project of Kristina Chimbaraite
I’m Eetu, 30 years old. I’m from Finland. I’m studying expert by experience now, doing youth work in school, telling my story to them as an example of how life can go wrong with small wrong decisions and they can ask whatever they want. I have been clean (not using) for over 3 years. I was in Bulgaria doing youth work.
What do you feel or what do you imagine when you hear the word ‘loneliness’?
I get so many things on my mind when I hear the word ‘loneliness’, because I had many moments in my life when I felt lonely… even with people around. I think that loneliness is like when you don’t feel like a part of some group or even part of the society. It’s not the same thing like being alone. When you feel lonely it’s like an empty street… do you know the song by Linkin Park “Numb”? Have you seen the video? People are passing by, nobody sees her. She’s just walking and nobody sees her. And I think that that’s the main case of loneliness. You feel like nobody sees you, you feel like nobody listens to you, nobody speaks to you.
Now I would like you to be as personal as you want and to go to the first or the most memorable experience of this state.
I realised it quite late. I didn’t understand it when I was little. Other kids were harassing me at school. Other kids were teasing me, hitting me and I was always walking home alone when everybody else had someone. I didn’t realise it then, but it was one of the main reasons why my life went the way it went. My decisions were wrong: I started to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes very young, because I wanted to be a part of something. And in the first moment I felt like I am a part of something but after that I felt the same. I was with people but I wasn’t there, I didn’t feel like I’m the part of the group. So I started to smoke weed, use heavier drugs and still I felt like I was alone. Even when I turned 18, I had an apartment where people were drinking and using drugs, but again… I felt lonely, because the reason why they were there was not me, it was because of the apartment. They could come and goof around, punch the walls, like destroy my apartment. And I was ok with that, because I wanted to have some people around.
"I didn’t realise it then, but it was one of the main reasons why my life went the way it went. My decisions were wrong: I started to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes very young, because I wanted to be a part of something"
I think that from these days it has been so hard for me to be myself. I always had this role like a clown, doing some stupid things, because that’s how I could get attention from people. I’ve always had this fear of missing out. Even if I wanted to do something else I didn’t have a chance, because I wanted to be a part of something. But these decisions brought me to situations like being homeless. I was homeless for about a year in Finland. When you don’t have a chance to go to the shower, to wash your clothes. And when you smell like shit and people would change the side of the street because I was smelly. It was horrible, because nobody spoke to me; nobody wanted to spend time with me, I was like metaphor of walking the empty streets. It felt like that. I felt like in Linkin Park song “Numb”. I’m walking everywhere but people just passing by not even noticing me.
"I felt like in Linkin Park song “Numb”. I’m walking everywhere but people just passing by not even noticing me"
But I think the worst moment when I felt loneliness… I tried many times to stop using drugs. And I had a couple of moments when I was not using. And I met my ex- fiancée. It was 7 years ago. And I didn’t feel lonely anymore, I was not using for a long time. But I relapsed after like one year or year and a half. I was using drugs behind her back. When she caught me, she asked ‘do the drugs help you if you feel depressed?’ And I was like: ‘Try.’
We were living together and six months after that I found her dead in our apartment. She had an overdose. I know that she wanted to do that. It was the worst moment in my life when I felt loneliness, because I had this person and she was gone. And I was the empty apartment; I couldn’t even realize what had happened. And one week after I tried to kill myself with insulin. I hit like 300 portions of that in my stomach, I passed out, but I woke up in the morning. And then I felt it again.
"I was doing crimes, so on purpose I would get caught and had to go to jail, because I knew that in jail I couldn’t do anything to myself. I knew that I couldn’t be alone"
I think that my life changer was that I was doing crimes, so on purpose I would get caught and had to go to jail, because I knew that in jail I couldn’t do anything to myself. I knew that I couldn’t be alone. I would still feel lonely, but I knew that I couldn’t be alone in this situation.
But I think that it was the worst moment in my life. I think it was the first time that I felt like it was the right place to be. I didn’t feel loneliness… yeah…
That’s crazy. Did you have feelings of guilt?
Of course, I still have. I didn’t even have a chance to go to the funeral, because her parents were blaming me.
Do they still blame you?
Mhm… I haven’t spoken with them since then.
I can’t even imagine. I also never had suicidal thoughts, but I guess this is like the most extreme side of loneliness. Can you describe what that feeling is? Maybe not to describe, but, for example, now when you recovered and you’re doing all these great things… is there something you notice that can get you back to this state? And you try to adjust your life so you don’t get back there? Or is it always different? Because for me there’s a pattern. My loneliness comes from the inside, I isolate myself. So now I can see what I am doing and stop myself from going to this point. Do you have something like that?
Yeah, I have some kind of that. You know there is AA (alcoholic anonymous)? I am in like narcotic anonymous. So we have a big group of people all over the world, millions of people who stopped using and they are supporting each other. And all of us have some pattern. And we have groups in Finland, and I have been there for three years. And this group has a program that helps you to get out of this pattern. These days it’s not so common anymore. First year when I stopped using this pattern was in me, I still have it a little bit.
"and if I don’t speak about these emotions, there’s like a lump inside of me. And if it’s going to explode then I’m going to feel loneliness again"
Like you said, I started to isolate myself. When I’m getting negative emotions I put them inside of me, I won’t speak about it, and then I start to blame others, not myself (normally my behaviour is like shit, but I blame others). And if I don’t speak about these emotions, there’s like a lump inside of me. And if it’s going to explode then I’m going to feel loneliness again. I don’t feel it now, because it takes time to get a big lump.
And I have sponsor in Finland, it’s like mentor. Once a week I speak with him. He knows how to ask the right questions so the lump doesn’t get so big. The lump is always there, but not so big. Because if there’s no more room for lump, it’s going to explode. And then I don’t know what is going to happen. But this kind of situation hasn’t happened for over two years now.
How… I don’t know if it’s a decision, but how did it happen that you stopped using drugs, then stopped using alcohol?
Last seven years my life was like going in loups. I was using drugs, doing crimes, went to prison, stopped using, relapsed, started to use drugs again. It was the same circle and I wanted to get out of it. Last time when I freed from the jail, it was over three and a half years ago, I realised that I didn’t have anything when I went out. And I used drugs again and I realised that maybe I could have something else in my life, maybe I was supposed to do something else. And then there was one Facebook group…
I decided again to kill myself. I decided to go to railway and jump from the up and train would crush me. And I went first to Facebook in one library in Finland and first thing that pops on my feed is one post from this group. This group was about supporting each other, like ‘you have a chance today to turn around’. And then I realised that it’s there because it should be there and like a voice in my head said: ‘ask help’. And then I wrote in this group and like 20 people replied: ‘just come to Helsinki, we are going to help you’. And I counted my money and decided to go. This was the decision that led me to this day.
"and we are all doing stuff together and speaking, because I realised that my addiction was not just a mistake, it is a disease"
With that support… and I supported loads of people after I stopped using. There are people who stopped using 20 years ago, others like 5 days ago. And we are all doing stuff together and speaking, because I realised that my addiction was not just a mistake, it is a disease. My addiction is not only drugs; it’s playing PlayStation or eating candy. And I need support to get control back to me. Main thing in our program is that when you give something to someone else, you get it back. That’s the only option: when you’re giving, you’re receiving.
Also feeling like a part of the community?
A part of people like me.
Have you developed through this time some techniques or tricks how to adjust and use not to get back to loneliness? Because when you are in that state, you think that it will never going to end, and you go deeper and deeper. So is there something to help yourself or someone to not to go deeper?
I think it’s an action: just speak with someone. You don’t have to speak about certain things, it doesn’t matter. Because loneliness itself is just a feeling, it’s not a route. I think no one in the world is really alone, there could be some, but most of us just feel loneliness. So what I’m saying even during my work, drug education, to kids in high school: ‘never leave someone alone’. Because when you feel lonely, you make the worst decisions like suicide, using drugs, stealing, violence… anything. And I think that the best thing to do is to get support from someone. From people who are going through the same things like you. And now there’s a lot of support groups, and people doesn’t even know about this. I’m not talking about professionals, it could be a best friend, or mother, or just someone.
Yes, I think this is one of the scariest things especially for young people, because you don’t feel secure to speak about it with your family.
I know that this is hard. I believe in leaving in guidance. Your life goes without you; it goes like it was supposed to go. If you are not trying to control it all the time, it just goes how it was supposed to go. I’m quite certain that anyone who feels loneliness they have met someone in their life who’s willing to listen, who’s willing to support.
Is this a reason or one of the reasons why and how you started to do drug education?
This is one of the reasons, yeah… yeah, because I don’t want kids to make the same wrong decisions as me. I think that most of the kids start using drugs because of loneliness or because it’s a mystery for them. So if I’m talking about how drugs affect you, what is happening in your head when you are using and how is your life going, so they can hear it like even when I was using I still felt lonely. I started using because I felt lonely and even when I was using I felt lonely. I stopped using because I felt lonely and I started again because I felt lonely. So what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t change anything. Using drugs is just like… some drugs affect you for 15 minutes, but still after that the situation is the same.
"I started using because I felt lonely and even when I was using I felt lonely. I stopped using because I felt lonely and I started again because I felt lonely"
So there has to be some other option. Some kids are talking to me about how they’re feeling, because they don’t have any trusted adult. They’re afraid to speak with teacher, because they’re afraid of punishment. And same thing is with parents. So I’m always saying to kids in high school ‘if you see me in the hallways of the school, just come to talk to me’, because everyone needs somebody to speak to.
What can you say for those who haven’t experienced this kind of extreme version of loneliness and to those who just want to know more? And do you have any advice to those who are witnessing someone in their life going through that period of loneliness?
Yeah, speak to them. That’s the main thing, so they can understand more about this thing. Because you can’t really understand it if you haven’t felt it yourself or someone very close to you haven’t gone through that.
And for those who are going through it now and feels like it’s never going to end, what would you say?
They can send me a message (smiles). I just want to say to them to get courage to speak to someone. It doesn’t matter what the other person says, because there’s like a mirror for you. When you’re speaking about this feeling, it bounces back to you and maybe then you can understand that it’s not the truth. You feel like it but you are not alone.