Sobriety in the Time of Covid-19

I am always grateful for my sobriety, but right now I am extra grateful to be sober! Are these wild times or what? I’ve gotten over the whole “we are living in a sci-fi movie” feeling (that was SO March 2020), and have moved on to acceptance. Acceptance that life as we knew it is over. Acceptance that all the things I had planned for this year most likely won’t happen. Acceptance for the fear and uncertainty this pandemic has brought into our daily lives. Acceptance that I really am doing the best that I can right now.

The start of this year was a bit of a whirlwind, and in January my coworker let us know that she was taking a new job after 17 years with our college. I decided immediately that despite her position not being what I thought I would ever go for in my field, I needed to apply for her job. I work at a tiny academic library, and this would most likely be my only way to move up professionally for a long time. I’m happy where I am at, and would like to be able to stay in one place for a while. So I busted my butt trying to learn the basics of this position for the next month, applied for the job, and I got the promotion. Shortly after, the Covid-19 bomb went off and life hasn’t been the same.

As a regular NPR listener, I’d been hearing about the virus that was ravaging Wuhan but it naively never occurred to me that we would be in danger of an outbreak here. Two of my coworkers were panicking way ahead of the curve, and I found their fears to be over the top. My husband and I had plane tickets to fly to Cleveland at the end of March so I could celebrate my 40th birthday with family and friends, but it quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t be flying anywhere.

All of a sudden my entire weekly routine was out of whack, and that’s when I started to panic. Two major parts of my week day routine that helps me to keep my head on straight are classes at my gym and AA meetings. All of a sudden we were told to stay home and avoid contact with others. I was at a small concert on March 18th, and next day the band canceled the rest of their tour. The NBA had suspended their season. TOM HANKS HAD THE DAMN VIRUS! Things began getting more real, and more weird at the same time. My boss and I were the only ones working while our campus turned into a ghost town over spring break. Each night we were told to take home our laptops and essentials in case we were told not to return to work. Meanwhile, my husband had been working from home indefinitely since March 17th. My last day at work was March 25th as our city’s shelter in place rules would begin to take effect the next morning for the next 30 days. Our shelter in place has since been extended while yesterday our city had the highest spike yet in recorded infections.

Thankfully my AA home group began running via Zoom on the 25th, and my gym started its online classes that Monday. I immediately dove in to keep myself busy and help stifle the panic that flopped around in my chest like an awkward baby bird. I turned 40, and while I got to enjoy a beautiful spring day scoping out an amazing old cemetery (social distancing at its finest), underneath it all I was disappointed. I wasn’t able to see my family or friends, and I couldn’t even celebrate with a nice meal out at a restaurant. First world problems, but I was bummed. Obviously a birthday is just another day, but 40 seemed special and my big day was overshadowed by impending doom.

Meanwhile, my new sponsor was in an emotional free fall. She suffered a loss immediately after we started working together in December, and subsequently fell into a deep depression. It turned into a nosedive as the threat of coronavirus and quarantine creeped in. I was struggling too, but I was also really worried about her. We finally came to the mutual agreement that it would be best that I find another sponsor. Our time working together was short, but I love her and wish her the best. We are in the same home group, and still text every couple of days or so. Within a week, I had a new sponsor. She is also in my home group, and has been a friend since I moved here. She is retired, lives alone, and is grateful to be working with a new sponsee. We immediately began our step work, and it is going so well.

I discovered early on that life in the time of Covid-19 felt much like early sobriety. Since this pandemic is an entirely new experience for all of us, I had to learn how to deal with life and manage my emotions just as I did when I was newly sober. In early sobriety, I was afraid of everything, had zero armor to protect myself emotionally, and my feelings were all over the place. Scared one minute, happy the next, crying after that. As quarantine loomed and shit became REAL fast, I was riding a roller coaster of emotions. Every hour I seemed to be feeling something different: fear, then anxiety, then gratitude, back to fear, then dread. It was dizzying and I felt brand new all over again. I was incredibly grateful to be able to work from home, then I realized how hard it was to work from home. I was tired all the time, mentally exhausted, and trying to do my old job, the new job, and train the new guy. I unloaded all of these frustrations at a meeting, and was quickly snapped back to reality. A home group member and dear friend said, “Listen, you aren’t just working from home. You are stuck at home during a time of CRISIS, and you are trying to work.” It sounds so simple, but I hadn’t been able to make that connection in my brain. As usual, my expectations of myself were entirely too high! It took some time, but I have come to a level of acceptance that I am doing the best that I can right now. We all are.

The big perk of working from home is the stellar commute! I quickly developed a routine where I could sleep in 20 minutes later than normal, shower, grab some coffee, then head upstairs to have some quiet time to center myself before starting my day. I would read several daily meditations (Daily Reflections and The 24 Hour Book), do some quarantine journaling based on these questions, then text my sponsor. It was a great way to center myself, and get back to the basics. Having a structured routine is really important to me, and I think the change in everything was another big reason for my panicking at the beginning of all this with the gym and AA. In the meantime, I’ve had sessions with my counselor every other week via Zoom. Our sessions are productive, but I’ve discovered that they really wipe me out. We always meet at 9 a.m., and by my lunch break I am exhausted. So much extra energy is going into our new worlds, and I am trying to be kinder to myself and except that sometimes I just need to lie down. So on those days with counseling, I lie down and sometimes I get a nap in during my break. If I don’t sleep, I still feel better after letting myself relax and be still for at least 30 minutes. Old me would have felt that I was being lazy; new me knows that I have a lot going on and that it is perfectly okay to rest!

The past two weeks I’ve felt worlds different mentally. I am also feeling better after extreme screen time/Zoom/talk exhaustion. I was spending a lot of time each week checking in and calling my Mom, Dad, brother, and two grandmothers that I felt worn out. For some reason I thought I would have so much time and energy to catch up with old friends, video chat, play games with people online….and crickets. Again, high expectations of myself. This has been a challenging learning experience in so many ways. I thought that I would have so much more time and energy to do things, when I’ve ended up being wiped out. I am in no way bored, and I’m not just sitting on my butt doing nothing. Survival mode is rough. It’s not just about goofing off all weekend, it’s about being responsible and taking care of yourself. Thankfully I am sober, or else I would probably spend most of this quarantine being blacked out, sick, paralyzed with fear, and doing horribly irresponsible things because I would need to get out and get more booze.

I hope you are all healthy, safe, and doing what you can to take good care of yourself. I know it’s hard when things are scary, but really taking it one day at a time is so, so helpful. Try to stay into today, and know that you are doing the best that you can right now. And I am proud of you!

575 Days

A quick post to let everyone know that I am finally free. I’ve missed you all so much, and appreciate your kind thoughts and support. It still means the world to me!

I am slowly adjusting to life post-incarceration and am reveling in simple pleasures: sunshine and fresh air, real coffee, walks with my dog, fresh fruits and vegetables, being able to hug friends and family, sleeping in a real bed with a pillow, wearing my own undies, etc. While I am grateful to put the past six months behind me, there are still many obstacles looming on the horizon. I’m scared and hope I have the strength to get through all this. One day at a time right?

Looking forward to catching up with you all!