Covid 19, Anxiety and Relapse

Male hands holding surgical mask against coronavirus

There are a lot of people relapsing at the moment. Anxiety levels are high and our usual routines are out the window (along with the usual rules on drinking). Many so-called moderate drinkers are now drinking every day when they didn’t before, they are drinking earlier in the day and they are drinking more and more. It’s like some weird mix between Christmas and the end of the world. Even people who aren’t drinking are worried and anxious.

Here’s why I’m not anxious.

What I am doing is concentrating on the immediate day-to-day stuff. I am getting up, taking my boys out for our daily exercise, then the rest of my day is spent trying to work, teach, feed, and enjoy ourselves.

What I am not doing is wasting my time worrying about things that may or may not come to pass or things that I can’t control, like my death, the death of a loved one, the collapse of the company I work for, the ability fo the NHS to cope, whether people are obeying the rules on social distancing, whether enough is being done, if the right things are being done, or the myriad of other things that people are worrying about. In short, I am concentrating on playing my part, on doing what I need to do for my family and obeying the rules that have been set.

Remember the serenity prayer.

The way I see it there are only two ways this can turn out. Firstly I or a loved one dies. If this does happen these days I am currently living will be the last of my life (or the last of my life as I know it). In this case, I want these days to be the best days I’ve ever had with my family.

family walking together through the woods

If the worst happens then my life will end or fall apart. I’m not going to waste these last few days worrying and fretting about something I can’t control.

Secondly, we all get through it fine. In which pretty soon I’ll be back in the office, drowning in dull work and thinking back to these days and wishing I could live them again; being at home, no daily commute, a massively reduced work load and time with the family.

Either way, these are days to make the most of and to wring every ounce of joy from.

I know this may be easier said than done, and this mindset is easier to fall into for people, for example, who previously served in the military where you are given very little information aside from the little you need to do your direct job. You are a cog in a machine with knowledge of only your very small remit. You become very good at resigning yourself to what you cannot control (which is a lot) and you are forced to trust those above you in the chain of command who are making the decisions. Even if you are convinced that those decisions are wrong you do what you are told because a bad decision is better than no decision. A ship with a bad captain is better than a ship with no captain, or a captain whose crew does what it likes with all the members acting individually.

I also fully appreciate that I am alone of the lucky ones as things stand; so far none of my loved ones have died and my income from my day job is still coming in. Many aren’t so lucky. But you know what, this makes me even more determined to be thankful for what I have and not ruin it by worrying about things that may never happen. It may sound selfish but I can’t help everyone, all I can do is concentrate on my family and my job.

Because I have reverted to this mindset that has served me so well in the past, I have absolutely no desire to drink at all. I have no underlying anxiety that needs dulling, and in fact, alcohol has absolutely no place in this strange new routine I am in. If I drank I would be grouchy, tired, and my mind would constantly be on my next drink instead of my family and my job. My tiredness and short temper would impact the atmosphere at home.

sunset on the beach

Emotions are catching. If you get angry with someone and shout at them they get angry and shout back. If you start laughing often people around you will laugh, even if they don’t know what you were laughing at. Mob rules exist because the crowd feeds off its own emotions. If you are at home and you are calm and peaceful and positive, you will be projecting those emotions to the rest of the household. If you are tired and anxious and bad-tempered then those are the emotions you will be projecting through your house. This is particularly true for young children who are less able to ignore and rise above things.

Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t perfect days, we do have our moments (particularly towards the end of the day when we are all starting to get tired) but overall things are as good as can be hoped for under the circumstances. If I was drinking these would be grim and unpleasant days. Whether this current situation is a hiatus or the end of life as I know it I have no intention of ruining it by either drinking or worrying. I want to live it to the full.

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21 Responses

  1. Excellent blog. Another way of putting what you say is: try to focus on the now. Live in the now, not some projection of the past or future. I agree, alcohol will make you tired and grumpy, and there likely won’t be enough of it anyway in the house so why start?!
    Enjoyed the zoom chat the other week ‘William’ 😉

  2. Brilliantly explained. Especially about being tireder in the evening, therefore grumpier and therefore more likely to have a drink to feel better. My husband and I are over 70 and are lucky enough to have a large garden, so for the last two weeks we have spent most of each day gardening – making a point of having a ‘proper’ lunch and then just soup for supper.
    Yes, we do occasionally have a glass of wine when we walk round the garden together in the early evening – but somehow the seriousness of the situation makes us feel we want to be in control as much as we can – and know (from past experience!) that too much alcohol will have the opposite effect. I don’t want to fritter away the time we have left – I just want to try and enjoy today, look forward to tomorrow and to reflect on the things we have achieved in our life together – so far!

  3. Best way to look at things.
    It’s been one month and seven days since I had a drink and I feel good when I wake up in the morning.
    Been listening to your audible book on and off for about six months and it definitely is helping me. I get the odd attack of FAB once in a while but I can identify it now and as you say, the decision to drink is always made in the conscious mind so I decide not to take alcohol.

  4. Such a good post – thank you. I’ve not had a drink for about 3 and a half years now and today is my birthday. I said to my husband how nice it would be to have a glass of cold sparkling wine sitting in the garden in the sunshine – in a second I could envisage how that would catapult me back in no time at all to drinking at least a bottle of wine every day often two. Like you, I realise how much worse things could be ‘on the booze’ and how much better life is without it. Thank you again for a great post.

  5. Good post , only flaw is you say you can only focus on you and your family .
    You have more time on your hands now to help / volunteer to help others less fortunate than yourself, don’t need reminding who . I was taught in rehab that one of the 12 steps in recovery from alcoholism is we get better by also helping others , it gives us a sense of worth and part of the healing process.
    I have read your books and was impressed, but I don’t like selfish people , especially times like this . I prefer selfless people

    1. William is helping countless people around the world through posts like this, through Facebook lives and of course, through his books. He has changed lives and continues to do so. He doesn’t want to see people relapse, he is giving us support. This is by no means selfish.

      He is a busy man who now has time freed up to spend quality time with his family, and I imagine he’s educating his children so that they emerge strong from this, too.
      Everyone is doing what they can to stay sane and no one should be criticised about which coping method they choose for their mental health. William is going way beyond his call of duty by continuing to stress the importance of avoiding alcohol at this time (and all times) because he cares about our wellbeing and knows that drinking is NOT a coping mechanism to be employed.

      Thank you, William, for putting some perspective on this. There is not point indulging in the “what ifs”.

    2. I agree to some extent Mark The post for W was rather self indulgent and a few of the others comments. I can not see my family,
      live alone, and do not have a garden in all of that I’m 5 years
      off the drink!!!
      I’m doing my best taking calls form those in distress through a local help line.
      I’m not saying Oh aren’t I the greatest like W I’m just saying
      the post made me think Jeez how self indulgent are these guys.

    1. I look forward to these posts by William and would like him to continue. These posts really help me. Please don’t be so critical.

  6. Brilliant,positive post in the midst of this pandemic and heartbreak.It has made me more adamant to be the best version of myself for my loved ones and that certainly will not include alcohol. Thanks as always William for selflessly giving us all time,advice and support.Mind your precious family.Childhood is magical,there were times when my daughter was young,that I wished I could freeze the moment.

  7. Excellent post. Seems so much in life returns to The Serenity Prayer. Thanks, William, for your books and your blogs. There is always something to be grateful for. This blog definitely alleviated my anxiety and I’m definitely grateful for staying alcohol free!

    1. Mark,
      I really must disagree.
      I do not see any such flaw. There is nothing selfish about concentrating on family and job.
      Just by writing these articles / books William is helping and supporting so many people.
      He is spending precious time to put his thoughts down to encourage those who could be struggling.
      He is giving tools on how to gain control, he reaches out, he contributes.
      None of this is selfish.
      I feel it rather judge-mental of you to declare the article ‘flawed’.
      Your ideas of helping the community are very noble, however William is helping so many , all over the world, 24/7.
      Also , For all you know , He could be volunteering In other ways and you would not have a clue because he is a humble man who doesn’t need to tell everyone at a meeting about the good he is doing.
      Lastly. This man has served his country.
      There is nothing more selfless .

  8. Excellent post William, great to be reminded of the need to focus only what you can control and have an insight to military thinking. Life instantly seems more joyful, no matter what is thrown at you.
    I cannot think how much rougher these times would have been if I had a permanent hangover.
    Thanks for posting.

  9. Excellent Post, we can go on forever with imagined Scenarios of what can happen to us or wont happen to us , what in this actual moment is there to worry about ?

  10. This is a very difficult for anyone with a substance use disorder. Fortunately telepsych practices can help those who reach out with treatment for alcohol and opiate use problems. I am a psychiatric nurse practitioner seeing patients via telemedicine. Feel free to reach out to me.

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William Porter

William wrote Alcohol Explained to share his approach on recovering from alcohol dependency.

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