"I’ve always hidden how I feel but my coping strategies were alcohol and self harm and I quit both."
Today's hero is Nicky who lives in Auckland.
Mrs D: How are you feeling about what's going on with this COVID-19 virus?
Nicky: At the beginning of lockdown, the company I contract to assured me there would be plenty of work that I could do from home while I looked after the kids. After two weeks, the work dried up and so we’ve essentially dropped to one income. My husband is working from home, so for 8 hours a day he’s working at a desk in the bedroom, and I’m doing activities or home schooling with the kids in the living room.
Mrs D: How have your emotions shifted and changed since the crisis began?
Nicky: There are times when I’ve been really anxious about where my career has gone and what will happen about work. I’m an introvert so the lack of social occasions hasn’t bothered me as much as the lack of privacy and being surrounded by constant noise all day every day. I love my kids, but it gets overwhelming. And I’m not naturally creative so I’ve felt a failure at times not being able to recreate all the amazing crafts and activities that others are doing.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Nicky: I haven’t had a drink since January last year (2019).
Mrs D: How is being sober helping you at this crazy time?
Nicky: I’ve had to deal with how I’m feeling instead of numbing it. That’s not been easy. I’ve always hidden how I feel but my coping strategies were alcohol and self harm behaviours and I quit both. I started doing some mindfulness to help me identify how I’m feeling and why – I realised that I was so used to numbing and hiding my feelings, I didn’t actually know what I was feeling and why. I didn’t know how to label it any more than ‘I’m ok’ vs ‘I’m not ok’. But, of course, I was always ok to anyone else.
Mrs D: Any particular self-care actions that are helping you in these gritty times?
Nicky: The part of drinking I liked least was the regret afterwards. Initially (at the beginning of lockdown) I baked and baked and baked, partly to keep the children entertained and partly I ate my feelings, but I had to pull back on that once I realised what I was doing. I was binging and regretting it, but now I’m trying to stop after one or two cookies/one slice of cake/a couple of pieces of a family sized chocolate bar rather than the whole thing. I’m trying to stick to ‘everything in moderation’ but I’m not good at that yet. I’m using the time after the kids to go to bed to watch fun tv. I’ve given up watching anything too intense so no crime dramas or thrillers. I realised I just don’t enjoy them at the moment, even though I used to love CSI and Criminal Minds and all those kinds of programmes. And I’ve been reading the kind of self- help books that I can get something out of – ones which are realistic and constructive and not patronising or idealistic. Still, I’m yearning for a bit of alone-time.
Mrs D: What are you doing to fill in the days?
Nicky: With the kids, the day is a constant stream of school activities, home learning tv, Paw Patrol and Cosmic Kids yoga. There’s not much time left over for me to have to fill, but there’s also no time for a break.
Mrs D: What would you say to people who are struggling with alcohol while they're in lockdown?
Nicky: I would say that I came to the conclusion that I liked the thought of alcohol more than the reality. My colleagues talk all the time about relaxing after work with a glass or two, but actually the alcohol didn’t relax me, it just numbed me. It was a habit I got into to avoid having to deal with the thoughts in my head. The older I got, the more I had to drink to feel numb and the more regret I felt after drinking and the less happy I felt overall. I’ve had to get used to who I actually am too – alcohol turned me from a socially anxious introvert into a socially awkward alcohol-fuelled extrovert-wannabe. Now I’m ok with being an introvert. I’ll socialise for a bit, and I always make sure I’m driving so I don’t need to constantly defend not drinking. I would also say I realised the multi- generational aspects of drinking. I’m breaking habits of my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, all who drank to deal with the traumas they had experienced and the unhappiness they felt. Breaking habits when they are your own is hard enough, but I found it vital to recognise I was breaking family habits too.
Mrs D: What's in this photo you've shared with us?
Nicky: Just a nice photo of Auckland.