Isolating for the Isolator
Contributed by @SobrietyMatt
As the world grinds to a halt and locks down, this isolator has some advice.
This time last year I was drinking. Not right at this time of day (currently 11am) because I wasn’t that type of drunk, I would start only once the children were in bed. Nonetheless, I was thinking about drinking, that much I can guarantee, and coming up with all the reasons why a drink was justified. For the last year or so of my drinking, I was staying at home; drinking in front of others or out on the town, had become problematic; I wasn’t able to maintain any semblance of control and I was all about not appearing to be a drunk. So, home drinking it was – where I would share wine with my partner, wait for him to go to bed and then top up. If I was lucky, I would have a really good excuse to drink more – a celebration, a difficult day at work, bad or good news from the family. You name it, if I could drink on it I would.
All of this was done largely at home. It was safer that way; if I did fall unconscious, it was in the comfort of my own home and out of sight. I couldn’t say or do anything to offend anyone (apart from my nearest and dearest) and I knew that I could get hold of the drink I needed, when I needed it.
By this point in my drinking, I had abandoned most of my friends and family, rarely venturing out. They, in turn, had largely stopped asking me to join them, knowing what the answer would invariably be.
As I continued on this path of self-isolation, long before that term was in everyday use, I became immune to the germ of friendship and companionship. I didn’t need anyone or anything, just my wine and my TV. Alone in my thoughts, I would spiral into negative thinking, catastrophizing every single situation, wallowing in every resentment and feeling very much the neglected victim. Having suffered a depressive episode two years earlier and on medication, I moved into another stage of poor mental health: resignation. I decided that this was it, that over time the drinking would increase until it was all I had left in the world.
I have never been particularly comfortable in groups of people I don’t know well, but I did used to like company. When I first started drinking, that was what it was all about, but after the booze turned on me, there I was, alone and drunk.
I don’t know what happened in April 2019 and what it was that made me finally stand up and say “enough”. I don’t know what it was that gave me the strength to attend my first face-to-face AA meeting on the 23 April 2019, but ever since then it is connection that has kept me sober. When I isolate now I know that something is wrong, I know that it is then that I need to work my programme even harder. So, every day and every week I ensure that I connect with other alcoholics or addicts, or with friends or family. Connection is everything to me and to my sobriety.
Then along comes Covid-19.
Suddenly I am forced to keep away from my AA meetings and stay at home. My family and friends are in isolation at their homes. What now for my recovery? Well, I am lucky that my earliest recovery started online, so I have a great team of supporters on Twitter in the form of #RecoveryPosse. I have made connections and friendships with people in recovery all over the world. I am able to connect with another recovering addict at any time of the day or night, wherever I may be; and connect I do. I know today that it is vital that I am not left alone to sit in my thoughts for too long without checking in with someone and talking things through.
It is vital for all of us, recovering or not, to connect with people when we’re forced into isolation. Thank God that we live in the age of the internet, where it is easy to click a button and see and hear loved ones no matter where in the world they are. Where recovering alcoholics and addicts can access their meetings from the comfort of their own homes, with just a phone, laptop or tablet to aid the connection.
This isolator’s advice? Stay connected. Now more than ever.
For a list of online recovery meetings, go to https://recoveryposse.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/coronavirus-update/