The "I" in Isolation
Why Do You Go Dark?
During my drinking days, I had a tendency to isolate. I’d go weeks without responding to text messages, and I wouldn’t pay bills or even open envelopes. I’d still go to parties and hang out with friends, and I still had my smile. But on the inside, I was alone. And I liked it like that. The only thing that ever seemed to soothe my soul was a bottle of whiskey or a gram of cocaine (or a healthy combination of the two.) The hangovers were terrible, and I’d use them as a reason to withdraw even more – because the last thing you want to do with a crippling headache is be around people. Then the headache would go away around 5pm each day, and I’d be ready to go party again. During those days, my dad would always ask,
“Why do you go dark?”
I never really had an answer for that question. Once I'd "gone dark" for a couple of weeks, I felt like if I called my parents, I’d have to explain myself. They’d want to know where I’ve been, and I just didn’t want to feel the burden of being misunderstood or having to explain myself. So two weeks would turn into a month, a month would turn into six months, and six months would turn into a year. Everyone seemed to notice this pattern...except me. Sometimes I noticed, I just didn’t understand why.
Fast forward to now…I’ve been sober for over 3 years, and I still find myself isolating when I feel pressured or stressed. Some days, I wake up and just have zero desire to be around people. On the outside, it probably looks like I’m super extroverted. I do all this social media stuff, I’m always around people, and I smile a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I do genuinely love people, but I feel more like myself when I’m alone and the music is playing. If you ever see me in a coffee shop, I’m in my own little world. I can totally be in the middle of a crowd and still be all by myself. I like it like that. But it isn’t healthy.
I’ve been back in Charlotte for 3 weeks now, and I’m finding it super challenging to re-adjust to the life I once knew here. Like…I had a solid routine here. Workouts every Monday and Friday, afternoon runs, coffee shops, small groups at church, birthday parties, collab sessions with my friends, photo shoots, yoga, Food Truck Fridays, walks with Ziva…there was always something to do. And now that I’m back, the desire to do any of those things is completely gone.
A lot happened during my time on the road, and I changed a lot within. My relationship with God is stronger and deeper than ever before, and I’m truly satisfied when it’s just me and Him. I don’t want anything to separate me from Him again. A ton of annoying responsibilities have hit me all at once, and I just haven’t felt like Zack since I’ve been back. So I’ve been spending time alone. And that ain't always good.
Pride is a big reason I used to drink. I felt like I had the right to do whatever I wanted with my life, and all I wanted was to party and forget about my responsibilities, challenges, and the people that bother me. Drinking was my escape, and I felt like I deserved to get blackout every single day if I wanted to.
That lifestyle ended up destroying me, and I had to come to an understanding that it’s just not acceptable to live that way. It hurts a lot of people, including me. That’s why it scares me when I find myself isolating today. It scares me so much that I have to take action. The last thing I want to do is relapse and go back to being the hungover, arrogant, selfish person you see in that picture.
The pride I used to carry during my drinking days has returned. I’ll admit it. It doesn’t look exactly the same, but it’s still pride. It’s pride that tells me I’ve been sober for 3 years, so I don’t need to go to a meeting. It’s pride that tells me I don’t need to be around people, because I’m better off by myself. It’s pride that tells me I’ll figure everything out on my own, I just need time.
Go to a Meeting
Tonight, I went to my first AA meeting in a long, long time. Not because I’ve wanted to drink, but because I’ve been isolating, and I still remember what that behavior leads to.
God totally has a sense of humor, because the topic in our meeting tonight was “Isolation.” How ‘bout that? It was awesome hearing other people share about their experience with drinking and isolation, and it felt good to share my current struggles with people who understand. Meetings are funny, because we all share the same story. No matter how lonely I feel, meetings always remind me that I’m not alone. My problems aren’t unique, and there’s a common solution for all of them: God.
There's a reason the word isolation begins with "I". The source of my isolation is pride. And it’s time to work on that. I’ve been focused on my own struggles lately. It’s ok to struggle, but it’s not ok to isolate and roll around in self-pity. Don’t be too surprised when you see me happy tomorrow. It’s time to give my problems to the Lord, practice humility, get back to writing, and get back to serving others.