Sobriety in Coronavirus Quarantine
(*Written by Stephanie Palatt)
My kneejerk reaction upon hearing of the St. Louis county stay-at-home orders, was that of trepidation. Obvious reasons aside, as a creature of habit, I’m fearful of change of any kind. It takes a while for my brain to assimilate a new idea, much less a new way of being. What was this going to mean for me? As a professional, working somewhere between part-time and full-time, work took up a fairly significant portion of my time. When I wasn’t working, I was taking care of three children ages 11-17…this meant running to the store for tampons, proofing lit assignments, answering “Would you rather…?” questions from my 11-year-old son, and the much-dreaded figuring out and making of dinner. My husband’s platelets had dropped to zero around the beginning of lockdown, and he is now finishing his last treatment for ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura), as a result of his leukemia. And…I am finishing my doctorate in clinical audiology…so suffice it to say there’s a lot going on in general. This quarantine almost makes these demands tangible, as all five of us are in one another’s space, in the same space!
I have 6+ years of sobriety, and I am a grateful alcoholic. I’ve read recently on sobriety blogs, and in general news articles, about how persons in recovery, despite the obvious stressors, are well-suited for this imposed quarantine. We are taught in meetings how to take it “one day at a time,” “easy does it,” and we are given a “toolbox” (healthy options) from which to draw in times of conflict. We are, however, alcoholics by nature, so, of course, my first thought with anything new is: What is this going to mean for me? Family disputes, resentments, poor choices, self-centeredness are facets of the alcoholic personality that drive one to drink. The Covid-19 quarantine seems God’s way of saying, “In your face! Here is the real test.” My therapist, a recovering heroin addict with decades of sobriety, sees this a spiritual awakening. “We are being made to see what is truly important in life.”
As AA in-person meetings have ceased, zoom has definitely provided an “almost as good” platform to share with our fellows. On a personal zoom with my gal pals in the program yesterday, we shared war stories of life at home. Maggie actually had a raccoon in her house the week prior, the whole family devising various plots on how to get it out. The story ended with her alpha male husband enlisting their teenage son to capture the animal with a net, and using starting fluid to anesthetize it. All this after Maggie had placed the call to the exterminator, her husband effectively calling him off. She joked that she then called a marriage counselor. I told my friends how I came back from my morning run yesterday morning, to find my son still in bed, having missed his first period class. I panicked as I yelled at him, “You’d better get on that next zoom or else!” Do I call someone? Did my son just play hooky? What is the protocol for missing zoom school anyway?
The setting may have changed, but the principles are still there. The setting being small real estate with a high population density, aka home, and the principles are that of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In the zoom, I was able to connect with my fellow AAs, and share my experience, strength, and hope. After the telling of tales, we talked about our very real frustrations, and how we dealt with them. A big part of maintaining sobriety is sharing our feelings in a safe space, so we are not driven to drink, or other unhealthy behaviors.
It is possible to not only survive, but to thrive. That is emotional sobriety. This unique, unprecedented time in history has afforded me the opportunity to closely bond with my family, at a time when we would normally be individually wrapped up in our own lives. My 17-year-old daughter will leave for college next fall. Ever the extrovert, if not doing homework, or at swim practice, she would be out socializing with her friends. This spring she is hanging out with me! She even humored me with a mother/daughter pic outside with the spring flowers as a backdrop (only if her sister agreed to it as well). Life for me presently consists of donning a mask for a tampon run, proofing zoom lit assignments with a negotiable deadline, answering “Would you rather quarantine with Eminem or Drake?”—like questions, and deciding between beans & franks and beanie weenies for dinner. At the risk of sounding cliched, the blessings are abundant. They are always there no matter the circumstance…and we can choose to see them as such.
Stephanie Palatt lives with her husband and three children in St. Louis, MO. She works as a clinical audiologist, and is presently finishing her doctorate. She runs every day, and in her free time she enjoys sharing her experience, strength, & hope on her new blog “AA Thursday’s”: https://aathursdays.wordpress.com/2020/04/12/welcome-to-aathursdays/