Category Archives: Loneliness

Lonely Christmas.

The season is almost upon us, and if you are alone this Christmas you probably just want to run and hide until it’s January.

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

I know exactly how you feel. Christmas (or the Holiday Season as it’s referred to in America) asserts itself as a time of joy and togetherness, when in reality it is an enormous struggle for a lot of people. With very little joy and no one to be ‘together’ with. I’ve often said it is loneliness that kills alcoholics more than anything else. I know it almost killed me.

But somehow I was always saved from having to spend Christmas alone. By sheer luck, I always managed to have angels in my life who would invite me over for Christmas and always make me feel included and welcomed. The gratitude I have for these families knows no bounds.* Despite myself, each year, I wound up actually enjoying the day a lot more than I ever anticipated, and it was always due to those lovely folks who invited me in.

Now I have a family of my own, a house that is clean, comfortable and warm, and enough money to indulge my family in festive treats – I am able to pay this kindness forward.

We always invite people over who perhaps wouldn’t have somewhere to go over Christmas. Sometimes they are newly sober or going through a divorce or just an international student with nowhere to go. Whatever the reason, we find all these different people bring something special into our lives and we wouldn’t want to spend Christmas without them.

I would urge you to try it. If you are in the incredibly fortunate position of being surrounded by people you love, have a look around you at the people you know. I guarantee that if you look hard enough you will see someone who is quietly dreading Christmas day and would be incredibly grateful to be included. People in very early recovery often struggle a lot with Christmas. It can be a very vulnerable time of year for them because there is alcohol everywhere and often they have estranged their own families and not had a chance to make amends yet. Having a safe and loving place to go to would be an enormous relief to them. Or maybe you know someone who is lonely and isolated, loneliness afflicts everyone at some point, not just alcoholics. The gifts of companionship, hospitality, and connection are worth so much more to them than anything that can be bought in a store.

Then in exchange, like me, they may one day get the opportunity to pay it forward to someone else who is struggling.

And there will be one less person lonely this Christmas.

*Thank you to the Sokoloff and Broyden families – including me in your Christmas meant more to me than you will ever know.

Robin Williams – an everyday tragedy

‘But he was so loved….’
That’s what I’ve heard them most since Robin Williams’s tragic passing. As well as ‘successful, respected, rich, he had everything…’
‘How could he kill himself?’
How indeed?
The question is not how could someone with ‘everything’ kill themselves but rather how can depression be that powerful? That in the face of mass adoration and high regard can someone feel so alone, that the only solution they can see to their pain, is to take their own life?
Because that’s what happened here, despite Robin Williams having ‘everything’ and clearly being loved and adored the world over, his depression was far more powerful.

Yep, depression is that powerful.

The details of his death have yet to emerge but it’s well documented that Mr. Williams was an alcoholic and addict who had achieved long periods of sobriety. He also admitted to recent relapses and struggles which he sought help for.
Alcoholism and depression often go hand in hand. Alcohol works as a depressant on the central nervous system and will therefore cause depression. For many people this is fleeting for others the depression takes hold.
In many ways this is a chicken and egg scenario; does depression cause the sufferer to drink or does drink cause the depression? Who knows and it really doesn’t matter. What matters are mental health problems like depression need to be treated very seriously.
If Robin Williams’s death can teach us anything it is that depression has enormous power. It is hard to comprehend that a man who had access to the best help possible still succumbed to it. Suicide is the last very desperate act of a desperate person. To be suicidal means to have an absence of hope, or any belief, or faith those things could get better. It is a very dark tunnel with no light.

My first feeling when hearing of someone committing suicide is to be angry. I’m angry at them for choosing such a drastic solution, I’m angry at the legacy they leave behind, I’m angry at how selfish and thoughtless it is. I’m angry at the pain they will cause their loved ones. I’m angry even though I know that the black wall of depression was so deep and so impenetrable that Robin Williams truly believed this was the best solution for everyone. When you are that far in the hole it’s very hard to consider the effect your actions may have on others.

It’s also a myth that celebrities suffer from addiction and alcoholism more than the average person. The only reason we think this, is because a celebrity death or downfall due to addiction is always publicized. I have had clients from all walks of life, teachers, bankers, and housewife’s. Addiction and mental health problems do not discriminate, it’s just that when a teacher from Idaho or a house-wife from Cambridge over-doses or kills themselves no one but their immediate family and friends knows about it But all across our country there are people secretly struggling with their own black hole. Some make it out, some don’t. The world is a much sadder place without all of them.

If you or someone you know is suicidal then please contact the national suicidal hotline on: 1800-273-8255

Book Review: ‘Guts the Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster’ by Kristen Johnston

A while ago someone pressed a copy of ‘Guts’ into my hands, with the admonishment that I ‘had to read this immediately.’
So I promptly put it on my shelf and forgot about it.
Having recently had a baby, the only books I was interested in were; ‘How the f**k do I get this kid to sleep’ variety.

But after meeting the author on Twitter (where else) I decided to pick it up.
You’ll know Kristen Johnston from her hit shows ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ and ‘The Exes.’ British readers will remember her as ‘Ivana Humpalot’ in the Austin Powers movies and for a hysterical cameo in ‘Sex and the City.’

Me reading 'GUTS.' Ask KJo about the finger.

Me reading ‘GUTS.’ Ask KJo about the finger.

As this book is written by a comic actress you would rightly expect it to be very funny. It is a funny book, however I actually found the jokes to be a distraction in the first few pages.
I felt like Kristen Johnston was giving the reader the version of herself she thought they expected, and she didn’t want to let them down.
I wondered if this is how Johnston is when you first meet her in person. That she uses humor as her armor, creating an illusion of openness and intimacy, which actually deflected you from seeing who she really was or what was really going on.

If you are looking for a ‘celebrity memoir,’ with funny anecdotes about famous people, you are going to be disappointed.
Johnston barely touches on her upbringing, rise to fame or acclaimed career as an actress. They are mentioned in passing; instead the book is an invitation into the soul of an addict as they battle their fear and denial.

There were two parts of the book in particular that made me shudder with recognition.
The first is where she describes witnessing her brothers bullying.
With no means of voicing her feelings, she violently lashes out at one of his tormentors.
Describing this as one of her many ‘ill advised decisions.’ I felt it was actually a truthful reaction to extraordinary pain. She had no other way to express how she felt except violence.
Her feelings were demanding a release.
This type of irrational, compulsive behavior is ‘normal’ in someone who has learnt to protect their inner world, by building a wall around themselves.
It should therefor come as no surprise, that this little girl grew up to become addicted to ‘pain pills’ as an adult. It was inevitable that she was going to have to find a way, to numb the pain of feelings she could never dare express.

The second incident that touched me, is when the first crack in her wall first begins to show. Johnston has been admitted to a hospital in England for life saving surgery, when her intestines literally burst from all the drugs she had been taking. Because she is in so much pain and can barely move, she has to ask a nurse to help her wash her hair.
As an adult, she realizes this is the first time she has ever asked anyone for help.
By this point in the book, her loneliness and isolation are palpable, and the simple act, of another human being tenderly washing her, is almost heart breaking.
It’s clear that Johnston has never let anyone in and the sheer thought of it terrifies her.

The reason this book should be compelling reading for any addict or alcoholic, is just how much Johnston reveals of the inner life of an addict.
She rightfully claims to being completely unoriginal in her feelings and behavior, her experience of addiction is just like anyone else’s.
Addicts will do anything to prevent anyone seeing who they really are, they will fight tooth and nail to defend the wall they have built around themselves. Johnston is certainly no different.

Like many addicts Johnston paints a picture of determined self-reliance.
Believing she can just power through anything with her grit and determination. Unwilling and unable to face up to her reality, I believe it was no coincidence that her body finally forces her to see what her mind refuses to.
Thousands of miles away from home, friends and family; unable to work, she could do nothing but stare at the ceiling and contemplate how things have ended up this way.
Too weak to fight and with no distractions, the wall she had built around herself slowly begins to crack.

“I suppose I was also grieving for the loss of the unfeeling, jokey, impenetrable me.”

Inevitably when that wall cracks; grief, loss and loneliness flood in. Johnston shares all of this with the reader. Then, for someone who has determinedly hidden her true self from the world, she begins to discover who she really is, for the very first time. Vulnerable, scared and very lost she begins the journey back to herself.
The miracle of recovery is, that despite everything we have believed about ourselves, who we really are is glorious. We don’t need to hide or be alone anymore because who we really are is just fine. This book convinces you that if Kristen Johnston can discover this, then so can you.

Kristen Johnston

Kristen Johnston

Because of her stature, Johnston has often been referred to as ‘Amazonian.’ The description fits her not because of her height, but because she is a warrior.
Guts is the account of a lone warrior battling to stay in denial before finally waging the courageous battle of sobriety.
It is a privileged glimpse into her inner world and I hope very much that this warrior has finally found her tribe.

How loneliness kills alcoholics

Child in forest by Chrisroll courtesy of

Child in forest by Chrisroll courtesy of

Alcoholism kills; there is no doubt about that.
There are many ways an alcoholic can die; cirrhosis of the liver, a drunk related accident or some other horrible alcohol related illness.
This is just science.
If you drink enough, for long enough, one of these things will get you.

But that isn’t what really kills alcoholics.
What really kills them is; pride, fear and loneliness.
These things destroy more alcoholics than anything else.
I know, my loneliness and fear almost destroyed me.

Before I got sober, I truly believed I was the only person who had ever been frightened or lonely. It was a shock to discover that many other people, not just alcoholics, felt this way too.

It was also kind of a relief, because then I knew I wasn’t alone.
And that was a big thing for me, because at 27 years of age I was dying of loneliness.
I so desperately wanted to be part of something, to be included, to belong, but everything I did took me further and further away from people.

As an an only child I was good at being on my own. But because of this I yearned to be part of a group. I would look around at large families and groups and envy how they all seemed to fit together, how they communicated without words, their shared history.
I was always outgoing and because I moved around a lot, I learnt to make friends quickly, so on the outside it didn’t look like I was a loner.
But as a child and teenager I always felt like there was a glass screen between me and everyone else. I now know this feeling of separation is a common experience for many alcoholics.
The more apart I felt, the more it hurt and I discovered alcohol was the perfect solution to this.

When drinking I was always part of the crowd, always the life and soul of the party. I loved it, I lived for it. Then came the crushing horror of the next day when I couldn’t remember what I did or said, and with it the feelings of shame and embarrassment. When you feel like that, you don’t want to be around people. So I would isolate make excuses, push people away.
And so begins the aching loneliness of an alcoholic.

I remember one time, I was about 25 and had just broken up with a guy I was dating. Or rather he escaped from the hostage situation I’d put him in.
The prospect of a 3-day weekend opened up in front of me, with nothing to fill it. No one to see, nowhere to go, no plans, nothing.
Just me.
I woke up on the Saturday morning and went out to get some wine. I never drank that early. I knew I was crossing a line but I didn’t care, the dark specter of loneliness was threatening to crush me and I needed something to keep it at bay. I got drunk that day, lying on the sofa watching ‘Friends’ re-runs and by the time the evening came around I had made the decision I was going to kill myself.

I came to the conclusion that this was the only option I had to stop hurting. So I took an overdose of my prescribed anti-depressants and laid down.

About an hour later I changed my mind and called an ambulance.

Thus I spent a holiday weekend in the Emergency room drinking some black tar stuff and flirting with the drunken young men who came in and out with various bar related injuries. It was almost quiet jolly, lots of people to talk to.
The hospital tried to keep me in over night but I got bored and left. By then it was Sunday and most of the weekend had passed and I felt better. I had just wanted some company.

My loneliness was no ones fault but my own. I had made myself so unattractive to people and pushed everyone away, that my only consistent friend was the booze.
I didn’t take an overdose that day because I was drunk and didn’t know what I was doing.
I took an overdose because I couldn’t bare the loneliness and drink gave me the courage to try.
But like most alcoholics I really didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live.
Life was my problem, not drinking.
My drinking didn’t cause me to be a lonely, frightened, insecure mess. I drank because I was a lonely, frightened, insecure mess.

The first thing I did was to quit drinking, then I started a process to get to know myself better and understand why I felt the way I did. After that I started the journey of filling the gaping hole inside of me with something else other than alcohol.

Things began to change and I wasn’t lonely anymore, I haven’t been lonely for a very long time.
So, if you are lonely too, I want you to know it is possible to change, it is possible to belong to the world again.
Because I did, I know you can too.

You can read more on how fear affects alcoholics here.

My sisterhood. Not lonely anymore

My sisterhood. Not lonely anymore