A few months ago I went back east on a rescheduled amends tour from March. Having had Covid in May, I felt pretty confident about it.
My Covid experience was as such – my friend Mary and I woke up the same day with the same symptoms, after spending time together in the car every week to go be in nature.
She went right in to get tested. I felt too badly to leave my house, but called my acupuncturist from back home and had Chinese herbs overnighted, which I began taking immediately. I got herbs for Mary as well, but wasn’t able to get them to her until I started to feel better five days later. That day I went in for a test.
My results came back within a few days. Negative, though when I sent my acupuncturist a picture of my tongue, he was pretty sure I had it, having flown back to the US from Taiwan in March to treat Covid patients.
Mary and I decided my results were her results, and felt relieved, although she was still ill with about half the symptoms on the list. Weeks later, her test results came back – positive. We had had Covid.
Mary went in to get tested for antibodies to give plasma. I didn’t go. I was afraid to give away my antibodies. I needed them, to go back east and make my amends.
My father and I talk nearly every Sunday. I explained this story to him, sure that he would believe me.
Why wouldn’t he? I am sober. I stay sober by living a life of rigorous honesty.
“A lot can happen in the next month,” he kept saying, putting off making a decision because he didn’t believe I would actually get on the plane. There was a mandatory two week quarantine in place for travelers from California into Connecticut. I found an exception – if you had gotten a test and results within the last 72 hours, you would be exempt. He countered that the rules were changing every week.
Then my sister, whom I rarely speak to, told me that she didn’t feel comfortable seeing me because she has kids to think about. I held my tongue while looking at her Instagram feed, populated with photos of her attending large maskless gatherings both inside and out, and even eating in restaurants. With her children.
It hit me. She doesn’t trust me. The trust I have built with myself exists because I exist with myself on a daily basis. I moved to California before achieving continuous sobriety. Much of my family’s knowledge of a sober Rebecca is via the phone. Their memories of the havoc I caused while drinking and using are more vivid than text messages.
Every time I spoke to my father I detailed the precautions I would be taking to be legally exempt from quarantining, and to stay safe. I would be getting the rapid test, throwing my clothing and mask from the plane in the trunk of my rental car for several days, leaving my luggage outside for a day, washing myself and everything, immediately.
A week before I flew I got an email from my dad. It devastated me because of the contents, but also because he felt he had to email me. He didn’t feel comfortable setting this boundary over a phone call, where he feared I might argue or interrupt.
He said that I really didn’t know that I had had Covid, as I had never had a positive test of my own, and also I would be flying on a plane. My stepmother has an elderly mother and a pregnant daughter that she has to see.
I know enough to know that there is nothing to be said about another’s Covid precautions – this is as much emotional as physical, and everybody has to decide for themselves what risks they are willing to take. Scanning my sister’s Instagram again, I realized it was a matter of priority. Mine was low in their lives, as theirs had been in mine for decades. I knew better than to explain masks or social distancing or being outside to them. They knew these things.
I called my sponsor, who told me about a friend of hers who had recovered from Covid but she still didn’t feel comfortable seeing him.
“He’s unpredictable and untrustworthy,” she explained. “He’s always relapsing and getting into insane situations. Even though he has antibodies now, who’s to say he couldn’t carry it to me on his clothes from a meth binge?”
That must be how my family saw me. It simply takes more time, especially at a distance. They could never accept that relapse is part of many addicts’ process. They put effort into my first rehab, and when I relapsed and went back to my abusive marriage after nine months, they closed their hearts to me.
I only know this because I did get to make that amends. I chose to process my hurt with radical acceptance and understanding. I focused on the people who did feel comfortable seeing me, on the amends I could make and the love I could share visiting my homeland for the first time ever sober.
A week into my trip, my dad called. The weather was nice, he said, why didn’t I come up the next day if I wasn’t busy and we could do the amends in the backyard.
“What would you have done if I was an asshole when you set the boundary?” I asked.
“Well, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to see you,” he laughed.
In that way not only did I pass my father’s test I passed my own.
We don’t get to decide other’s timelines, not for Covid, not for rebuilding trust, not for anything. All we can do is radically accept the harm we’ve caused in the past and make a living amends every day by doing no more harm.
Because I trust myself and know myself today and have people in my life who trust and know me, it doesn’t matter as much when people don’t. Even when they are family.
If you’ve noticed that your family is treating you during the pandemic like you’re always actively shedding Covid, know that you are not alone. That as addicts we are seen as untrustworthy and unpredictable. And we can look for our part. If I had forced myself to get a test right away, or gone to give plasma, I would have had evidence. And it’s more than they fear we are lying to them, it’s that they fear we are lying to ourselves. We are the ones who created that history. More than anything, there’s just so much fear to go around right now. And perhaps some addicts are less afraid because we’ve looked at death so many times already.
There’s an old saying that time takes time. Rebuilding familial trust in the era of Covid takes even longer. Acceptance is the answer to all our troubles today.