"I think the rollercoaster of my own strong emotions has helped me to have compassion and empathy for others."
Today's hero is Fiona from Grey Lynn in Auckland.
Mrs D: How are you feeling about what's going on with this COVID-19 virus?
Fiona: At first I was detached and then emotional and then uncertain and now I'm ok. I had to bring it back to what I have control over and that certainly isn't COVID -19. I think the rollercoaster of my own emotions to begin with has helped me have compassion and empathy for how other people are travelling and reacting. We all have a process and a journey and timing isn't mirrored. I have had to bring it back to self though. I try not to watch the news, buy into conversations on social media or track case numbers etc because I have had to watch what I choose to have as input during this time. And an abundance of COVID-19 related information isn't what I need personally at this time. I trust our experts and am grateful for the leadership in NZ.
Mrs D: How have your emotions shifted and changed since the crisis began?
Fiona: I have shifted into a place of emotional steadiness and nuture for myself, but that has taken work and practice and guidance from others. Now I feel quite at ease, I've settled into the situation but that's been it's own journey. The first week I was dressing up for Friday dinner parties with my flatmates and work friends over an app called Houseparty, it was all quite novel. Chatting constantly with friends - face time, group chats, everything! And then the second week felt like despair haha. I felt overwhelmed by any engagement and the walls felt very close. So I had to engage with myself, what I was doing, and mostly my program of recovery...my experience has shown me that this is the way through for me. I can't work it out or do it on my own and my best thinking sometimes isn't the best thinking. I fought against the feelings because I didn't like how they felt and that didn't work. I had to recognise them, allow them in and nuture myself through them while sharing my experience with others.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Fiona: 10 glorious years one day at time
Mrs D: How is being sober helping you at this crazy time?
Fiona: It's immensely helpful, there have been so many times over the past decade I've been so grateful for this life, the support, the recipe for living, the people in 12 step programs and now is another one of those times. I have connection in abundance if I chose to use it, which I have. I have meetings across the globe I can connect to virtually, which isn't the same as a laugh and hug at meeting, but once I got over myself I've ended up loving them - especially the NZ meetings that have our own NZ flair and I get to see the faces of the people I love. We've dressed up online for milestone celebrations and our activities committee has organised all kinds of fun chaos. I love people and being able to connect in the only available way at the moment has been a mental health lifesaver. But internally not having to seek a substance outside of myself is relief. I wake up every day fresh, and I couldn't imagine adding the stress of running out and not having enough to the lockdown situation. Being connected to other people in the fellowship means I'm present to hear what works for them, how I can try something to change my day, my head, my perspective or have a laugh about needing a day in bed with Netflix. And then share those same things with others who might need to hear them. That's actually been one of the greatest gifts, the resonation with others and the trying new things. I will remember this time of space and reflection and growth, it won't be a blurry blackout where I have to ask other people what went on!
Mrs D: Have you had any pangs to drink since the lockdown began?
Fiona: Not to drink but definitely to misbehave!! Thankfully the absence of drinking makes it less likely I'll misbehave!
Mrs D: Any particular self-care actions that are helping you in these gritty times?
Fiona: I learnt a solid bedrock of action in my early years and it's something I maintain and heighten in times of grittiness. My sponsor always says to turn the recovery volume up so that's what I've done. Although I was unwilling to begin with I'm super grateful that I did now as it turned things around for me after the first week. Daily, I do readings, prayer, writing morning pages (which I learnt from other women in the fellowship), connecting with at least one other person in recovery and an online meeting. I've been spending the afternoons listening to meditations and podcasts. I'm also a sun worshipper, so the sunshine during lockdown has been a gift...sunbathing while meditating is my new favourite. And who knew I was going to be fan of long walks! I've walked all over my neighbourhood. Leaving the house has been essential to my well being, stopping at the water and green spaces to reflect on the world in its quiet has been beautiful. And laughing, I'm a laugh junkie, so finding moments of joy and laughter has been necessary and also completely changed my viewing choices. Before lockdown I was all about the dramas and since Iockdown, I've been loving kids movies hahahaha - Howl's Moving Castle really saved me one night!
Its been a time of making choices where it might not be what I think I like but it has been what I need - keeping the things I put in my mind and body, visually, mentally and physically positive.
Mrs D: What are you doing to fill in the days?
Fiona: I am fortunate to have some work (not full time) over this time so I've been doing that and having video calls with my work team - which also brings me great joy. But it turns out, where once the idea of routine disgusted me it's actually where I thrive. So every morning I wake and engage with my recovery and then my flatmates and I do a flat workout at 8.30, the red faces and noises are a hilarious morning joy. We cook together and eat together. I keep the mornings for work and afternoons for meditation, podcasts, chats, sunbathing or a walk, and have recently begun personal writing again at the beautiful prompting of a friend. In the late afternoon we usually have a street check in which is another gift of lockdown. The neighbours all have children so they meet in the street in their own driveways and the kids have chalk squares where they can talk from and ride their bikes on opposite sides of the street. It's a heart warming sense of community in a time of isolation and I love it. I sometimes race the kids on their bikes and don't let them win!
Mrs D: What would you say to people who are struggling with alcohol while they're in lockdown?
Fiona: I think the impending lockdown made many of us want to reach for something, whether that something be detrimental or positive, to cleave to during this time. Isolation and uncertainty can feel like fear and hopelessness. Don't give up hope. It is always there sometimes it just needs a little nurturing. I would encourage people to try an AA or NA meeting on Zoom, you don't have to speak or have your video on but just listen and let other people have hope for you. Let something in your day that speaks to you differently than alcohol and our own heads do. Reach out, you are not alone.
Mrs D: What's in this photo you've shared with us?
Fiona: This photo is in my happy work from home office when its sunny, otherwise my office relocates to my bed. It's one of my favourite places in the house currently. I have breakfast and coffee here every morning, I can chat to the neighbours from our deck, there's a tui that sits and sings in the giant Yukka behind me. I have music playing and can easily migrate from here to the lawn for sunbathing or the kitchen for snacks! Moments with the sun on my face, music in my ears and coffee in hand while surveying the skyline of Grey Lynn trees are some of the most joyous moments I never prioritised before time gave them back to me.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to add?
Fiona: I couldn't do this or want to do this alone, so I have immense gratitude for those before me and beside me. Life is a curious and wonderful adventure I've enjoyed more in recovery than ever before! And I found as Level 4 drew to a close that I'd miss it. The space and pace of life during that time, once I adjusted to it, has been beautiful. I love walking to places I would normally race in the car to but at the same time I can't wait for a latte!