Many years ago, I co-owned an art gallery. Art is a business characterized by booze-laced openings. And if the truth be known, I kept a bottle of plonk in my desk drawer in our distressed-brick communal office for the “down times”. When I look back on the genesis of my active addiction, Spiller Vincenty Gallery and my divorce were probably its well springs. Although from the time I began drinking, it was always drink, drank, drunk. So perhaps my alcohol use disorder was a fait accompli just waiting for a reason.
I thought of the art business this week when our former gallerist,Tony, posted a declaration on Facebook. He is 63 months sober, and this is part of what he said that inspired me to write a thank you note to my own sobriety.
I will say “thank you” to God, the universe, something greater than me and … all those of you who have supported and encouraged me to stay away from alcohol … because this unbelievable moment in world history would’ve been so much worse for me and those around me if I’d been drinking alcohol. If you are struggling with alcohol or think/feel/are told you have a problem with alcohol, you most likely do. Put it down and find help, in any form that works for you. There is no downside to staying away from alcohol, only benefits. S. Anthony Versis II
What he said. It hit me like a case of chardonnay. There are no downsides to sobriety. Tony got me thinking about my finely tuned recovery coping skills. And how I would have “coped” during the 2020 pandemic and outcry for social justice if I were still drinking. That is the crux of my gratitude.
Thank You to Sobriety
In this, as Tony puts it, unbelievable moment in world history, I am grateful for my stability. During my active addiction, I would have hunkered down and self-medicated. There would be intermittent pass-outs and a showy disregard for danger. And wine-soaked opinions. A horrifying lack of understanding and bull-headed self-absorption. And even worse, detachment.
There are no downsides to sobriety. I used to say I was funnier when I drank, but my loved ones all jump to say, “No! You are funnier now.” What they mean is, “You were kind of a mean drunk, Mare.” Everything is more manageable when you are not addicted to drugs or alcohol – even a pandemic. And when you are wrapping your mind around the nuances of police brutality, and social injustice you simply must have a clear head.
Thanks for these personal coping mechanisms in uncertain times:
Thankfully, I love change and learning new things with my healthy brain. Because in-person community and connection has been supplanted by virtual technology. And mastery of virtual connection is a new skill. I work for Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers, and our outpatient programs, support groups and presentations temporarily moved to virtual platforms. Now, as things are opening back up, we all have choices as to when and how much we want to interact in-person.
I took responsibility for my key personal relationships with Zoom meetings and the good ole telephone. That sparked some great conversations, binge-watching suggestions, and staved off my loneliness. And I am thankful that recovery had already honed my understanding of what is essential. Because these days, knowing what is essential gets you through the day (and night).
Taking Time to Read – Turning off the TV
My cable box and wires are in a bag, ready to send back. I will confess I spent the first month of stay-at-home orders watching news 24/7 and eating the dreaded white foods (bread, rice, potatoes, cheese, white chocolate …) until even my omnipresent stretch pants strained at the elastic waistband. And the continuous barrage of bad news did nothing to ease my bouts of anxiety and depression.
But, I have done more reading for pleasure in the past three months than in the three years before. I have committed to watching less TV (You Are What You Read). And with the foreshadowing of summer and real human interaction, I am almost ready for my close-up.
Consistency, Planning, and Scheduling
Those are three words no one in active addiction has in their vocabulary. But I am grateful that I was able to work from home for the past three months. When the world is open-ended and uncertain, a consistent schedule is key. I got over the shock of COVID-19 and the orders to stay inside in March, and I listened to my daughter’s advice, “Just try to eat healthy foods Mom, and get out of bed.”
I also established “safe havens” for myself. My local grocery store and Walgreens have been clean, well-stocked and manageable. And there is nothing like a short drive or walk around the neighborhood to clear the house-bound head. And my physical distancing favorite was watching the sun come up (as it does even in times of upheaval) over Reeds Lake in Grand Rapids.
Exercise and Nature
Hiking out of doors continues to be the activity that secures my recovery. I cannot remember a time when getting outside and “drinking up” nature hasn’t made me feel better. I created some memories at the closed Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids. And wandered nearly deserted beaches and trails close to home.
Thanks for the memories …
In the past few months, my life has not been perfect. But I am grateful that I was not new to recovery when the world began to spin off its axis. It’s been a while since I have gotten that punch in the gut desire to DRINK. And as a loner who worked from home already, much of the recent accommodations felt familiar to me. I have experienced a dizzying lineup of emotions – fear, confusion, anger, joy, isolation, connection, exhaustion, excitement, and hope. A bird nested in the rafters of the old house I live in. My Goddaughter had a baby in England. My children still love me. Spring sprang after a series of April snow storms in Michigan. I work for a helping organization. And during this time of living precariously, there are no downsides to my sobriety.