"I've reconnected with some of the simpler things in life, like writing letters and cards to keep in touch."
Today's hero is Daisy who lives in Scotland.
Mrs D: How are you feeling about what's going on with this COVID-19 virus?
Daisy: I'm deeply upset about the pandemic and its global impact for all of us. Watching the media is very difficult. Whilst the unlimited coverage is in some ways reassuring, in other ways it feeds into my subconscious paranoia. I am very lucky I live in a very rural area, we have fresh air all around us, most of my family live in cities with limited access to outdoor space, living in communal buildings. My husband is categorised at vulnerable, so we have isolated ourselves almost entirely since mid to late March. We are very fortunate we can do this, we have a garden, we have space around us and a decent store cupboard. So many other friends and family are not as fortunate. My children are both in the city. One is working from home, one is not and has lost their job. We hear daily of the cases, the deaths and the increasing sorrow around the world and wonder when it will stop and what happens next. My heart goes out to anyone closely affected or have lost someone. It's a dreadful time.
Mrs D: How have your emotions shifted and changed since the crisis began?
Daisy: Like everyone I think my emotions have been a roller coaster, up one day, down the other. Tears, sleeping more, hyper-activity, no activity. I've reconnected with some of the simpler things in life, like writing letters and cards, we have a post box in our village and that's a way to keep in touch. A lot of the habits we had previously (eating out, takeaways, etc) seem frivolous and expensive when you've time to spend cooking. I have never been a fan of video chatting, but find myself in need of seeing faces of the ones I love. I guess there's a real sense of enjoying some of the fundamental things that we can't currently do in new ways.
Mrs D: Has there been anything specific that this crisis has bought up for you?
Daisy: For myself personally it has brought up a lot of feelings and emotions about my own perception of feeling safe. I have found that throughout my adult life I have a real need for safety, being in a safe space and creating a safe space for my family. The current crisis feels like a real threat the to safety of ourselves and our loved ones. It's invisible and it's out there, nothing is safe. I remember as a child being trapped in a civil war in Cyprus, all our families were locked in our homes with a British identifying sign in our window. We didn't leave the house, we ate tins of soup and readied ourselves to leave when the opportunity arose. We slept under the bed, listened to mortar falling in far off places, hoping that it would stop or we would be rescued. Whilst there are not visible signs of war, this does to me feel like a war, a very silent, very vicious, war. We don't know if we have it, where it is, what it might do to us. We can't see our loved ones or keep them safe, we just try to encourage them to make sensible choices and hope, somehow, they don't come in contact with this silent killer. Our house, like many others, is a no go zone, which to be honest, I quite like! I have social anxiety and the idea that no one can come in (whilst I miss my other family massively) is very soothing for me. It's like I'm on a little sober ship, in the middle of the chaotic world, safe. I find as an introvert, my interactions with the outside world is often fraught with deep anxiety, I still have this for my family outside. But, I know, I need to work on this, as I could easily cut myself off for the world, and that's not healthy either.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Daisy: I'm currently on 75 days. I've had times where I've had longer sober stretches and shorter ones, trapped in a spiral of day ones, day twos, day one again. I've a clear history of alcohol dependence in our family. Over the years I've chosen many of my friends with a more drinking attitude to keep me company. My being sober on and off over the years has been hard for me and hard for them too. Its only been recently I've managed to have a few open conversations about alcohol, and my difficult relationship with it. I celebrated my birthday a few days ago. I'm 52, for me this has been a real drive in this attempt at living a sober life. My father died at 52, drank himself to death, he died alone, no partner, no family, no kids checking in on him. He had pushed us all away. I was on a very similar path. Drinking heavily daily and pushing folk away. I celebrated my birthday in lockdown, sober. If I'm honest this milestone was massive for me. A sober birthday, acknowledging how much love and support I have around me. If I hadn't been more open and honest with myself and my friends, my family and I was still drinking I would have felt desperately alone, even if I was surrounded by people. However, whilst my family were far spread and inaccessible I have never felt so much support and love around me. I stopped pushing folk away. A wobbly day 75, but a good day.
Mrs D: How is being sober helping you at this crazy time?
Daisy: I think for me the lack of paranoia I feel when I've been drinking is not something I could cope with at the moment. The world is a crazy place, so many variables of this pandemic that we don't know about, I can't imagine feeling my drinking paranoia everyday. I need a clear head. I want to be available 24/7 for my family if they need me. Drinking leaves me physically and mentally exhausted. Usually I over compensate for this with wild activity and over active thinking. Being sober I find I am able to sit and just think. I don't judge myself quite so harshly. That voice that tells me I'm not good enough is still there, but its not dominating my thoughts. I also think that there's no right way to feel a the moment.
Mrs D: Have you had any pangs to drink since the lockdown began?
Daisy: Yes, those have been hard some days, sometimes almost crawling up the walls. Waking up relieved, having not drunk, is often unexpected (still), but feels better than the paranoia and self loathing I would be experiencing drinking. I've had good news and bad news during the lockdown, they often immediately go to celebrate/commiserate. I've trying to watch out for my triggers.
Mrs D: Any particular self-care actions that are helping you in these gritty times?
Daisy: I am not very good at self-care. Like many of us drinkers, I don't feel like I deserve it. However, in this crazy time, I have thought long and hard about our spaces at home and rejigged a few areas to allow the two of us to have different spaces to relax in, eat in and add a bit of variety to the day. We don't have a large living space, but its big enough to allow this to happen. I'm treating the house and garden a little like our own little sober ship. We are at sea in the middle of this pandemic and this is our safe place. We sleep here, we eat here and we breathe here, so the care of this little ship is important, as are its crew. I'm lucky that both myself and my partner love food, so that's been a good focus for me. When drinking I'd normally fill my face (quite literally) with snacks, bad food choices and over eat. I can't say some of this isn't happening, I'm a girl who really loves her food, but generally I'm being so much more mindful about our food and our day now works around mealtimes.
Mrs D: What are you doing to fill in the days?
Daisy: I'm cooking so much more, and take a lot of joy out of creating. My children are grown up and live in the city. I know I am fortunate to have both the time to cook and access to food. So many others are not so fortunate. I've made sure I keep in touch with my family and some close friends. My sister in law works in a hospital, regularly on RED wards, I find myself making more time for checking in with folks even for a few minutes rather than putting these conversations off for later. We walk locally and try to keep to a bit of a routine. Often I'm not good at this, but I am trying!
Mrs D: What would you say to people who are struggling with alcohol while they're in lockdown?
Daisy: I am mindful of the time that I spend on social media and on news coverage. I want to be informed but not overwhelmed. I know I can easily waste a day on my phone and feel exhausted afterwards, guilty at my lack of action and very overwhelmed. Overwhelm and self loathing, for me is a big drinking trigger. I know that feeling numb is tantalising sometimes, but it only lasts for a few hours and the paranoia I experience afterwards for me isn't healthy. I struggle to have just a glass of wine, whilst I can convince myself I have control, I do not. I'm struggling, some days are harder than others. I keep no alcohol in the house, its not a safe strategy for me. When I have cravings and sometimes these can be several times a day, I do a self check if I can, or I try and distract myself. Self checking - what's up? There are several good methods out there (HALT - Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) is one I use as I can find myself in this category often!! (Although I'm not so hungry these days....!) The other thing I really need to do is DISTRACT myself. Cravings for me come in waves, at the moment, for me these can last for 20 minutes to an hour or longer. I've eaten more chocolate in this 75 day period than I have my whole life. It's a distraction. I'm OK with that. Bring on the comfort. I'd tell you I distract myself by cleaning my house, but lets be honest, that's a lie. Hoovering was boring when I was drinking, its still boring. When I have cravings I try and find sometime else to do, quickly. I stick my boots on and walk. I cook, I just do something to try and distract myself to let it pass. Chat to a pal, go online to sites that make you feel distracted, chat to sober folks, be kind to yourself, often these feelings are overwhelming but they do pass, eventually. If they don't and you find yourself drinking, be kind to yourself. You've had a slip, it doesn't define you. Think of all the good progress we are all making in our daily lives adjusting to a very new and unknown world. Reach out. You're not alone.
Mrs D: What's in this photo you've shared with us?
Daisy: Some flowers from my garden. I had a very bad craving one early evening. I had received some upsetting news, I was angry and I wanted to reach for the wine. I phoned a friend, had a rant, put my boots on and I made a rainbow. Those feelings passed, eventually. Try and enjoy the small things.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to add?
Daisy: Its a crazy time, we've never seen anything like it. Be kind to yourself, I'm trying to focus on what you can control, live each day as it comes, try not to get too overwhelmed and staying safe. I hope you can too.