Well. An awful lot has changed since my last post. Life has begun to resemble a Stephen King novel. Personally, I have been incredibly lucky. My entire family has managed to stay healthy. The school district I work for is paying me during the closure. The weather is warming up here in New York, so my husband and I have been able to get out for walks any time the mood strikes. And, after talking the notion into the ground for YEARS, last fall we purchased a couple of used bikes. Stashed them in the shed for the winter. Brought them out the other day, and – BAM! I’m twelve years old again, allowed to ride my bike in the neighborhood until the street lights come on and feeling like I can fly.
We seized the opportunity to Spring Clean the house last week. It’s the first time I’ve been able to perform this annual ritual (torture?) during the spring since about…. 1992, since I started working at my current job in the fall of that year.
Speaking of work, I’m retiring in June! And since the abrupt, hopefully temporary break, I’m getting a realistic taste of what retirement might feel like.
Life’s not all sunshine and unicorn kisses. I’m scared. More than a little paranoid. Going to the supermarket is not something I look forward to. Every sniffle, cough, scratchy throat ratchets up my anxiety. Worry is a heavy weight I pick up upon awaking every morning.
It would be lovely to escape, to be honest. When it became apparent that schools would close and everyone was panicking about the potential of being ordered to stay home, my coworkers and I were texting each other pictures of long lines in our local grocery stores. Three members of my team are, shall we say, “enthusiastic” drinkers. I received screenshots of their stockpiles of booze.
I have to admit, I felt a mix of emotions, viewing some of my old standbys….. Jealousy. Annoyance. Relief. On some level, I still wish I could drink. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away. I’m annoyed that they’re so insensitive. A couple of them know how I struggled with alcohol, and I feel a little stung that they’re so clueless about sharing those photos with me. But mostly I’m relieved that I’m not taking screenshots of my own stockpile – because I’m fairly certain that if I were still drinking, I’d emerge from this period of self-quarantine much, MUCH less healthy. Heavier. Definitely much worse for the wear. I know that drinking to escape simply hits the “pause button” – putting everything of concern on a shelf, where it waits patiently to be picked up again when the booze wears off. And add to that the anxiety and shame that drinking caused in the first place…. Ugh. Not worth the artificial respite.
So, how to stay sober when the world’s gone insane? Here’s what works for me:
Sleep – it seems so indulgent to go to bed when I’m tired and sleep as long as I want/need to. No more 4:40 a.m. alarm, for the time being.
Exercise – from long walks in the neighborhood to bike rides to H.I.I.T. videos on YouTube to my weightlifting regimen. I’m enjoying filling my extra time with activity. It stills my anxious mind and – bonus points! – helps me sleep soundly.
Nutrition – I’m cooking a lot more these days. Eating more fruit and, overall, more nutritiously. Finding new recipes to try, including 2-ingredient bagels, which I’m totally obsessed with. (https://kirbiecravings.com/2-ingredient-bagels/)
Gratitude – I have so, SO much to be grateful for. A clean, tidy, cozy house. Food and the resources to buy whatever we need. Healthy siblings, children, and grandchildren. An elderly aunt we’ve been shopping for and staying in touch with. It feels good to help. My husband and I haven’t been apart for weeks now. We go everywhere together, by choice. We truly enjoy hanging out together. And, after almost 45 years – that’s pretty incredible. We’re so lucky.
So. It is possible to stay sober and, dare I suggest – thrive? – during the pandemic. Actually, staying sober is the most powerful tool in my survival toolbox. I know that, without it, nutrition, exercise, and my treasured relationships would be in jeopardy.
Stay well, friends.
Who’s not drinking with me today?