Dear Auntie Alfawhore,
After nearly 15 years of serial monogamy and multiple crushing heartbreaks, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to stay single for a while and get to know myself. But where do I begin? Quite honestly, time alone feels…off. Like I’m always slightly thirsty, or hungry, or there’s something missing. I try to do those solo self-help activities, but yoga is torture. Meditation is even worse. And at night my mind races through a litany of self-doubt and past mistakes.
How do I begin to get to know the person I’ve been running from my entire life?
Codependent In Recovery
Dear CIR, (see what I did there?)
You ache. You shake with the chills. You’re tossing and turning and craving a little hit of something, anything to avoid being alone with yourself. It’s funny that you said you’re in recovery, my friend. Let’s call this the withdrawal. It will pass. But not by going around it, or evading it. No, my darling, for this to be over, you’re just gonna have to go through it.
You see, what you’re doing right now is breaking a mental pattern that you’ve been establishing for your entire life up until now. Somewhere along the way you internalized the idea that you, CIR, were not enough. That your existence wasn’t valid unaccompanied. That life was worse alone, no matter what (or who) it took to not be.
There are lots of funny ways that this idea can get firmly planted in your noggin in a lifetime. It could be the way that society visibly treats single people as non-entities (especially as they get older). Or maybe growing up was just a little bit rocky, and the first time you ever found a sense of stability and safety was in the arms of early romantic partners. Whatever the root cause of your conditioning, it’s important to remember that it’s reversible. But it’s going to take some time, and a bit of concerted effort.
So first, just accompany yourself. Yes, you, in all your anxiety and fear and loneliness. Look at yourself in the mirror. Let the dark voices talk. Then take a deep breath and respond to them. Let them know you’re listening, and say it aloud. “I’m lonely. I’m scared. I hate being alone.” Watch how saying the words out loud somehow makes them lose their power. And then I want you to add one more part to the script: “And that’s ok. I’m proud of you.” Repeat this every day until one day you can just say the last sentence by yourself.
Second, just as Special Agent Dale Cooper says on Twin Peaks: “Every day I want you to give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen.” This present could be making yourself a nice breakfast, or going for a leisurely walk in the middle of the workday, or splurging on the good dark chocolate (I personally recommend the 90% from Rapanui). It’s no coincidence that this little piece of self-care advice came from the mind of transcendental meditation practitioner/promoter David Lynch. When you recognize moments in life to be kind to yourself, you are not only actively affirming and accepting yourself, but you are carving out a small space of aloneness as a practice that’s not only enjoyable, but perhaps even the highlight of your day. Sound familiar? It’s not too far off from how your yogi/meditating friends describe their daily practice, is it?
Third and finally: be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither can the slowly scaffolding relationship with yourself. I recommend keeping a journal during this time. When you write down all the things you do, or every thought you have, you’ll start to recognize negative thought patterns or behavior more rapidly, and actively work against the ones that bring you shame while recording them.
You’ve got you, CIR. You can do this.