No matter what your specific situation, everything is a lot right now.
We are collectively grieving the loss of our old lives while also dealing with financial insecurities, health concerns, fear for our loved ones and humanity in general, the stress of being alone or not getting a break from our immediate families, job insecurity. It’s overwhelming, and the desire to shut down, dissociate, or just give up is big.
Thankfully, there are time tested methods for coping with big feelings, big powerlessness, and big unmanageability, and they come from one of the few areas I can own being an expert in – early sobriety. I was a chronic relapser for ten years. It wasn’t uncommon for me to find myself in early sobriety multiple times in a single month. There were times toward the end that I wondered if early sobriety was my new addiction.
There is no greater joy than passing on to others the lessons you forged of fire. Here are some ways I am treating myself again like I am in early sobriety – not because I am, but to cope with the current climate. When times get tough in recovery the things I did in the beginning always work.
Bring Yourself Back To Today
I can’t tell you how many times in the past few months I’ve worked myself up in the present moment over how I am going to do something like pay rent in August. At those times, I take inventory of the present. I remind myself, today my rent is paid. There is money in my bank account today. There is food in my fridge today. I have risen to meet every day so far – quarantined or otherwise, and there is no reason to believe that I won’t be able to rise to meet whatever future date I am stressing over when that day is today. With the future so uncertain right now, the idea that today is all we have is, well, all we have.
Practice Radical Self Care
In the first month of lockdown, I took an Epsom salt bath every day. I lit scented candles. I rubbed my own feet. I began doing yin yoga again. I started to take long walks in my neighborhood, pulling my mask down to inhale the blooming jasmine. I scrubbed my entire body with an exfoliating mitt when I managed to shower. I committed to meditating every day. I began to hydrate as if I could catch up on the water I didn’t drink my entire life. I prioritized, and continue to prioritize self-care overall – over productivity, over work, over helping others. These acts of self-love and moments of peace give me the strength to keep going.
Hold Tight To Your Sober Support Network
When I was new and new and new and… I called the people who supported my recovery and the people who were working on their own every day. I checked in with my 12 step sponsor, my closest sober friends, and went to tons and tons of 12 step meetings. While 12 step is not for everyone, there are so many options for the group recovery experience now, and that connection improves the quality of my life and gets me out of my own head no matter what is going on externally. No matter how long you’ve been sober, we’ve all been in this particular boat just a few months. We are new here. And we need each other to get through, in whatever way we are able to safely. Burnt out from video call? There’s nothing wrong with a regular call. If you don’t have the energy for that, a text will suffice, and also, going back to number two until you do.
Cut Your Productivity In Half
Our society wants us to expect too much from ourselves so that we will feel bad, so that we will fall short, and then, buy their stuff in an attempt to ameliorate those feelings. Don’t fall for it. When you are in early sobriety it’s wise to expect less from yourself. Make a daily to-do list, and cut it in half. Move the rest to the next day. You don’t have to do or know everything in a day – and you can’t. But you can do some things. Cutting productivity in half means you can be proud of yourself for doing less. At the end of the day, reflect on what you have accomplished, and pat yourself on the back. Moving forward, don’t run. In the space, you will give yourself the ability to process and cope.
Self Compassion – It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
It’s okay to be sad, to be scared, to cry, to spend an entire day on the couch watching The Simpsons and eating snacks, do what you need to do to cope. My favorite spiritual teacher, Tara Brach, talks about the Buddhist principle of allowing feelings to be there, especially the unwanted ones, the simple act of saying, “This belongs.” By allowing our unwanted emotions, they are able to flow through us, allow us to release more trauma, to go deeper into our pain and bring more of ourselves into the light. Tara also teaches that when we are in reactivity or discomfort, putting our hands on our hearts and saying, “It’s okay sweetheart,” works. I know it does because I do it.
Whether or not you’ve been sober a long time, you’re currently struggling in a relapse, you actually are new in sobriety, or you aren’t ready to / never will achieve complete physical sobriety, you can benefit from these ways of being, doing, coping. We are all new in this. Many of us, myself included, had never even heard of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 before recently. It was that traumatic. It was something that the world collectively decided to shut the door on. We have an opportunity now to be kinder to ourselves and others in the face of great tragedy, and to come out of this with the greatest accomplishment that exists in life – a better relationship with ourselves.