I’m blessed! As a recovering alcoholic, I’ve learned patience, tolerance, resistance, and pride. Through my 12-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous, I’ve been given a design for living that has allowed me to deal with my addiction and change my life. Now, that design is helping me stay positive in the face of the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic crisis. I want to share a few things I hope might help you too.
Some people will quit reading here, since I have mentioned AA which is a spiritual program. Please don’t. Whether you are religious, agnostic, atheist, or other, these tips apply to all. There is such thing as “Contempt Prior to Investigation” of which we are all guilty at one time or another. But this quick judgement before having the facts blocks us against the bigger picture and keeps us from learning new things.
- The Serenity Prayer: It’s not just for alcoholics anymore.
I had this short prayer taped up by my desk at work long before I knew about AA. It made sense then, and it makes sense now. This is how it goes: (You’re welcome to recite it out loud with me.)
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
- Step one: Powerlessness
The fist step of AA’s 12 is: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol; that our lives had become unmanageable. We can replace the word, alcohol, with just about anything—drugs, overeating, Covid-19— because the fact is we are pretty much powerless over everything beyond our own attitude and actions. That doesn’t mean we should give up— far from it. Once we accept what we can’t do, it opens a whole new wonderful insight into what we can.
- One moment at a time.
One of the most stressful things about the pandemic is that we don’t know how long it’s going to last. When we consider it in terms of weeks and even months, it becomes almost impossible to cope. One of AA’s best-know slogans, One day at a time, reflects the concept that we can do just about anything for twenty-four hours. It suggests we try to live in the present, setting aside the past and future. We can amend the slogan to One hour, One minute, or even One second at a time. We can ask ourselves, In this moment, am I okay? Have I done everything I can for now? The answer is usually yes.
- We are not alone.
In AA we learn that, where we once thought we were alone in our problems, we are in fact surrounded by others experiencing similar issues to us. This is also true of the Covid-19 pandemic. All of us are staying home. All of us have had our daily routines upset. Many of us are having financial difficulties. Some of us are sick. All of us are worried. I’ve been amazed at how people have found ways to come together while staying physically apart. Reaching out, sharing with others anything and everything that is on our minds helps us in two ways: Firstly, describing out fears and feelings out loud helps clarify these things in our minds. Secondly, we learn how others in similar situations are dealing with them.
- Action: Do the next right thing.
Some may recognize this catchphrase as a song from Disney’s Frozen II, but it’s a whole lot more. There is a point when we need to quit thinking about stuff and start acting. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. We can do the next right thing. But how do we know what that should be? As I look inside my heart, I usually find the answer. (See #6)
- Prayer and meditation.
The eleventh step of Alcoholics Anonymous goes as follows: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
This is my favorite step, because it puts into perspective something that baffled me for so long: the meaning of prayer. No more, “Please God, let this happen and don’t let that happen, but if that happens, then please do this.” This one prayer covers it all.
This step also mentions meditation. Some consider prayer as talking to God, where meditation is listening to Him.
- Taking care of ourselves.
It’s like when we fly on an airplane and the flight attendant instructs us to put on our own oxygen masks first, because if we run out of oxygen, we’ll be no good to anyone else. The same is true in life: we can’t help others unless we help ourselves. It’s important to listen to the inner voice that lets us know what we need, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Maybe it’s rest or food; maybe companionship or alone-time. Who knows better how to meet those needs than ourselves?
8: Action: Helping others.
Once we have helped ourselves put on our virtual oxygen mask, it’s time to help others. We learn in the program that by helping others, we help ourselves. Oftentimes when I’m anxious, the feeling resolves when I immerse myself in tasks such as making coffee for my meeting. Right now, we can’t do many of the helpful things we used to do because of #stayhome and social distancing, so it’s time to think outside the box. Whether we volunteer to courier donated PPE supplies, foster an animal for a shelter, or send a letter to a shut-in, what we do matters.
- We hear what we listen for.
It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of negative information coming our way. We become tuned into the negative, but there are good things happening too. Turn off the TV news, which makes its money by scaring us, and find something positive online, on the radio, or in our own homes.
- The destructive “What if?”
How many times lately have I heard people asking, What if? What if I get sick? What if the Post Office closes? What if the store runs out of toilet paper? These are all good questions, but ones that cannot be answered until they come to pass. Until then, energy spent worrying is wasted, because in fact, we won’t know what we’ll do until it happens. Not to say that planning ahead isn’t a good idea, but the point is to try to keep our brains from becoming overwhelmed.
- Action: Ask yourself this question:
What went well?
What part did I play in its success?
Something I heard: When you fear a thing, learn all you can about it.
How many facts do any of us really know about Covid-19? About pandemics in general? About the resources available at this time and ones in the works? About ways to minimize the threat of infection? About how the virus is spread? About what we’re doing about it, locally, nationally, and internationally? If, like many, everything we know has come from the news media, it may be time to dig deeper into other sources.
Something I know: #stayhome mimics forced retirement.
I retired three years ago, and it has taken me this long to come to terms with what that means. At first, I drove myself crazy trying to do all the things I said I’d do if I ever had the time. I felt I needed to keep up the same pace as while working. I believed my worth was judged by my production. Over the years, I’ve realized the benefit of other things: beauty, quiet; love; time. Today, I don’t push myself. I enjoy the moment and don’t berate myself for what I don’t get done.
The #stayhome order imposed on us by C-19 is a sort of forced retirement for many people, one that nobody anticipated. It may be helpful to look up some information about common changes we go through when we retire.
I hope you found something you can use out of my suggestions. Do you have anything to add? How are you coping with the Covid-19 Pandemic? I welcome your comments and may even write another blogpost to include them.
Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay home. This will pass.