This is a new series of 'Sober Lockdown Stories' featuring people with any length of sobriety sharing how they're keeping themselves well during the global pandemic crisis.
Today's sober hero is Dave (@daveh) who lives in Kaikoura.
Mrs D: How are you feeling about what's going on with this Covid-19 virus?
Dave: I first noticed the virus in the news in late December and watched as it spread in China. I clearly remember thinking that only in China could they send an entire population indoors for a month (it turned into two) but I was wrong; two months later we are doing exactly the same. Who’d have thought a month ago that this was even possible? We were sensitive to the virus in Kaikoura because we are on a major tourist route and virtually all of our visitors are from overseas. We got increasingly anxious at the motel as we had no idea when we walked into a unit whether or not our guests had brought the virus in with them. So it was a pretty tense time going in and cleaning not knowing that. Then Jacinda (our Prime Minister) started coming on the news and began to spell out exactly what things were going to be like for a while. From those first messages things snowballed very quickly and in no time at all we were all shut up in our homes. In truth it was quite a relief for us to wave off the last of our guests. The lockdown came into effect and everything came to a dramatic stop. Suddenly found I was spending waaaayyyy too much time reading the news from around the world and I was wound-up and distressed. It was then that I realised “you dummy!… you’ve been here before”. I recognised that the worried and distressed state was just like when I first got sober, and when I realised this I dropped straight back into using the tools and disciplines I’d adopted in early recovery. And guess what? They still work.
Mrs D: What are those tools and disciplines?
Dave: What helped me a lot when stopping drinking were some mind management tools that I’d picked up. One is to do with staying in the present - “one day at a time”. There’s a Buddhist quote that says “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” I was anxious, and I was anxious because I was overthinking the future. If I look at the future then I cause myself worry by dwelling on the uncertainty of everything, but when pull it back to the present then things look completely different. We have a well-stocked fridge and pantry, the lights are still on, water still comes out of the taps, our rubbish gets collected on Thursdays and we have a reliable and unlimited internet connection. On top of that we’ve now both received 12 weeks’ pay from the government, so all up we’re sorted. We have everything we need and lack for nothing. Today, everything is OK. Keeping my head out of the future is one tool to manage anxiety and another is to do with control. The idea here is that there are some things that I CAN control and there are things that I cannot… and right now there’s an awful lot of stuff happening around my personal circumstances and around the world that I have absolutely no control over whatsoever. I need to accept the things I can’t change… “It is what it is”. These are two simple disciplines that I practised scrupulously in my early recovery and now I’m back to deliberately working at them again. We recovered alcoholics have a clear advantage at this time. We’ve been in the position before, where we had no option but to do something confronting that we really didn’t want to do, and we learned how to deal with that within our minds. Those skills are relevant again now and right now I’m firmly back to “one day at a time”:
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Dave: As I write this it is Day 3552.
Mrs D: How is being sober helping you at this crazy time?
Dave: The disciplines that helped me in recovery are helping me again in these most uncertain of times. One of the things I can certainly be most grateful about (and there is no shortage of these at the moment) is that I’m not still drinking. If I were still drinking I would be nearly panic-stricken; how on earth would I buy enough, and hide enough, and drink enough booze to keep me satiated? I have no idea; I would be a total messed-up ball of stress and an absolute arse to live with. I know this so deeply that any idea of drinking at the moment never even gains enough traction to break through into conscious thought. A drink will make me feel better, briefly, and then it will make me feel far worse. That’s what drinking always did and a pandemic hasn’t changed that. I drank to be happy, but it left me miserable. I drank to relax but it left me anxious. I drank to have friends but it left me alone and I drank to be free but it left me trapped. The lockdown changes none of these things.
Mrs D: What's in this photo you've shared with us?
Dave: The picture for this post is my battered old iPad. It has taken on a TARDIS-like quality these days and has changed how I think of distance. On my iPad I’m linked to people anywhere in the world, and right now 2 doors away is the exactly the same distance as the other side of the world. My morning routine is to speak to my mother and sister in the UK, my daughter in Ireland and my son in Golden Bay. I am more connected to my family right now than I have been in years and I’m not at all sure if I’m helping them or helping me… both I think.z
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to add?
Dave: I can’t end without saying this: It won’t stay like this forever, it will change and it will turn out fine in the end. Am I worried about how to make it through another three four or five weeks of lockdown? No, not at all. I only need to deal with today. That is the whole extent of the challenge and I’m confident I can do that. I can do this.