When the phases of lockdown first started rippling throughout the world, I downplayed it in my mind. I listened to early reports of the virus saying that the situation was being overblown, and felt assured that this was something I could watch go by, a blip on my radar, and that things would soon return to normal like the other viruses of the past 20 years.
But the days passed, and numbers rose and borders closed. I wrestled with the idea that regardless of the legitimacy of containment procedures, case numbers, and attendant conspiracy theories, the world was shape-shifting before my eyes and would not return to the normal we as a species once knew.
Even though I quickly learned to stop myself from going into a virus media binge, thus preventing a full blown case of obsession and anxiety over what I couldn’t change, each piece of information where I’d hear of the next travel restriction, ballooning infection statistic, or liquidation of toilet paper and sanitizer, felt like a punch in the gut.
The hardest blow hit me one afternoon at my home in Phuket, Thailand, which I later learned had the highest number of cases in the country. When I heard that the local airport was scheduled to close along with all of the beaches, districts, and the island itself, it hit me hard. All of these restrictions felt claustrophobic and made my heart race into my throat.
Drinking alcohol had crossed my mind a few fleeting times during the course of the early pandemic days, but that day, as very real constrictions cropped up all around me, my mind turned to a drink in a more serious way. As a person in long-term sobriety, this was something I was very familiar with, this concept of having a passing thought about picking up a drink. It had been triggered by any number of things throughout my years sober. Most of the time, it remained as a passing thought; something I could easily acknowledge and then dismiss as not an option. As a friend says, “We are not responsible for our first thought.” And I had trained myself to let that first thought go by without entertaining it.
But that afternoon, my mind took hold of the drinking thought and started playing with it, like a Rubik’s Cube. I entertained it for real. What would it look like if I went and got some beer? And then drank it? I didn’t kid myself by believing that I’d be able to just do it one time or in moderation. Because I am an alcoholic, I can never safely drink again, no matter how long it’s been. But in the face of the monstrous justification of the world as we know it grinding to a halt, I got a momentary case of the fuck-its.
The fuck-its are a dangerous place to be. They displace any logic that the addict has to remind themselves of the dangers of picking up their favorite drink or drug. And what better justification for a full-on case of the fuck-its than a global pandemic and lockdown?
Thankfully, due to years of conditioning coupled with my recent reawakening to 12th step work – working intensely with other addicts – I was able to not play with that mental Rubik’s Cube for long. Ultimately, the thought came that, if I think I have problems now, how much more serious those problems would become by taking a drink? It would be like trying to put out a fire with lighter fluid. Everything would burst into a fireball and be consumed, and of course me along with it. Also, nothing would change if I got drunk; the world would still be the same. So after a few moments, I discarded the drink fantasy.
The mention of 12th step work is very important here because part of the benefits of working with other alcoholics is authentic connection. As the lockdown continues to drag on with deadlines continually being pushed out further and further, it’s of utter importance that, especially in sobriety, we cultivate not only human connection but connection to others in recovery. An addict alone is in bad company. We as a recovery community have amazing tools of technology that allow us to maintain the level of connection needed to not only survive this lockdown but thrive.
There are benefits, and let’s not overlook them. The ability to attend any recovery meeting, anywhere, at any time in the world via Zoom is an unexpected gift of global lockdown. People are also able to have more time to do the step work necessary to remain happy, joyous and free in recovered life.
I have taken advantage of this time to dive headfirst into working intensely with other alcoholics as I have never done before since first coming into recovery in 1993. Working with others is changing me in ways I could never have imagined and ones I can’t even see yet, as I’m still early in my own process. This method, simple as it sounds, is the program of action as outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve had massive epiphanies and spiritual awakenings as a result.
Personally, I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time, lockdown or not. My life is full. I have a wonderful career. I live in a tropical island paradise. I’ve picked up writing a book again that I’ve been working on for a few years now. I’m eating well and exercising, and spending most of my free time helping others. I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I’m also acquiring faith through this process. Not just hope, but real faith that everything is going to be okay, no matter what. Whatever the world ends up being once this is all over, I know ultimately it is for the highest good, even if it takes a big-picture view to see it. And I trust that ultimately, all will be well.
If you have a problem with alcohol or drugs and want help, please send me a message – I’m happy to support you.