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 Julie who lives in North Wales.
Mrs D: How are you feeling about what's going on with this Covid-19 virus?
Julie: It’s scary isn’t it? I have friends who work in the NHS and in care homes and they are all working flat out to help those in need. At first I thought it was an overreaction, with typical alkie thinking I thought ‘I wont get it, I’m different!’ I was also disappointed that events were cancelled, things I had been looking forward to. I’ve never been great at obeying rules and of course my instinct was to rebel! Thankfully I didn’t.
Mrs D: How have your emotions shifted and changed since the crisis began?
Julie: As time has gone on and I have become more educated and aware of the situation I am far more accepting. I am so lucky to live where I do with access to the countryside and to the beach from my house. I don’t have to walk far to be away from everything and everyone. I have only had one ‘bad’ day so far – when I became frustrated and felt trapped. I rang a friend and just talking it through made it so much better. It helps me to know that I am not alone and that all over the world people are experiencing this. It also makes me grateful that I still have some work and somewhere to live.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Julie: I just celebrated my 8th sober birthday - the day after the UK lockdown. My friends from my original AA home group sent me a video that they had recorded the week before of them all singing Happy Birthday! It was lovely to see them and was the best present I could have had.
Mrs D: How is being sober helping you at this crazy time?
Julie: Oh can you imagine?! I would be ignoring all advice (good and otherwise), I would have been panic buying vodka and forgetting to buy food, I would be charging around going to visit people. Driving – possibly when drunk or badly hungover. Traversing the country staying with one friend or another, having parties, having fights and possibly causing myself harm or harm to others. Anxiety and fear were rife in me when I was drinking. I never realised that the booze I was taking to cure those ills was actually making them worse. Thank God I don’t have to do that stuff any more. I am immensely grateful that my AA programme has taught me how to accept what I cannot change and realise that nothing is anything other than what we think it is. If I think something is bad then it is, if its good then it is. It’s all about my attitude. Easier said than done sometimes but I have to look at how I look at situations.
Mrs D: Have you had any pangs to drink since the lockdown began?
Julie: Not one.
Mrs D: Any particular self-care actions that are helping you in these gritty times?
Julie: I meditate in the mornings and make sure that I have some sort of routine. I walk outside and if the weather permits I sit outside when I can.
Mrs D: What are you doing to fill in the days?
Julie: Like I say I need routine, I always had this idea that I was wild and free that I was just a spontaneous individual that was able to grasp the day. What rubbish! The truth, whether I like it or not, is I am a creature of habit, not rigid routine but I do like flexibility within a schedule! So I walk my dog, I meditate – I am lucky enough to be able to still work from home. I have painted the bathroom floor (this made me inordinately proud!) I live alone with my dog so I don’t have to negotiate anyone else’s moods and I think that, for me, is a blessing. I also have access to hundreds of AA meetings online and have been making use of them, staying in contact with my friends both sober and those who never had a problem. In fact I feel more connected than I do usually!
Mrs D: How drastically has day-to-day life changed for you?
Julie: My life hasn’t changed all that much really. I work from home anyway and I don’t mind my own company – there is such a massive difference between being alone and being lonely. I do service in AA so I man their online email helpline as part of a team working from our own homes all over the UK. That helps me a lot, it reminds me of what it was like to be in the mental torment of wanting to stop but not knowing how. As well as that, if I was to read all the books I have bought and not read I could stay in lockdown for a year! I don’t drink, but my nature is always to escape and go round emotions rather than through them. So I have over indulged in ice cream now and again and I have managed not to buy the entire contents of Amazon’s warehouse! All or nothing thinking can be a challenge for me. At least I am aware of it now and know that there are other self caring things I can do.
Mrs D: What would you say to people who are struggling with alcohol while they're in lockdown?
Julie: It is the most horrible feeling and I do get it. I’ve done it. If you realise that you have a problem with drinking then please reach out to others who understand. There are thousands of online AA meetings all over the world welcoming newcomers and all sorts of websites and Facebook pages to help those who want to stop drinking. AA is just one way for people to get sober and it worked for me. I never wanted to be miserable and sober or stark raving sober, I just wanted a normal life without the chaos, misery and drama. I am so glad I am not drinking vodka now – in fact I know there is absolutely nothing in my life today that would be made better by pouring booze on it.
Mrs D: What's in this photo you've shared with us?
Julie: This was taken on one of our walks, it’s a path that was strewn either side with spring flowers leading up to the ruins of a Welsh castle. We saw no-one and the air was still and fresh and sunny. It reminds me of how lucky I am and how grateful I am to be sober and to appreciate the simple things around me.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to add?
Julie: Just that this, like everything else, will pass and I hope that I remember the lessons that slowing down has taught me. I hope I remember to appreciate the things in my ‘normal’ life that I took for granted, and I will enjoy walking into my favourite café and meeting my favourite people face to face. And giving them a massive hug! Stay safe all.