The Lone Wolf of Isolation

Special thanks to one of the fellows in one of our online meetings for sharing his thoughts on reaching out to others.

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I used to ride mountain bikes a lot.

It was an obsession for many years.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to ride nearly every day, many times at the expense of work and family responsibilities.

I would go to absurd lengths to make sure I got a ride in whenever and wherever I could, doing some fairly wacky schedule shuffling in order to fit a ride in.

My bike even went on almost all family vacations back then because surely there was a new unridden trail that needed to be conquered.

I am now embarrassed to say that I would religiously leave my exhausted wife alone on Saturday mornings to tend to our four, young children while I usually did longer 4-5 hour rides. To say this behavior created a strain in our marriage would be an understatement.

Of all of my wacky antics with my biking, there is one that stands out to me now—I almost always rode alone.

95% plus of the time.

That was a massive amount of alone time.

About 10 years ago on one of my Saturday morning rides, I happened to be riding on a section of pavement on a quiet, remote road in the mountains when I heard some voices coming from behind me. Moments later, a group of about 15 road cyclists passed me and I immediately recognized this group.

They had ridden together for years and several of them were my friends. Actually, I was secretly jealous of this group and the camaraderie, competitiveness, and the old-boys-club-culture they seemed to have as a group.

I had been invited a few times to join them on rides in the past, but I always turned them down. They had given up asking. As they passed me on the road that day, one of the guys who I knew called out my name and yelled:

“Hey, there goes the lone wolf.”

Several of them chuckled as they disappeared ahead, seemingly unfazed that I was even there.

I was left confused about the intent of his comment.

Was it a complement or a criticism?

My broken thinking concluded that regardless of his intent, it was a win-win.

If it was a complement then that meant that he has finally validated my thinking that I was so mentally and emotionally tough that I didn’t need to ride with anyone else. I was so strong and unique and self-sufficient that I couldn’t be bothered with the complications of human interactions within a group like everyone else had to.

I am so beyond that, I thought.

All I needed was me. Everyone else was so weak that they had to rely on others.

On the other hand, if the comment was meant as a criticism, well then screw you. That meant that I could use that comment as more evidence that people are out to get me, that they will always hurt me or let me down, and that I can continue to play the victim card of being abandoned by people who were supposed to take care of me—so trust no one.

Me against the world.

My choice of music while biking not only validated but fueled these kinds of thoughts and feelings.

Back then, I was regularly driven by this kind of thinking. And like mountain biking, I kept these feelings to myself.

That’s right I’m the lone wolf, I thought.

In a weird way, I thought it was kind of cool that I had a biking nickname now—maybe it was time for that personalized license plate: LONEWOLF

But I would be lying if I didn’t say that that comment hurt. It hurt badly.

Deep inside, I was raging that these were the circumstances of my life and that my behaviors justified someone giving me that label.

The truth was I was acting like a lone wolf not only on my bike but in life—and I never wanted to be a lone wolf in the first place.

I wondered, how in the world did I get here?

Sadly, I have also “lonewolfed” life about 95% of the time too.

Lone wolfing life has caused me a lot of pain and heartache, and it has deeply hurt my wife and family.

When I found recovery, I started to take the actions of rejoining the pack again.

What did that look like for me?

Well, it started by recognizing that I was on a path that would eventually lead to dying spiritually. I became desperate for help and desperate to do anything to not die.

The lone wolf was exhausted and starved from being out on his own for so long. He had withered away to nothing and he knew it. He couldn’t sustain himself any longer without asking for help from the pack.

I was defeated.

So I swallowed my pride, checked my massive ego at the door, and simply asked to be let back in the pack.

The pack is now so critical to me that it is hard to believe I ever tried to live without help and connection.

These are the members of the pack who are so tremendously helpful:

My wife…where do I start? I could write volumes about how I hurt her deeply as a lone wolf. Among many other things, I rejected the nurturing she tried to offer me all those years (which, ironically, I desperately needed).

Now, I accept her closeness, her insights, her corrective feedback. I listen while she tries to express the terrible pain she felt while I was out on my own. I share everything with her. I am fully known and fully loved, and it is wonderful. I was a fool to think that I knew what honesty and intimacy was.

My therapist…he is the first wolf that I asked for help to find the pack. He is the guy that puts to words so many thoughts and feelings that I never knew how to communicate. He helps me see why I left the pack in the first place and how to best assimilate back into pack life. I make sure to see him regularly and I do what he tells me to do.

My sponsor…blunt and direct, he tells it like it is. He says things that sound counterintuitive, not because they are but because my intuition is off. He helps me see the loads of evidence to support this fact.

I listen because he is grizzled veteran of the lone wolf lifestyle himself. He has found his way back into the pack so why would I not follow his lead?

My brothers in recovery…they are humble, courageous and soul-searching. Besides my family, I long to spend my time with them. We have honest and meaningful conversations that help clear away the muck of addictive thinking.

They are my mirrors and my accountability partners. I don’t feel self-righteously different from them anymore. Our common problem unites us and bonds us.

My friends…early in recovery, my therapist told me “don’t freak out, but you might end up telling some friends about your story someday”.

I did freak out—badly. There is no way I would share this with my friends, I thought. Well, it turns out that I have told a few close friends about my journey with sex addiction and recovery.

I am careful about sharing it and I always seek advice from others. Opening up to a few non-addicts has helped me discover that I can be the same person on the outside as I am in the inside. I didn’t see that gift coming. In fact, I am learning to admit that I don’t see a lot of things coming.

My Higher Power…simply put, I had to start over with Him.

My relationship with Him was wrong.

I am working through that. In the meantime, I am listening and I am learning to trust.

Nowadays, I don’t ride my bike much. In fact, life has changed so much for me that my wife almost begs me to ride my bike. Time is much harder to come by and priorities have changed.

My mountain bike feels like a symbol of the lone wolf lifestyle to me.

Like many things in recovery, I am learning to do life differently now.

I am learning to stay in the pack; in fact, it is best for me to find my way to MIDDLE of the pack. There is more safety there, more protection from danger, more identification with others.

For me, pack life beats scavenging around on my own in misery.

How are you lone wolfing life in some way that is hurting you?

12 thoughts on “The Lone Wolf of Isolation”

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful post. For me, I would retreat into the living room, or some other room, to watch TV or play games on my phone. I did have some things that I did with a group — things like play softball or watch BYU football games — but they were really about me, and I was always seeking attention from others.

    My priorities have also shifted since I’ve been in recovery (coming up on 18 months of sobriety). I’m with the family, and don’t retreat to be alone. Ever. In fact, I try to hunt out my wife or kids to spend time with them when I’m not working or engaged in my church responsibilities. And being connected is better. I’m trying to be more connected one day at a time, and that’s a blessing.

    1. This resonates with me a lot today because I realize that, even while sober for over five years, I still “retreat to ESPN on my phone” or sometimes news channels or sometimes Youtube videos (safe ones).

      I recognize that this is just another way of numbing out and playing the “lone wolf.”

      I’m going to commit, today, to only go to ESPN once and to not go to any of the other places I mentioned.

      I’m going to also commit to reaching out to someone else to surrender the underlying issues I feel I’m trying to hide from when triggered to go back to ESPN.

      Thanks for your share!

  2. My lone wolfing got worse after recover from sex addiction. Mine was the new found high of exercise. It was so empowering at first to feel my body get stronger and the pounds go away. Then there was the outside praise of hey you look so great compliments. This became my new addiction and my wife would not do it with me so I went it alone. It was an obsession and my wife finally said you can not gain physical health and lose your family in the process. But what I was doing was GOOD and HEALTHY right? I had to refind balance and trust in connection. My boy and I worked out togeather last week and it was fun. Look out for ways the lone wolf calls you back.

  3. Thanks for sharing this insight! My therapist said the opposite of addiction is community. I need to take some time and consider where I am in aspects apart from my addiction.

  4. If willing, I would love to know more about how your relationship with God was all wrong? What was wrong with that relationship then, what is that relationship now, and what did you do to change it?

    1. Hey @Jerrod,

      I can’t speak for the author, but this is one of my favorite quotes in Step Into Action that relates 100% to my relationship with God as an addict who wasn’t practicing recovery for nearly my entire life:

      “If you’re a lustaholic like me, your relation with God is wrong, regardless of what your belief or religious experience is. How could it be right if you’re thinking and doing the things you tell me you’re thinking and doing? To recover, your relation with God must change.” (p. 37)

      I’ve learned from a Step 2 inventory that:

      1. I have to be willing to consider the wrong ideas that may have developed about my Higher Power from interactions with people in my life that had power or influence over me. My relationship with these people may well have shaped my attitudes and concepts of higher powers, even if I didn’t realize then or now.

      2. Discussing the inventory with my sponsor helps me realize how past experiences may have planted some wrong ideas into my mind. These old ideas may need to be discarded and replaced before I can even consider surrendering to a Higher Power in Step Three (see more on p. 37 of Step Into Action).

      My relationship with God today is much different than it was before, but it’s still a work in progress.

      This has been my experience, at least some of it.

  5. I know the scenario perfectly, because I used to ride alone too. It’s actually a really isolating time, so I have to be careful about balancing that time with interaction and connection.

    I used to ride a Cannondale M700; a beautiful mountain bike; this was before I even knew I suffered from sexual addiction; I just rode, sometimes with others, but mostly alone. I was single then but acting out occasionally, PMO’ing and having the occasional affair with the attendant “wreck-sex”. It was low behavior but it was all I knew. A guy with no modeling and no accountability does those things. I was hurting but didn’t even know it. Searching and searching for myself, for connection, but truly for God. I was grasping. My father was a Navy officer, stoic and closed, which was completely dysfunctional but unrecognizably, because he appeared so stable. But the person in him was hidden; the persona was all that was available to me. I could sense the inauthenticity there, and that phoniness was repulsive and reflective. I wasn’t going to get any relationship there and made no consistent effort to break through. I was wrong for dismissing him.

    I could go on, but won’t. But LoneWolf, I could use a good SA riding partner, for a balanced 1-2 hour ride, 20-30 miles , bookended with prayer and interspersed with conversation. Got to do adequate self-care, but God, marriage, family and group are also high priority.

    Thanks for sharing your story..

  6. Thanks for the post. I had a lot more pride in the beginning of my addiction and thought I could do recovery on my own. Even when I went to groups or ‘worked’ recovery I was really relying on my own power and abilities. I relate to the lone wolf mentality.

  7. Yup, I was very prideful. And I used pride to cover my shame , my ontological or “being” shame. It wasn’t until I learned to let God in to my inmost self by way of other people and group that I began to heal….still working on it.

  8. I constantly struggle with my lone wolf. I don’t like to show anyone that I’m struggling emotionally, physically, or spiritually. However, what I am discovering is that true honesty, the ability to see and express what is really going on inside and around me, requires vulnerability. In those moments where I choose to be vulnerable the powerful connection that I get with others far surpasses strangling hold onto control that I gain while playing “the lone wolf.” It is hard to move against my instinct to isolate but when i do the payoff is always worth it.

  9. Like today, for instance. I’m having some feelings of dissatisfaction with my wife, and my marriage. I want her to be a more spiritually connected person, because I just want more depth in our relationship, because it’s just not happening. I don’t know what to do , so I need to remember to take it to prayer, and leave that with God, because I’m not here to fulfill my agenda, but God’s…so doing that, I can feel myself releasing the obsession to be this and that, and I pull myself out of the control trap….

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