Moment by moment (Guest Post)

melancholy man

This guest posts comes from Tom aka @behind-the-sofa, a long-time member of this site and sober hero now working in peer support. For more on his sobriety journey, read his Sober Story here.

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Tom: I found pandemic lockdowns really hard. My routines went out the window; sleep became an arduous chore. I had drinking dreams and other disturbing dreams - vivid and real and then gone a few moments after waking up with only an uneasy shadow left behind. On waking, the heaviness and crushing oppressiveness of another day spent in the uncertain, alienated wasteland of lockdown.

The same as the day before, and the day before that one and the day before that one. Time stretched out like bread dough into one long elastic floppy moment of dullness and lethargy. At times it’s taken a monumental effort of willpower just to get out of bed. I'd lie there for hours sometimes in limbo, wanting to get out but not able.

The only time I’ve felt fatigue like that before was in early sobriety when my body and mind were working overtime to deal with withdrawal. I think this brought up echoes of early sobriety for me and also the trauma that I drank to cover up and which I was starting to wrestle with in sobriety.

Mental health can be fragile at the best of times but I never realised that the noise and busyness of normal everyday life was actually helping to keep me sane. The usual distractions of daily routines, social interactions, sports, cafes, and driving a car - most of my usual coping strategies - were taken away during the pandemic and in their place were stories of death, fear, worry and anxiety.

One thing I held onto in the new reality was that all around the world people are experiencing similar things, which is oddly comforting – who could have predicted such a sense of worldwide community was possible? If you’re suffering with something it’s always a relief to know that others are going through similar or worse things (which is why sober communities are so helpful).

I’m pleased if you had good experiences during pandemic lockdowns and managed to be productive. That’s great, but for some - if not many - the suffering made us want to scream. In many ways a lot of my usual acute anxieties have been taken away as there’s been little social interaction but they’ve been replaced with (or unearthed) an underlying nebulous anxiety and bouts of heavy depression.

I’d heard the expression "taking it moment by moment" before and used it myself quite a few times. In recovery they say things like "take it one day at a time", in meditation you’re supposed to be in the present moment. I knew this concept and thought I understood it. In very early sobriety I would try to get through one hour at a time: If you’re craving a drink at 5pm and you’ve made a commitment to NEVER to drink again for all eternity, the weight of time is pretty crushing. Your brain can’t fathom that the craving will ever subside. All you know is that you’re dying for a drink right this second, it seems like you’re going to feel this way forever and that there’s no way you can handle it. You start to spin out and it just feels so overwhelming that you need to drink.

But you tell yourself 6pm. I’ll give myself to 6pm. I’ll somehow try to get through to 6pm and if the pain is still unbearable then I’ll go get a drink. 6pm rolls around and with any luck the worst of the cravings have passed, you can breathe perhaps… so you extend it to 7pm… then 8pm…  you don’t feel good but the urge has relinquished it’s vice like grip on your head, no point caving now, might as well try to sleep.

I knew the concept of taking life in small doses but it wasn’t until these lockdowns that I was actually forced to take life literally moment by moment. I had to stop and slow down like I’d never done before. Slow. Right. Down….. To…… One….. Moment….. At….. A….. Time. The only way I could handle lockdown was to stop everything; stop planning, stop thinking, narrow my world to this moment.

I asked myself: can you get through this moment? Yes, and what about this moment? Also yes. That gave me something to cling to as I lay staring at the ceiling.

For all lockdown’s challenges it did give us a unique moment to push pause. A lot of people can now see that the old way of doings things was unsustainable.

Maybe it’s not lockdown that traumitised me; maybe it’s helped me to see more clearly the trauma caused by our normal culture. As restrictions have eased and people have again ventured out of their homes, let’s hope we can all start to make some positive changes.

I think we can simply start with trying to change our own thinking – and if that’s just replacing one negative thought with a positive thought – that’s as good a place as any to start.

20 Comments
  1. song-bird 9 months ago

    This is very poignantly written Tom @behind-the-sofa, quite beautiful and so honest. As a fellow sufferer of dreadful anxiety and depression, I identify and appreciate this so much.

  2. kevin29 10 months ago

    That was such a great post. I’m on Day 5, one of many Day 5’s I’ve had in the past, and my body now literally aches. I guess it’s the shock to the system, but your post really helped and my mind feels good right now. I love the moment to moment philosophy and it helps.

  3. Brummiebird 11 months ago

    Oh, dearest Tom.
    You are ace.
    And, as usual, have totally nailed it.
    Lovely to hear from you
    Xxx

  4. zittaa 11 months ago

    @ behindthesofa, you’ve done such hard yards, what an example you are. Tremendous thanks. Virtual hand shake.

  5. hummingbird 11 months ago

    thanks for sharing @behind-the-sofa . It was on this forum that I took my first tentative steps toward being vulnerable and sharing what I felt so much shame around. I think it is part of why this community works. We feel less alone x

  6. Liberty 11 months ago

    Miss you here friend. Thanks as always for your wonderful, visceral writing. I very much relate to your description of lockdown dis-ease.

    • behind-the-sofa 11 months ago

      Hello @Liberty – lovely to get a comment/compliment from you : )

  7. ShannonH 11 months ago

    This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. It was very encouraging to read this morning!

  8. Mari135 11 months ago

    Tom xoxo So good to see your name and face pop up. You and Prudence were two of those very first important people I met on here on the old, orange-colored forum. If you ever come back to social media (don’t, it’s still awful out there, and you’re not missing out on anything!) shoot me a message to catch up if you’d like to. I am really glad you’re still in touch with Lotta. Thanks heaps for sharing this post!

    • behind-the-sofa 11 months ago

      Hello @Mari135 – confession: sometimes I sneakily drop in and read your amazing posts (I’m awful I know – I should have left some comments : )

  9. Benjamin 11 months ago

    Thanks Tom for years I have struggled with terrible loneliness battling depression constantly living on a knife edge but its thanks to courageous people such as yourself and this wonderful place that the thought that no one else gets it is going and the knowledge that I’m not alone is taking over. I truly feel I no longer need to look for help at the bottom of a bottle.

    • behind-the-sofa 11 months ago

      Awesome @Benjamin !!! the power of connection and community is everything : )

  10. Hellsbells 11 months ago

    Hi Tom- I read today’ one of the effects of mass merchandising in the later 20C is to underline the inherent ephemerality of the present’ Well Covid wrecked that mass merchandising and we are stuck with ourselves and our surroundings for longer than is comfortable for many. Its hard work! We are used to doing what we like when we like.

    • behind-the-sofa 11 months ago

      Hi @Hellsbells – covid has certainly shaken things up : )

  11. reena 11 months ago

    Thank you for your raw honesty Tom @behind-the-sofa, the compassionate writing is so appreciated to know you are not alone with these thoughts.

    • behind-the-sofa 11 months ago

      Thanks @reena – we’re not alone; just feels like it sometimes ; )

  12. Lee2 11 months ago

    Thank you for taking the time to post this @behindthesofa. It is all so very relatable and you are absolutely right, it helps to know that others are experiencing the same thing.. It’s far from over for us here and we are forced into a full on contagious society to work which breeds a different type of fear. Drinking never solves anything and your description of the dreadful detox will aid in my determination to continue to leave the booze behind. Best to you!!

    • behind-the-sofa 11 months ago

      Thanks @Lee2 – drinking certainly only compounds the problems : )

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