"Putting my head in a giant bucket of gin isn’t an option anymore. I'm grateful - it didn’t work anyhow."
Today's hero is Pam, a kiwi living in Brisbane.
Mrs D: How are you feeling about what's going on with this COVID-19 virus?
Pam: Each day is a mystery envelope. My waking thoughts are about the virus; that I am restricted, that people are dying, and that there are idiots running the world. The level of serenity for that day depends on how I carry on from there.
Mrs D: How have your emotions shifted and changed since the crisis began?
Pam: At the start, I treated the crisis with all the compassion of a long-time journalist. It would be sorted soon, the virus was over there, not here, next story please. Then the local angle kicked in. I have a daughter in the UK and another in Auckland. Both were in lockdown, there was no vaccine, and I became hugely fearful. Then my bloke was exposed to the virus at work, so we were self-isolating rather than locked down. I missed my walks and fantasized about making a hang-glider out of a shower curtain, like in the old war movies. I was resentful and at times snappish, I’m told. I have acceptance of the situation now, most of the time, but still find myself crying way more than in non-virus times.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Pam: I have been in recovery since 31 July 2009.
Mrs D: How is being sober helping you at this crazy time?
Pam: For all the unsettling early morning thoughts, recovery via the 12-step programme has given me ways to deal with life on life’s terms. Putting my head in a bucket of gin isn’t an option anymore. It didn’t work anyhow. I am so grateful for these genuine feelings. Being worried about my loved ones is normal, as is being concerned about my own safety. While being cranky is understandable, there’s no need for me to pass on the bummer. This level of self awareness is heady stuff. Before recovery, I couldn’t handle pain yet my responses were like a haemophiliac looking for something sharp to bump into.
Mrs D: Have you had any pangs to drink since the lockdown began?
Pam: I don’t know if they are crisis related. It has been incredibly warm here and I would think of a cold beer and even imagine the taste. But just for a few seconds. I know where it took me. I don’t ever want to forget that.
Mrs D: Any particular self-care actions that are helping you in these gritty times?
Pam: I straightaway reached out to my sponsor in NZ. I’m not always that sensible. She listened, affirmed, made me laugh. I got off the phone and boom, she had sent links to reading, video and audio resources which are gold. Prayers, guided meditations, advice on how to practice self-compassion. I am doing them all. And she sends me heaps of great comedy. (Take my recovery seriously, not myself, is her advice.) I then pass on all this information and wisdom to my sponsees and others in the fellowship, so it’s not all about me. I start the day praying for personal and global endurance during this scary time, then I have a good breakfast. I do at least one meeting online a day, and outside of meetings I check in with others in recovery. Before sleep I do a gratitude list and a thank you prayer for my life free of alcohol and other drugs.
Mrs D: What are you doing to fill in the days?
Pam: The above takes up some of the day and it gives me structure. I am a freelance writer and reporter in regular times but have set myself the task of a larger writing project, learning new skills, and feeding my creativity in lock down.
Mrs D: What would you say to people who are struggling with alcohol while they're in lockdown?
Pam: I was introduced to recovery and the anonymous fellowships by a mate who said, ‘you will give up drinking one day’. I was so relieved until he added, ‘you’ll either decide to stop or you’ll die.’
Mrs D: What's in this photo you've shared with us?
Pam: I went to an NA camp in Ohope in early recovery. My sponsor took a pic of me wading in the surf. I was shocked by how free I looked. Since then, the humbling nature of the sea has been a special celebration of the gift of recovery. This pic is at Surfers so even if it’s in lockdown I can imagine being there soon-ish.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to add?
Pam: Before I die, I would like a hug from Jacinda.