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  • John Staley

Q is for Quarantine Thoughts on Sobriety

Many of us are stuck in our homes and in our heads a lot more than we are used to these days. It can be a challenging place to be for us alcoholics. I know that as a recovering alcoholic that is doing my best to put my life in order, routine and certainty play a big role in all that. I do better with structure and order more than I ever thought while drinking. In so many ways that is all gone. So many of the important things and people are now absent or relegated to the online world. The truth is that things will probably never be the same again. That is terrifying, true but terrifying. The rug has been pulled and my ass has hit the hard linoleum underneath.

I am safe and healthy and for that I am grateful but something new has popped up --- grief. I lost two jobs in as many days. As a server and bartender I made a living talking to people face to face and handshakes were a part of almost every interaction. Now I have to take 15 years of experience and transfer it to a new digital landscape. All my running trails are closed and every trip to the grocery store is full of unease. I also keep in mind that compared to some these are hardly sacrifices and still the loss of these things feels traumatic. In many ways I have no idea what I am doing or what the next step needs to be. Hopes of "going back to normal" seem like silly notions to entertain at this point. Before I can move on; before I can change, adapt and evolve I must grieve. I have never been through anything like this before and am unsure what that looks like. Except I have and I do.

There are a great many parallels to this moment and my getting sober. It often happens in a crash or an explosion of drama, fear and confusion. I know mine did. There was then this period of triage. I assessed damage and was simply trying to stop the proverbial hemorrhaging. Being able to wake up in the morning and make it through another day without drinking seemed like a miracle and it was in a sense. Slowly I was able to ask for and get help. I found small moments of relief amongst the disorienting daily barrage of new feeling and emotions. These required new coping skills and perspectives. One of the things I did was write a letter to alcohol. A break up letter of sorts. I told alcohol how I felt about my old life, old behaviors and old ideas. I was finished with them, ready to move on and had no interest in going back. This really helped me to say good bye to alcohol. It was something tangible that effectively ended the relationship. It was also something I could look back on if I ever had any second thoughts about getting back together (shiver).

Although my life in February 2020 was not akin to the whirlwind shit show that was my drinking career there were certain aspects that were not doing well to serve me. I had a job that didn't excite me. I was much looser with my spending. I didn't keep in touch with friends and loved ones as often as i would have liked. I didn't work diligently and passionately on the things that inspired me the most. So to all those things I say good bye too.

I have no idea what the future will bring and it is glaringly apparent now that I never did. I will probably continue to grieve my old life for sometime but I do not have to wallow. Perhaps I can set aside some time to lament the little joys of trail running or dinner out. These things will come back but they will not be the same. That is ok. I know that things continue to change and life does its thing regardless of my desires. I can start having gratitude for the things I once took for granted. There is a saying in recovery circles that seems more ubiquitous than ever, "living life on life's terms." There are definitely new terms and conditions but I believe life is still worth buying into.








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