There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. -John Lennon
How is your anxiety level?
As I write this the nation is at the early stages of addressing the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants are either closed or have gone to offering drive thru or curb side services and have closed their dining rooms. Schools and institutes of higher education have stopped having classes on campus and transitioned to virtual education models. The news reports are warning of the stress that could be placed on our health care system should the virus impact us as it has Europe and Asia. Don’t even think about buying a roll of toilet paper or a bottle of Purell!
As people in recovery, we have to take this situation seriously. In addition to the concerns about our health we have the reality that times of fear and stress are huge triggers that could impact our recovery. Where the danger occurs at this time is that we may be triggered both externally and internally.
Internal triggers are emotions, false core beliefs, thoughts or self-talk. External triggers are people, events, relationships, information and environments. Both internal and external triggers move us closer to lapse or relapse, both of which are currently bombarding us. Something diabolical happens when our external triggers spark internal fear and anxiety. While the opportunity is there to act out in our addiction, the opportunity also exist to deepen our recovery. But it may require some effort. Here are a few thoughts…
Extremes are not our Friends. People tend to be focused on extremes and either have over or under reacted. Ask your self if this describes you. One of the slogans I embrace in my recovery is “I am cautiously optimistic.” Remember that extreme or all or none thinking is a sign we are slipping into addiction.
Focus on Facts not Fiction. Nothing helps us in recovery as much as truth telling. Talk to a doctor or health care professional about both how you feel and what is true about this pandemic. You cannot make a solid decision without educating yourself on the truth.
Feel Your Feelings. Consider journalling your feelings during this time. Simply begin with the sentence, “Today I feel…” and finish it with everything that comes to mind. It is easier to deal with the emotional triggers once we actually write them down and recognize them. Download a Feelings Inventory if you have trouble getting a grip on what you actually feel. After seven years of recovery I still have to look at a handout of cartoon faces to figure out that ache in my gut is actually anger or loneliness.
Remember your Program Tools. When we are activated we have a slew resources which can defuse our addictive energy. 12 Steppers can do a 4th and 5th Step. Those in Buddhist Recovery programs may choose to meditate. Religious based recoverees may pray or attend a virtual religious service. Each program of recovery provides tools and connections to manage our compulsive behaviors, now is a great time to use them!
Stay Connected. Regardless of length in a recovery program, the simple tool of picking up the phone is one most of us can use to arrest feelings of anxiety. Others may be able to log into a virtual meeting recovery meeting offered by our programs. One surprise that has come from this event is the increase in online meetings! A friend told me, “It was reported that the hits to our website of people looking for online meetings has jumped from 800-1100/day to almost 12,000/day in the past week and is climbing.” Isolation does not have to mean we limit our interaction with others, it just means we have to be intentional and choose to exercise some muscles we never use.
The last resource in our tool box is probably the most powerful. A recovering person who get this and lets it motivate his or her recovery will remain sober. It is the atom bomb that disarms anxiety and fear. It is a sure deterrent to the hopelessness we feel when the world is closing in. What is this weapon?
As someone once told me, “Grateful addicts don’t use.” How true! Gratitude is the ultimate act of right sizing our lives, our thinking, and our perceptions. Everything around us may be going to hell in a hand basket, yet simply finding one thing to be grateful for can reorient our perspective. When we choose to be grateful we are choosing courage over fear and acting out of humility instead of ego. While I do not believe that everything happens in our life for a reason, gratitude allows us to bring purpose to even the most difficult circumstance.
Even if that circumstance is a global pandemic.
Gratefully in your service,
1. Find a quiet place and take a few minutes to center yourself spiritually in a way that works for you. Now use a journal to finish the sentence, “Right now I feel…”
2. Highlight any emotion that may be triggering. Follow up by journalling about what is behind that emotion. Be specific. (example. Right now I feel fearful because I do not know what I will do if I lose my job over this virus outbreak.)
3. Try to identify any destructive or erroneous thoughts and record them in your journal. (example: Catastrophic Thinking - I am imagining that I know the out come of this and I do not. I am future projecting.)
4. Get honest by journalling what is driving that emotion and belief. (example: I wish I could control this and I can. I am struggling with letting go over something I have no control over whatsoever.)
5. Create an affirmation to replace that false belief with a better one. (example: I am choosing to not panic or give into fear. Instead I choose gratitude and surrender. I am not in control.)
6. Take time to journal a gratitude list. Go into detail about what, who and why you are thankful. (example: I am grateful for my daughter and son because they love me and support me in my effort to recover.)
7. Close your journaling time with a prayer or meditation expressing gratefulness for three things which enrich your life at this time.