off provided you do the necessary self-care. 

A Need for Unity and Connection

 READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

There are forces in life that divide and separate us. Race, class, religion, income inequality, and many other designations categorize and label people and their life experiences. Because of these divisions, our understanding of each other suffers. As a result, we isolate and fail to see the connections that we all share. Comparison and competition also divide people. Children learn to compete and compare very early. There is a place for competition, and it is commonplace for people to compare. Without checks and balances, competition and comparison become a cancer that eats away at the fibers of life that connect and create community. Forcefully, the energy of competition forges a zero-sum mentality of winners and losers, haves and have-nots, and us versus them. When the emphasis on comparison and competition becomes imbalanced, the spirit of cooperation shrinks. 

Feelings are the network that connects people. Sadness, loneliness, fear, and insecurity bond the wealthy to the poor. Only when we focus attention on our different conditions do we separate. We become judgmental which isolates us. Certainly, inequities must be discussed and remedied.  We are more likely to create a resolution when we can find a common thread that weaves our hearts together. Emotional experience is the tapestry that weaves the hearts of us all together as one. Oppression, suffering, and struggle are common stuff that make up life for everyone. 

Everyone suffers defeat. We all experience disappointment when things do not turn out the way we hoped. Like a river, there is ebb and flow in life. When defeat and disappointment are minimized or ignored, it fractures the spirit of the community. We begin to pretend that life is different than it is. We hide the hurt and pain and begin to separate from others who we think are successful. Our failures begin to magnify. We conceal our pain, and loneliness intensifies. 

Study the following consideration: 

Listen: Take a deep breath and slow the frenzy of life. Take time to focus on listening to another’s plight and circumstance. Don’t offer suggestions for solutions. Just walk alongside and identify with the life experiences shared with another. Contemplate being in their shoes with their perspective. Avoid judgment, and just be with the other person. Practice being in their skin the best you can.  Sit with the discomfort of not knowing a resolution and feel the burden of another. Healing happens through the connection of feelings, not through cold rapped-out counsel of what to do next. 

Feel before you try to fix: The emotions that come with uncertainty are scary. There is a compulsion to rush toward fixing a problem shared by another. It is easier to argue about how to solve the problem of poverty in the world than to sit with those who suffer and experience overwhelming feelings of loss of power, food insecurity, and life. The deeper we connect with the emotions of those who suffer, the clearer a solution will arise on the horizon. When counseling someone suffering from addiction, it is helpful and healing to simply sit with the feelings of desperation and loss. It is tempting to want to immediately set up a recovery program to fix and rebuild a healthy life. Taking time to feel the emotions that an addict experiences can easily get lost in the chaos that is presented. However, it is healing to sit with the groan and the moan of emotional pain. 

Bond through Identification: It takes courage to identify with someone who suffers in ways that scare you. It means you must crawl inside their shoes and walk through what they have experienced. Emotionally, this takes hard work. Others’ behavior can feel repelling and disgusting. It is much easier to judge and label people. Addictive behavior can be this way. When people relate to an addict with pronouns like “they” or “this population” it can create distance from the individual. Yet, the essence of being an addict is “wanting what I want when I want it”. Everybody knows what this experience is like. An addict is simply powerless to stop the compulsion without help. 

For the past 27 years, I have treated sex offender behavior. I can honestly say that I have never listened to a story of sex-offending behavior that I could not relate to. It is not because I have struggled with wanting to sexually offend someone or that I can relate to a particular sadistic offense. Rather, it is because I know what it is like to want what I want when I want it. So can you. Every sex offender story that I have heard included a need for control. Everyone can relate to this need. The capacity to identify lies within each of us. In the field of treatment of sex addiction behavior, there has been a stronger need to define the difference between sex offending and sex addiction. Of course, there are differences between pathologies. However, I have experienced more healing with clients through identifying likenesses than underscoring differences. While being a sex addict does not necessarily mean that you will break the law through child molestation or sexual assault. It is an offending behavior. Partners of sex addicts will substantiate this reality. Bonding through identification means that you are willing to connect through common shared brokenness. 

We all share the same river. It flows beneath us and through us. When we connect to the whole of life, it has the power to soften and open our hearts to each other. We may speak different languages, and live very different lives, but when the river swells through brokenness and struggle it pulls us toward each other. May we never forget the power of connection through common shared brokenness.

Catfished in a Sweetheart Swindle

READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.

Catfished in a Sweetheart Swindle Bobbi Ann grew up in a family where she was the only girl with 4 brothers. Her dad was a truck driver who spent most of his time on the road. When he was home he spent his time trying to catch up with the boys’ sports schedule.  He never had much time for Bobbi Ann. He always thought attention to her activities was her mother’s job. Bobbi Ann admired her dad and quietly felt pain in her heart because of his lack of attention. When she went to college she fell in love with Buddy, and they both dropped out of school and got married. Things seemed great for the first 5 years. By then Buddy got into the habit of meeting guys at a local bar after work and would stay late. Finally, Bobbi Ann discovered that he was having an affair with her best friend and the marriage ended.

Bobbi Ann was devastated, depressed, and even suicidal.  The loneliness at night was driving her insane. She learned about the dating app Plenty of Fish from a friend at work.  She reached out in desperation, trying to fill the gaping void in her life.  Soon, she met Michael from Chicago online. He had a winsome personality and swept her off her feet with kindness. He seemed to be a perfect fit.  He asked many personal questions as he wove charm in his pursuit. She liked how he always seemed to make her feel special.  After each web contact, Bobbi Ann wondered why she didn’t learn much about Michael.  He began to direct the conversation to sexual behavior. Bobbi Ann wasn’t comfortable but she didn’t want to disappoint. So, she went along to get along. He boldly asked her to post sexually compromising pictures. She couldn’t believe that she did it. 

She knew she was hooked when he asked for $5000 to start a new business. He said he would pay her back as soon as the business got off the ground.  She cashed a stock investment in order to give him the money. At her next encounter, she asked him to come to San Francisco to visit her. He told her that he was too busy with his new start-up. When she insisted that she visit him he was slow to agree. He asked for another $5000 in order for his start-up to reach the next stage of development. Feeling pressured, she consented to provide the money and again posted a provocative pose at his request before ending the conversation. 

When she flew to Chicago, he never showed up to meet her. She called the number that he gave her and was greeted with a rude encounter: Michael told her to release another $30,000 or he would take the nude pictures that she posted for him and ruin her reputation and her life. Bobbi Ann was blackmailed.  She had been catfished with a sweetheart swindle in an internet scam for thousands of dollars.

Romance scammers weave all sorts of believable stories to con people. The stories might involve a sick child or a temporary inability to get to their money for a whole range of reasons. There is a kind of scamming called “catfishing” which happens when someone creates a fictional persona on a dating site to target a specific victim. Besides financial gain, catfishing motivations can sometimes be simply to cause distress or harm or possibly enable the perpetrator to carry out a fantasy or wish fulfillment. 

Romance scamming has skyrocketed in recent years over the internet. In 2021 reported losses hit a record $547 million.  Thats more than six times the reported losses in 2017 and a nearly 80% increase compared to 2020. The vast majority of frauds are not reported to the government.

Targets that make up sweetheart swindling include military romance scams, sexual exposure blackmail scams, fake dating sites, and code verification scams, where you are asked to click on a third-party link to verify your account. Once you click through you are asked a number of personal questions including credit card information. 

Victims experience a range of negative emotions, such as anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, victims of romance scams feel embarrassed and believe that they are responsible for their victimization, which impacts their sense of trust in themselves.

Smart people get caught in a romance scam for many reasons:

1. Victims are vulnerable to idealizing their online pursuits. Often, needy and hurt, like Bobbi Ann, they tend to focus on the positives and forget the negatives in their new romance. 

2. Loneliness: Some web users prefer expressing themselves online rather than in the real world. However, some tend to lower their guard to a scammer who takes full advantage.

3. Thrill seekers: some web users are impulsive and addictive. Some victims have described feeling addicted to the relationship and found it difficult to cut it off even when they learned that it was not genuine.

The coronavirus pandemic triggered people to spend more time online. It provided conditions that romance scammers could exploit. Often, scammers target older people because they are more likely to have assets such as retirement funds or homes, which they can steal. It is estimated that about two-thirds of romance fraud victims are women, with an average age of 50. 

A growing trend in 2021 was scammers using romance as a hook to lure people into bogus investments, especially cryptocurrency. People are led to believe their new online companion is a successful investor who, before long, casually offers investment advice. These so-called investment opportunities often involve foreign exchange (forex) trading or cryptocurrency. When people follow this investment advice, they wind up losing all the money they invest.

How to avoid an online sweetheart swindle: 

There are a number of guidelines that help you use a legitimate dating site and stay out of harm’s way:

1. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Try a reverse-image search of profile pictures. If the details dont match up, its a scam.

2. Avoid revealing too much personal information in a dating profile or to someone you’ve chatted with only online. Never provide your credentials to third parties online. If you give sensitive information, dont panic — remove your credentials. Change your passwords and contact your bank immediately. 

3. Use reputable dating sites and keep communicating through their messaging service. Fraudsters will want you to switch to text, social media, or phone quickly, so there is no evidence on the dating site of them asking you for money.

4. Avoid sending compromising photos to online strangers that could later be used for extortion.

5. Never send money or gift cards or disclose your bank details to someone youve only met online. 

Many sex and relationship addicts have been snagged by swindles and fraudsters. They often remain hidden because of fear and shame. Online relationship scamming is pervasive. Taking suggested precautions will help you avoid the dangers described. If you have been victimized by a sweetheart swindle, please report the crime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Stuck in Depression and What Do You Do?

READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.

“You don’t understand

depression until you can’t

stand your own presence

in an empty room.” —Unknown

Depression is an epidemic across the world. It is estimated that more than 264 million people suffer from this malady. The late actor Robin Williams once said I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” Tragically, he died having been dominated by depression. 

Depression has been a “friend” throughout much of my life. Many years ago it dominated me. I was hospitalized at one point unable to function. It was like living in a body that wanted to fight to survive with a mind that wanted to die. At times I was tired and scared at the same time. I was dominated by a fear of failure but had no energy to produce. I wanted to be alone but dreaded being lonely. I worried about everything while at the same time caring about nothing. There were times my head felt like an old Maytag washing machine churning and churning with anxiety. Then there were moments when everything felt numb and paralyzed. Depression was like a bruise that never went away. It was like being lost in the woods. The further I walked into the deep woods the more lost I became and the dimmer the light of hope was at the end of the tunnel. I got stuck in mental wool-gathering. Dread, emptiness, anxiety, and panic jammed my headspace. It’s like in the movie The Lord of the Rings where Frodo Baggins is stung and paralyzed by the giant spider unable to move. With depression, I  wanted to talk and scream but all I could do was whisper. I wanted to stay in bed and hoped I would fall asleep before I fell apart. Depression is a wound that is deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds. So, the question is when you are stuck in debilitating depression how do you get unstuck when you feel so paralyzed? Here are a few considerations.

1. Slow things down and sit with what is real. Don’t try to fix depression on the run. People try to avoid discomfort by distracting themselves with activity and daily busyness. For some people it works, if you define “working” as being able to numb out unwanted feelings so that you simply exist. This choice involves running on a treadmill of doing more to keep from being less. You have to be busy 24/7 for 365. Of course, no one can do this so you engage in a cocktail of destructive behaviors. You can make food, sex, alcohol, work, drugs, etc. an additive piece that provides temporary relief.  Some people live and die this way. Others free fall into major depression which stops them cold in their tracks. If you suffer this malady you know that it is powerful and overwhelming. The best choice is to slow the pace of life and sit with unwanted feelings that are underneath the busyness of your life. 

2. Listen to your feelings, they will tell you where your life is out of balance. Most of us learn to avoid what is uncomfortable. Yet, the way out is leaning into the discomfort. Discomfort is there for a reason. Feelings are a way for your body to talk to you. People with depression often experience levels of nostalgia. When you sit with nostalgia you notice that you pine for past experiences. Reflection, about past memories, triggers awareness to create warmth and connection in the present moment. However, the tendency is to wallow in the experience of yesterday without being motivated to provide meaningful connections in the present. The result is chronic loneliness which left untended will fuel depression. There are many feelings that bombard your awareness. Slow your life in such a way that you listen to your feelings. They will tell you where you are out of balance so that you can adjust your lifestyle to create emotional equanimity.

3. Don’t go outside, go inside.  When people hurt on the inside they want to find a quick fix from the outside. There is help from the outside that will take you inside. The following medications have provided relief for millions: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) like Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are brand names that have been helpful. There are other medications that have also proven helpful. Plant medicines and dissociative medicines like ketamine can also be useful when administered by professionals and not recreationally. The utilization of these drugs and plant medicines, is strategically designed to assist in going underneath the symptoms of depression to address root causation. Ultimately, this is where healing takes place. Looking at the unresolved family of origin, trauma, and grief issues is helpful to drain the pain that fuels the major depression. There are many therapeutic interventions that trained therapists use to help with this process of healing. There is no magic bullet but there is healing for those who are brave enough to go inside.

4. Stop trying to fix other people. Other people’s problems become a tonic to our own existence—a way to get outside of ourselves. World-class performers like Michael Phelps, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry admittedly have all used performance achievement as an escape from depression. But it never worked. You may not be famous but don’t try to avoid your depression by getting caught up with other people’s drama to energize your life and to escape what you do not want to deal with. Stop trying to fix other people.

5. Live your life in emotional honesty. When you live with incongruence you learn to feel one thing, say another, and end up acting disconnected from what you say or what you feel. You get lost. This makes you vulnerable to depression. People who overcome depression learn to open up and say it straight. It takes courage to be emotionally honest. In treating depression, without emotional honesty, you will drown. People fear disappointing others who are significant to their lives. At the core of healing depression, you will need to practice detaching from pleasing others to be true to yourself. 

Practice these steps and free yourself from the dregs of depressed living. If you are stuck and want help from your depression, reach out. You are not alone. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You simply must ask for help.

Intensity or Intimacy

The nature of addiction is to crave the escape that comes in the pursuit of a substance or a process high. It could be numbing out with drugs and alcohol—the adrenaline rush of something new like the risk of a new relationship, physical challenge, exotic adventure, or the rush of meeting a deadline at work. At first, the pursuit seems subtle, like the calming effect that a cup of coffee has to starting your day. Over time it roars like a lion and becomes a dominating organizing principle of everyday living. Someone addicted to nicotine cannot comprehend going through the day without lighting up, dipping or ending the day with a cigar. The entire day becomes organized around taking the edge off by engaging in nicotine. Some addicts describe having an intimate relationship with their addictive behavior.

One of my sons told me a story about doing a rigorous hike in the desert with a couple of friends in the summertime when it was way too hot. After hiking a great distance, they were sweaty, exhausted, and stopped to take a break. He reached for his water bottle to quench his thirst and find relief from the heat. His two friends reached for a cigarette and with sweat streaming down their face found relief with nicotine and later took a drink of water. 

Addiction response can be extreme and radical. Some of the most intense people I know are addicts. Do you know a workaholic who has literally slept at their office? NFL football coaches have been known to work all day and sleep in their office. The rush that comes from getting prepared for the next game can be intense. For a workaholic, pushing for completion and fanatically reaching to meet a deadline can be powerful and consuming. Stories of addicts fiercely lusting for a hit and radically moving heaven and earth together to satisfy a craving are replete. 

Intensity or Intimacy? Addicts confuse intensity with intimacy. Intimacy can be understood as a close personal open heart connection with self and another person. Many people refer to sexual intercourse as intimate. Of course, this can be true. However, compulsive sexual behavior is often not intimate. At times, the insatiable drive to be with another person is the furthest experience from true intimacy. It has been described by some that the intense desire to be close to another is like wanting to be inside the other person’s skin. There is a craving for another that is more about neediness than intimacy. The need is intense.

Addicts become disconnected from their feelings. They are poor at managing moments of emptiness. An addict will often seek to fill the emptiness with chaos and addictive behavior. Emptiness and loneliness trigger addicts to fill in the hole of their lives with drugs and alcohol and other compulsive behaviors. Most addicts create a cocktail of adrenaline experience that can include substance, relationship pursuit, work intensity, exercise, food, and high-risk adventure. When one or more of these behaviors don’t do the trick, then they just go to the next combination in behavioral experiences. This response is described as addiction interaction behavior. The intensity of this daily cocktail experience can be mistaken for intimacy with self.  

Recently, a young man counseled with me about feeling extreme loneliness and depression from a recent relational breakup. He engaged in meditative silence and then shifted to extreme outdoor adventure. He stated that he felt very intimate with himself by testing his physical endurance. For sure, engaging physical endurance activities can be intimate. Yet, for this person, he came home to the same dilemma of intense loneliness and depression after the endurance adventure. Rather than embracing and grieving the loss, he had mistaken physical intensity for emotional intimacy. This is a common experience for addicts. 

Intimacy begins with an interpersonal connection. What is important is to carefully listen to your feelings. This requires slowing down and embracing the very emotion you would like to avoid. Intimacy demands that you be able to embrace discomfort. Knowing that you can feel uneasiness and sift and sort understanding and meaningfulness from this experience is necessary in order to meet the personal needs that exist underneath the uncomfortable emotion. This is fundamental to practicing intimacy. It begins with an inner connection with self before it can be extended to another. Many attempt to first connect with another believing this connection will help awaken feelings within. However, it is a precarious path that often leads to relational intensity being mistaken for relational intimacy. What is missing is the cultivation of interpersonal connection with your own feelings. Those feelings become lost with the intense hot pursuit of another person, substance, or experience. 

Intimacy requires that you be open and honest, first with self and then others. Emotional honesty demands that you be willing to embrace unwanted feelings. In the context of this embrace, you will find the pathway that leads to intimacy. The intimate discipline of sitting with your own feelings will spawn understanding and separation between emotional intimacy and emotional intensity in an addict’s relation to self and others.

Only the Lonely

“Only the lonely, Know the heartaches I’ve been through-Only the lonely-Know I cry and cry for you.”
(Roy Orbison “Only the Lonely” lyrics)

Loneliness drives escapism. In an unsettled world there are a million different reasons to want to avoid reality. Traumatic experiences in home life can trigger the desire to travel anywhere but home to escape further stress and psychological harm. More than 15 million Americans suffer loneliness attributed to major clinical depression. Many will do anything to escape the dregs of emptiness, loneliness and anxiety that come with it. However, a temporary new environment is not the cure. Often, when this form of escape through travel is done impulsively, there’s a greater likelihood that symptoms will rebound or return even stronger than before. Lonely older adults are twice as likely to be prescribed an antidepressant compared to adults reporting no loneliness (27% vs 14%). This indicates that medication alone is not a cure to the challenge of loneliness.

Most addicts suffer from loneliness. For many, home was disastrous, chaotic, totally abusive and unsafe. People need to belong, experience sanctuary and be treated with dignity and respect. Addicts run from the fear that if they slow down they will have to face the anxiety and terror of coming home to themselves. The experience is devastating. For those who do not come to terms with loneliness, it is a shadow that follows and never releases its grip. Addicts in recovery must learn to manage the experience of loneliness. It is a major trigger for relapse. Here are a few considerations to help you work with this common malady that affects everyone.

1. Practice coming home to yourself: Addicts learn to lose themselves with busyness and activities that distract from the discomfort of anxiety and other difficult emotions. Thich Nat Hanh stated that sitting is an act of revolution. In the presence of the urge to rush and be active, it is counterintuitive to sit with your feelings. However, sitting with your feelings will cultivate awareness. It helps to separate your thoughts and emotions from your true nature. As some say, sitting helps you to see your true nature to be like the sky and your feelings and thoughts to be like the clouds that come and go away. Coming home to yourself is a way of connecting with yourself and accepting what is.

2. Quiet the clamor and clutter by putting away your electronic devices for a definite period of time each day. It has been said that in America, the average person spends 7 hours looking at a screen each day. Your computer and cell phone distract you from being connected with yourself. You would think social media would help you to connect with others. However, it is an illusion that social media helps you to connect with others when you do not connect with yourself. Technology does not help reduce loneliness. Take time each day to turn off your phone and all other technology each day to cultivate conscious awareness. Make it a deliberate act.

3. Connect with the here and now. Distractions keep you from being present. You might be doing something important but your mind is somewhere else. People go through their life distracted without being connected to the present moment. Poet T.S. Eliot penned “we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. Many people will never experience this reality in reflection because they don’t know how to connect to the present moment. Don’t allow yourself to live a life of distraction from the here and now.

4. Go Inside. Loneliness is about feeling disconnected from others. You won’t connect with others until you connect with yourself. Becoming a social butterfly can make you popular with many acquaintances. Yet, you can be lonely in a crowd of people. Loneliness will disappear when you go inside. Learn to become an island to yourself. Buddhists teach that you go inside yourself through the in-breath and the out-breath. Hahn says that you tidy your home within by going inside. This is where you calm your spirit and connect with yourself. It all begins by cultivating a lifestyle of going inside.

5. Make peace with your loneliness. There is a wounded child within each of us that needs to be recognized and embraced. Loneliness is magnified when you busy yourself with activity and neglect the pool of pain that exists within you. People try to minimize this pain by comparing their life experience with others. This only isolates the wounded child and intensifies loneliness. Coming home requires that you focus on healing your wounded child.

6. Liberate yourself from the prisons of the past. Addicts live with a vacuum inside that makes them uncomfortable connecting with others. Their wounded child has been betrayed and let down by others. They don’t trust themselves or others. Dominating their brain are mistaken beliefs that keep them inside an emotional prison. Liberation requires an act of daily forgiveness which simply means that you will not hold this egregious destructive behavior against yourself any longer. Every day you come home to yourself and make this agreement. You then walk away from destructive behavior and embrace healing and practice being helpful to others. Addicts who choose to live this way liberate themselves from loneliness effectively. They learn to use their eyes to look at others with compassion and eliminate criticism.