How not to relapse while grieving in a global pandemic, homeschooling kids and working full time.

Step 1: Don’t drink

The first thing you need to do is …DO NOT consume alcohol or any mind-altering substances…no matter what. (Coffee and sugar don’t count, overdose on those at your own peril)

I can hear the mic drop somewhere in the distance…

It’s really as simple and as complicated as that…Thank you everyone….I’ll be here all night…

So the last couple of months have been really interesting. I can use the word interesting here because I’m not rocking back forth mumbling to myself in the corner of the room, like I was six months ago.

My mother is dead. She has left this earthly plane and gone to party with Ram Dass in the great beyond. So, she is ok…I am not. This is by far the worst loss I’ve ever had to deal with. I’m still not convinced I am dealing with it? I must be though… because here I am telling you how I’m dealing with it ergo….(channeling Descartes over here)…I think I’m dealing with it therefore I am dealing with it.

I digress, back to the steps….

Step 2: Don’t panic

First they told us it was like the flu…THEN I got sucked into a YouTube vortex of hell explaining that this was NOTHING LIKE THE FLU and WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.

Youtube is a platform that profits from keeping people watching…the way they accomplish this is by promoting content that is is extreme and sensational. Clickbait titles like…”This $8 Trillion Coronavirus Mistake Could Kill 100%” or “Is the end of the world near?” or “Is the Coronavirus mutating to be more deadly?” This brings me to my next point…

Step 3: Stay away from the news and social media

If you constantly expose yourself to the mainstream news and social media you will descend into a pit of despair. News reinforces our negativity bias and keeps us trapped in negative thinking.

When the pandemic first hit I was refreshing the news like an obsessive compulsive hobbit on speed. I later realised (with the help of my therapist) that the reason I was doing this was because I was hoping to find a shred of certainty…hoping to find the one article that would give me an answer or the ‘inside scoop’ somehow shielding me and my loved ones from the new disease.

Facebook does not have ANY inside info…trust me. All you will find on facebook is content that is polarising and divisive… pushing humans further and further into the extremes and away from the middle. Buddhists say the middle is where it’s at and I tend to agree.

Step 4: Cry, Eat ice cream, Colour in, Watch Disney Movies

When you are in shock from losing one of the most important people in your life and then on top of that in fear that you are going to lose all the other important people in your life you need to SLOW RIGHT DOWN.

I retreated into a bubble of colouring books, chocolate ice cream and long naps. I refused to watch anything that wasn’t animated, My children and I watched all the greats from Beauty and the Beast to the Little Mermaid. You may think this sounds like a cop out and escapism and I say FUCK YES. It was either retreat and devolve into child-mode or drown myself in a bottle of whiskey get a a couple grams of coke and wake up under a bridge somewhere. That little joyful scenario brings me to my next point…

Step 4: Get a therapist

I found my therapist as part of a benefit scheme at work…had a couple of free sessions with her and decided to continue when the allocated sessions were up. I have to admit that I’ve scoffed at talk therapy in the past…I had this idea that it was self indulgent and reserved for the bourgeoisie who complain about their middle class lives and first world problems. At least I’m self-aware enough to realise that I fall firmly within the group of ‘first world problem’ brigade 🙂

The therapist really helped me talk through a dark time…I needed to verbalise my terror, my grief my anger. Something about saying these things out loud make them less terrifying. I also found having the regular appointment with her gave me an anchor every week. It helped me feel safe somehow knowing that I had an appointment on a Wednesday while at the peak in the UK over a 1000 people died every day from this new disease.

Step 5: Go to a meeting

Something amazing happened when the pandemic hit. AA meetings went online! There was a 24 hour zoom global AA meeting running 7 days a week and this was a life saver. I joined a couple of meetings and felt such relief to connect with other addicts over video! I’ve attended a couple real life meetings in the past but AA was never a regular thing for me. The first meeting I just listened…then the moderator/facilitator (don’t know what you call the person that runs it/) called on me to share.
I was so nervous but managed to say my name and share a bit about myself. The main thing I got out of it was seeing the newcomers who had 2 days…1 week some of them still drunk …seeing them solidified in my mind how precious sobriety is. One lady was drunk and crying, she was in such a dark place and I just felt it in my bones, I felt that hopeless drunk feeling viscerally . I reached out to her and offered some words of comfort, don’t know if that helped her but she sure helped me that night.

Step 5: Stop sanitising your shopping

It’s crazy and you don’t need to do it. I sanitised all my groceries for months…it was beyond ludicrous, it took over an hour to clean the groceries every time! One day I just stopped.
I decided that if my husband or I were going to die of Covid then so be it but I would be damned if I was going to disinfect one more bloody bag of baby spinach.

Step 6: Keep Homeschooling fun

Who am I kidding?! Homeschooling was a shit-show. My son found a million different ways to weasel his way out of doing any work. My daughter has no faith in my ability to help her with Maths and with good reason …because I suck at it.
To get them to anything…I pleaded, bribed, cajoled, threatened, lectured…cried and eventually just laughed. We settled on a happy middle which meant very, very little…but something educational every day…even if that meant my son researching how to build an explosive device. I mean that’s a skill you can take right to the bank.

Step 7: Cultivate a sense of humour and lighten up, we are literally all going to die.(eventually)

Throughout the last year I have felt the most heart wrenching sadness, terror and frustration BUT I have also belly-laughed, connected in a new found dark-death-humour with my beautiful siblings and have felt at times quite light…maybe its when one of the worst things happen…something lets go a bit more…something eases into the unbearable lightness of being.