Fighting the Loneliness
I haven’t always had to fight loneliness and isolation. When I was younger I loved going out to listen to live music. Dancing was a fun way for me to interact with others. I enjoyed being social and was always looking for a place to meet friends at a bar or show. All of that has changed since my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Fighting loneliness has become part of my new normal. Isolating myself because of my mental illness can easily lead to loneliness and depression in my life now.
One Saturday evening a few years ago I decided to count how many beers I had consumed in a 24 hour period. I counted 19. I realized at that moment I couldn’t just have one beer, but I had to have a lot of beer, or nothing at all.
Before my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, my lifestyle involved going out to bars to drink with my friends. At the time that was my social outlet. However, after my diagnosis I quit drinking alcohol. I was used to spending a lot of money on alcohol. That was another reason I stopped drinking… it was too expensive.
Another reason I stopped abusing alcohol was for health reasons. An unhealthy lifestyle led to a size 42 inch waistline, but I also knew that the excessive drinking was doing damage to other parts of my body, as well.
The first couple of weeks of not drinking on a Friday night were especially tough for me. I missed even the minor chit chat that occurred in those settings because alcohol provided liquid confidence for me. While I’m not the best at opening up a conversation, I knew that being around others was important for me. After awhile the desire for alcohol went away, but I still did not have the social interaction that I had gotten from hanging out with my friends at bars.
Now that I am okay with not drinking, I use my money for other things like my kickboxing classes. I’ve always enjoyed physical activity, and working out and exercising have become my new positive addiction.
I used to be a very heavy smoker. At one time I smoked three packs a day. Just about every afternoon, I woke up and realized I was almost out of cigarettes, so I went to the grocery store across the street to buy three packs of the cheaper off brand cigarettes. This happened every day until my health began to be affected. I knew I had to quit.
At the veterans hospital where I receive treatment there are always vets smoking. Even today when I see, and even smell the cigarettes of the veterans smoking in groups, it brings back good memories. Since I do not want to go back to my three pack a day habit, I just ignore it. There was a time when my smoking served as another way for me to be social — social, but very unhealthy. I ended up quitting smoking on Father’s Day. My dad said it was the best gift he had ever received. While I don’t regret giving up cigarettes, I realized that I had also given up another social outlet.