M is for Me, Myself and I
When we speak about isolation in alcoholism it is often about physical isolation. Making our worlds smaller and smaller in hopes of being as invisible as possible so as to continue the drinking unabated. This behavior only serves to feed the addiction. For me this was a bottle of vodka under the bed. I liked to hide and drink. Alcoholism brings with it mental and emotional isolation too. We recoil from relationships and hurt people that love us. I am quite familiar with all of this. The shame and guilt of our alcoholic behavior is temporarily blacked out by more excessive drinking which leads to more shameful and guilty behavior. This cycle repeats over and over and over.
In sobriety I have found connection with other recovering alcoholics to be one of the best remedies to this feeling of isolation. it is a powerful thing to hear someone else with the same story and experience as you. I think it is in that moment that the isolation of the alcoholic begins to crack a bit. The more we involve ourselves in the lives of others (especially alcoholics) the less prone we are to fall back into old patterns that no longer serve us.
As the current climate of this global pandemic affects every aspect of life so does it our recovery. Meetings and groups of all kinds have been cancelled virtually overnight. We cannot even visit with friends. We are all stuck in the house without as much as a paper cup full of bad coffee in a church basement to pass the time let alone help us in our sobriety. We still have the telephone and internet. I have already seen a huge surge in creative and positive uses for technology. In the forefront I see Zoom meetings popping up all over the world. These video chat groups are a great resource for anyone looking for connection. Nothing beats holding hands with another alcoholic in solidarity but I love the drive and human ingenuity to help each other share some sobriety. Being stuck at home and away from our recovery communities can be agonizing but we are strong people with endurance, patience and resolve.
As I write this I have just passed the two hour mark of being on hold with the bank. The same soft jazz guitar riff playing over and over interrupted every thirty seconds by an automated woman's voice saying, "Please hold. Wait for the next available representative."
I live in a house with non-alcoholics who are quarantined elsewhere currently but this place is filled with booze. I am at arm's-length of whiskey and gin. The ketchup is behind an IPA in the fridge door. Some might say this would be the perfect time to say, 'fuck it!' but I don't see it that way. I have a note someone wrote a long time ago tacked to my wall. It says, 'There is no problem so bad that alcohol can't make worse.' I have been waking up to this for almost five years and it has rung true every single day. Not only have I worked so hard for this sobriety but I have come to truly enjoy it. I talk with friends on the phone, get online with other sober people, work on art, cook food, read, write, watch TV and play video games. A lot of it is the same stuff I did drunk. The only difference now is that I get true enjoyment from these things whereas before it was just killing time while drinking. The house was always a mess and projects, books and even movies were always left undone. I never finished anything while drinking except for the vodka. I go for short runs around the neighborhood being sure to keep my distance. I have been through a lot in this life, the least of which is being on hold for close to three hours now. It is enough to drive a man to...well, you know.
Isolation is not my favorite but I am more equipped than ever to deal with this crisis. Sure I have some founded fears about the future but unlike my drinking days I have patience, awareness, tolerance and calm that only came with years of practiced sobriety and recovery. I did some yoga this morning to the smooth sounds of the Citibank Jazz Quintet.
If recovery has taught me anything it is acceptance and it is being tested today. I have to remind myself that the only alternative is resistance. Resistance for me leads to pain and suffering and that leads to drinking. That just won't do for me today. So I will eat snacks, play games, do sit ups and be patient. This is not an impossible time but if I were drinking it most certainly would be.
Reach out to someone, watch less news and be kind We have it within us to weather this storm. I am going to go practice my deep breathing to the canned soulfulness of the On Hold House Band.