"I cannot imagine not having a 12 step programme in these wild days. Everything comes from living sober life."
Today's hero is Sarah from Epsom in Auckland.
Mrs D: How are you feeling about what's going on with this Covid-19 virus?
Sarah: I’m feeling super duper proud of Jacinda Ardern for her leadership and for showing up for us as a country in this difficult time. I can see she hasn’t been to the hairdresser either. I’m feeling proud of myself for doing what I’m told and staying home. I feel no fear for myself, I’m healthy and if I did contract Covid-19 I’m sure I would be fine. I feel mildly concerned for my 80-ish year old mother but she lives alone and has been obeying the rules so far. She’s a rebel so I’m surprised about that. I think she’s scared too. I feel so much empathy for the people who have lost their jobs, lost their loved ones, lost their way of life. My mind just cannot wrap itself around tens of thousands of people dying in some countries. I feel for the migrants in camps, the kids stuck at the Mexican/US border, people who live on the streets, the wild animals that get their food from tourists, if everything is shut down how will they all survive?
Mrs D: How have your emotions shifted and changed since the crisis began?
Sarah: I’ve had a couple of moments when I’ve wanted to scream. I’ve gone from acceptance to frustration, and everything in between. Mostly acceptance, gratitude and a ‘this too shall pass’ attitude. I’ve watched the entire Sopranos box set and as Tony says “what are ya gonna do about it”. I haven’t had a minute when I’ve felt lonely even though I’ve been alone. I’ve really missed my routine – particularly a coffee not made by myself and a furtive visit to the op shops. But I’ve loved having all this time to play with and I’ve talked to my friends on the phone more than ever.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Sarah: My clean date is 22 September 2004 so 15 years and a bit.
Mrs D: How is being sober helping you at this crazy time?
Sarah: I cannot imagine not having a 12 step programme in these wild days. Everything I know about patience, tolerance and compassion comes from living the sober life. I haven’t lost my shit once but I’ve wanted to – particularly at the supermarket when people have come too close to me.
Mrs D: Have you had any pangs to drink since the lockdown began?
Sarah: Not one, and nothing for drugs either. Could have inhaled a packet of Tim Tams in 20 seconds quite a few times, and have dipped a toe into Trade Me occasionally, resulting in a nice new Wallace Rose dress for the office. I’ve had some dreams in which I’m drinking or smoking dope though, more than once.
Mrs D: Any particular self-care actions that are helping you in these gritty times?
Sarah: I’ve had no sugar, no meat, and only one coffee a day. Believe me that’s an achievement. I’ve done heaps of cooking and sat down to glorious meals of lentils and vegetables most nights. There’s been a night or two when a packet of ready salted Bluebird Chips has accompanied me on the sofa. Done a big walk every day. I’ve taken up meditation as well. And I’ve found a wonderful spiritual teacher on You Tube called Tara Brach who makes total sense to me – so I listen to her most days. I just hope this lasts when the routine returns. Anything that is good for me comes last usually, but at least I have proven to myself that it can be different.
Mrs D: What are you doing to fill in the days?
Sarah: I’ve been working so have been hunched over a laptop in my trackies during the week. There is not much going on work-wise but I’m grateful to have a job and will do what it takes to make myself useful. Weekends are harder – back in my using days I was very good at staring out windows for hours, and now I understand that’s a personality trait, not a drugs thing, because I still do it. Staring down the driveway knowing no-one is coming but staring anyway. The birdlife has exploded and there are birds with red and yellow heads I’ve never seen – they look like some kind of parakeet/sparrow hybrid. And at night the moreporks. Who knew they all sounded so different from each other. I’ve watched a lot of Netflix, that makes time vanish and I’ve tried to watch silly funny shows like Sex Education. I was the only person in New Zealand without internet at home until this lockdown so I guess I should be grateful for that too. I’ve been on my phone a lot – too much. Even Instagram has got boring.
Mrs D: What would you say to people who are struggling with alcohol while they're in lockdown?
Sarah: My heart goes out to these people, it must be awful, lonely, desperate and frightening. But a perfect time to get clean. I guess the online meetings would be a massive challenge to the uninitiated. I talked to a woman the other day who wants to stop using and I directed her to the links – I said you don’t need your audio or video working, just listen. That’s kind of how I started my journey – once I started listening, everything changed.
Mrs D: What's in this photo you've shared with us?
Sarah: This is me dressed up to celebrate a friend’s birthday a few days after Level 4 began. Sparkly top and scarf, but lower body was trackies and ugg boots, same as every day in lockdown. I have tried to get dressed like I’m going to work but it feels like a waste. My mother would be shocked to see me without earrings but pleased with the lipstick. Black cat – my bubble mate. At my side at all times, I feel he thinks that if I move, it’s because he’s going to get fed. Even if he was only fed 5 minutes ago. I choose to ignore that and interpret his look as undying love.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to add?
Sarah: I just hope that some of the changes that have been forced on us will stick. Maybe I could catch the bus to work rather than use my car. I have discovered that I do have ten minutes to meditate every day. Ten whole minutes! I’ve always thought I didn’t have time to meditate.