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.
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.
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.