Isolation and solitude are not one in the same. Far from it, in fact. While both can arguably be described as time spent alone, solitude is restorative where isolation is destructive. Solitude is chosen. We dedicate time to ourselves in solitude. In isolation, we are separated from others. There is a sense of loneliness and force that comes with isolation. Addicts become isolated from others as their time is consumed by their addiction. The further consumed they become, the more others are driven away by their behavior until it is no longer merely a choice on the addict’s part. This is true for workaholics as much as any alcoholic or drug addict. As we know by now, all addiction shares the same symptoms and behaviors.
On the topic of isolation, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Isolation is one of the characteristics of addiction. Isolation is one of the characteristics of women who do too much.
We may be surrounded by people all day long but our singleminded dedication to our work isolates us. We do not like to be interrupted by friends. We would rather get our work done. We get angry when things don’t fall into place, and others are afraid to approach us.
We have become just as locked up and closeted with our working, our busyness, our hurrying around as any alcoholic is with her bottle. We have forgotten how to reach out, and we don’t have the time for it, even if we remember how. We think if we just had more time to focus on our work, we’d feel better, and instead we feel exhausted. Isolation is an energy drain.”
We are social creatures. We have been throughout all of human history. It’s right there in the name—society. Of course isolation is draining then. It’s not normal. Humans are not meant to be isolated as so many of us are in today’s modern world, driven apart by our addictions. We crave contact, compassion. We are feeling creatures. Connection is as much a part of who we are as language is. It’s as necessary to our existence as water or air.
When we become consumed in our work, we forget to reach out. We might even forget how if we go long enough without real human connection. We lose sight of how vital it is, how restorative. To connect with someone, however briefly, is healing. Something as simple as eye contact and a smile can renew your spirit. Life is about balance. Spend too much time on any one activity, and it drains you. We draw energy from our connection to people and a healthy variety of activities and interests. We all need a break sometime. Take time to connect with the world around you. That includes people.