I’ve been sober for 14 years, and with the exception of that first year, the last week has been the hardest. Without some of the strategies below, my alcoholism would come roaring back.
Right now, some people are experiencing real difficulty. There are people who are sick, people who are scared, people who have lost their jobs and face financial insecurity. I am not one of those people. My husband and I are both working from home. I and everyone in my family are healthy. My only struggle is obeying the state’s stay-at-home order because I’m stuck here with nothing to distract me from myself.
We’ve all been stuck in our houses for four weeks (more or less). We’re confined in our little boxes with our spouses, kids, parents, pets, siblings, and ourselves. The only thing coming in are messages of fear and angst through our screens.
In my isolation and boredom, I turn to social media for some sort of interaction only to met with images of my friends, family members, celebrities, and even some spiritual leaders turning to alcohol for a reprieve.
I’ve started to wonder, “Am I really still an alcoholic? Would anyone even notice if I drank a little? I can’t get into too much trouble in these circumstances, right?”
It just seems like everything would be better if I could just have a drink while doing it. Fire in the backyard? Better with bourbon. Reading a book before bed? Better with wine. Another family dinner? Also better with wine. Homeschooling the kids? Better with Bailey’s in my coffee…wait…what?
Do I seriously need alcohol to get through this? All of it? Do I need it to get through any of it? I want to justify drinking because this current situation is uncomfortable, but if I start now, when will it stop? We know we’re in “stay at home” mode for at least three more weeks. My experience tells me I can take a HUGE step back if left to my own devices for three weeks.
So how am I going to get through this without blowing my life up?
God is using this time to prune some things from my life. Without constant busyness and striving, I’m left sitting in my house, dealing with some inside stuff. Some bad habits I said I was too busy to break haven’t gone away just because I have more time. My friendships that I thought were strong were really only convenient. I’m not as faithful to God as I thought I was—I was just distracted. Once the distractions were pruned away, I started longing for alcohol to numb the pain. But deep down, I know, what I really need to long for is God. Numbness is not the same thing as having peace. God fills us with peace in a way nothing else can. I just have to choose Him—tangibly, with action.
So, I’m reverting back to the things I had to do my first year of sobriety:
- Take it One Day at a Time. Right now, the days seem to run together, and we have no idea when it will really end. I’m having to slow down and take each day as it comes.
- Pray on my knees. Prayer is good and can be done all day, but the practice of getting on my knees gives me a clearly defined practice and distinguishes my prayers from my inner dialogue. I used to put my car keys under my bed to force me to get on my knees every morning and night, but my car hasn’t left the driveway in a week so that trick doesn’t work during this. Maybe I should put my phone under there instead.
- Call my sponsor (or a mentor). Every day, I have to talk to someone who is not there to make small talk or complain to, but who will challenge me and encourage me.
- Call three friends or family members a day. I’m talking about real phone calls—not texts or social media. I am overwhelmed with text on a screen right now. Real live human voices are important and personal.
- Make a gratitude list. Write at least five things each day. We are all being forced to give up a lot. It’s easy to focus on what we don’t have. It’s important to remember that we still have so much and focus our minds on those things instead.
- Pray for others. Actively look for people around you who need your prayer. Praying for others is the quickest way to escape self-pity. When I’m lonely, praying for others reminds me that I’m part of a larger community.
- Read something that makes you stronger. The Bible is the purest form of truth. Maybe its a devotional or another inspirational book. You need something to keep you rooted in truth. Right now, I’m reading the AA Big Book for what feels like the millionth time and finding comfort in stuff I know by heart. I also see new things I’ve never seen before. (And fun fact: most of these tips come from the book of James in the Bible. So if you’re new to Bible-reading, that’s a great place to start.)
- Sleep well. Figure out what time you need to go to bed to get 8 hours of sleep and do it. You might even have to turn off your phone or the TV an hour or two before that. It’ll be OK. You can do it.
- Go to a meeting. OK, I know right now we can’t get to AA meetings or any other type of meetings, and it’s tough. But there are meetings online (you can find them at www.aa.org) and prayer and worship meetings happening all over Facebook and Zoom.
Guys, this isn’t going to last forever. There is nothing we can do to make it go faster or slower. But we can use this time to become stronger and more disciplined—and not slide backward. As hard as this is, it’s better than the last year of my drinking, and it’s easier than my first year of sobriety. I cannot afford to lose the life I fought so hard to get. You deserve to keep yours too. It isn’t comfortable, but it will be worth it.