I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this pandemic would have impacted my life if I were still drinking. I’ve ran a thousand different scenarios through my head and each one leads to the same result – I would not have survived this.
Isolation is dangerous for those who suffer with substance abuse disorders. We spend most of our lives trying to hide our addictions from the world, and COVID-19 has given us the perfect excuse to never leave our houses.
I like to joke that I went to rehab more than once because I had so much fun the first time around. In reality, it’s not a funny story at all. I was a very sick woman who had lost the will to live.
My failed attempts at getting sober simply validated what I already believed to be true about myself – I was a horrible person who was incapable of getting better and it was only a matter of time before my disease killed me, so why put in any effort?
With COVID, we receive constant direction to sanitize everything. It’s important! It keeps us all safe. Cleanliness is a necessary defense against illness – pandemic or not!
That being said, alcohol is in the air these days. We are sanitizing everything – including our bodies! My addict brain is constantly waking up to the smell of it. When my daughter uses hand sanitizer when walking into a store. When the person in front of me at the pharmacy uses hand sanitizer at the counter. When the nurse sanitizes my arm for a flu shot.
When I snap open the cap to my hand sanitizer or spray it in my car, my brain literally lights up like a friggin’ Christmas Tree.
No, this doesn’t make me feel like I want to drink again, but it sure as hell reminds me I am not cured.
It’s ironic – I am now rubbing something on my hands daily to keep me safe that just so happens to smell EXACTLY like a substance that almost killed me 7 years ago – vodka.
If I have this reaction at 6 years sober, i can only imagine what the smell of alcohol must do to someone who is just 24 hours, 1 week or even a month sober.
I am in no way saying people should stop using hand sanitizer! I am just pointing out a specific struggle of mine. We all struggle with something, and life is filled with constant challenges and change. The ability to adapt is crucial, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
I know how to NOT drink today, but 6 years ago I didn’t. I didn’t how to leave a situation when my sobriety felt threatened. I didn’t know how to walk away from people I couldn’t trust. I didn’t know how to counter my addictive thinking and not act on impulse. I didn’t understand that instant gratification is temporary – but the pain will be permanent.
I know all of these things today, because I learned them over time. It didn’t happen overnight. It took thousands of days and just as many tears to learn how live without alcohol.
So I worry. I worry about my friends who are new to sobriety. I worry about friends who’s family members are working to rebuild their lives. I worry about those I have never even met. I worry, because I know how hard it is in the beginning. One minute, you think you’ve got it and the next you are holding a bottle to your lips.
Recovery is the road less traveled for a reason. It is not easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but it is also the most rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, and find yourself feeling afraid, defeated or hopeless, I understand you. I have been there too, and I know the struggle. Addiction is a beast and, in my experience, it takes a village to defeat it. You do not have to do this alone. One phone call, one text a day to the right person can make all the difference in the world. Find your people and let them be there for you.
It’s a scary and overwhelming task if you look too far into the future. So start with today. Start with the next 5 minutes if you have to. You just have to start, the commitment to stay can come later.
Please stay 💝