To Avoid Relapse — Focus on What You Can Control
The spread of the Coronavirus has many of us on edge. I’m certainly freaked out over it. It’s not that I’m afraid I will catch it and die; I’m fairly certain I’m too healthy to expire because of it. I’m a moderate runner, I eat a predominately plant-based diet, and I go to the gym and throw weights around periodically — and sleep is one of my favorite pastimes. My immune system is ready to fight — as long as I stay on track. What I am discovering is that I’m disenchanted with how a crisis brings people together when they initially need help or information from others but then later creates a divide. The lack of humanity appears so suddenly, that your now-former best friend is leading an army against you to acquire that last bottle of hand sanitizer and add it to their already enormous stockpile. I’m also frustrated and feeling anxiety over the lack of planning on many fronts and the alarm that will ensue as a consequence. I agree we shouldn’t start to panic, but that should not equate to placing our heads in the sand and avoiding preparation. I fear I will inevitably be pulled into other people’s crises (because that is part of my job) and I’m nervous that if I don’t acquire the necessary knowledge, I will stumble and make a mistake.
And so I started thinking about drinking. I engaged in an internal dialogue with the side of me that’s always eager for a quick escape. That side says my difficult feelings arising over my Coronavirus fears and the divided state of our nation, in general, could easily be alleviated with a few Olivia-Pope-sized glasses of red wine.But alas, the reasonable side of my brain said, “If you drink over something that happens to you or a situation that upsets you — the result is simply you drinking over that situation.” The underlying issue is likely not impacted or changed. My reasonable side is right. Drinking isn’t going to change anything. I will simply wake up hungover, beating up on myself and trapped in the old familiar repeating cycle of shame, anger, fear, and despair.Whether it be a crushing feeling in my chest, my heart pounding out of my rib cage, or that ever-familiar anxiety ball in my stomach, the exclusive result of drinking over the discomfort will be my suffering. Drinking simply serves to extend our anguish, even if it is alleviated in the short term. The Coronavirus will still be contagious and spreading, and humans will still be humans when we emerge from our alcohol cocoon. Alcohol is not a solution, but instead a short-term distraction with long-term consequences. The answer to my conundrum is to place my focus on what I can control in my little world and take the necessary actions to address these areas. I can’t control other people’s reactions, lack of action or responses, but I am armed with the ability to regulate my own behaviors and to make appropriate decisions.
My first and foremost decision is that I will not drink. My second decision is to gain knowledge, so I may be of help and service to others where I am capable, and within my boundaries. I’ll do what I am able to do, when and where I am able to do it and leave it at that. My third decision is to wash my hands. Frequently. And tomorrow? I will wake up fresh as a daisy, full of pride instead of shame with another successful sober day behind me — and super clean hands.