Coping and the Coronavirus

Coping and the Coronavirus

Well the coronavirus has finally hit our sleepy little corner of the earth down here in East Devon.  Yesterday we went shopping in the local supermarket to find the shelves empty, very little meat, no bread, rice or pasta and, of course, no toilet rolls.  Why toilet rolls??  Of all the things I can think of panic buying, toilet rolls would not be in my top 100.  I did suggest to Lou that we should panic buy Easter eggs, but sadly, or perhaps sensibly, she just ignored me.

Up till now, we have been watching the news of this outbreak of coronavirus in China and Italy and other countries.  However, now the reality has struck home.  Now it is not just something on the foreign news, people around us have relatives that are showing symptoms and now we are being told to isolate ourselves.

Wow!!  Suddenly we are no longer mildly interested observers.  Instead, overnight we have become part of a vulnerable group and need to protect ourselves.  That was a bit of a shock.  I can’t say that I have ever felt that I was particularly vulnerable to anything, which was not always a smart mindset.  So, this new designation was a bit of a blow to my self-image.

So how to cope with it?  I believe there several ways to react in the current climate, some of them positive, many of them not so much.  It is one of those situations where you can slip into feelings of helplessness very quickly, and who could blame you?  However, I believe there is an alternate way, and this is the one we have chosen.

Serenity Prayer

Years ago, I got sober through AA and one of the most useful tools I found there was the Serenity Prayer.  I used this prayer a lot in the early days of my sobriety as it both gave me comfort and reminded me of what I could and couldn’t do.  The prayer says:-

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

It is a simple, yet profound, statement of the human condition.  I eventually came to learn, or found the wisdom to realise, that I was an alcoholic and had no control over my drinking and I needed to accept that truth.  But, if I exercised some courage, I could stop drinking and live a great life in sobriety.  The wisdom was realising what I could and couldn’t do, that I may have been powerless over some things but there were plenty of areas where I was not powerless.

Back to the present, after the obligatory period of complaining and concern, Lou and I decided that we were going to look at this unprecedented time in a more positive way.  At this point some people might say, how can you find anything positive in these circumstances?  Well, to paraphrase the serenity prayer, we can’t change the fact that the coronavirus is here, nor can we change our time of isolation, but we can change how we deal with it.  We could sit around complaining (after all we are British and very accomplished complainers) or we could join the ranks of the panic buyers, or just see this imposed isolation as an ordeal.  Alternately we could view this time as an opportunity.

After a bit of discussion we decided to take a positive view and regard it as an opportunity.  The important word in that sentence is ‘decided’, that is we have made a conscious choice to regard what many see as negative as a positive.  Psychologists call this ‘reframing’.  It is a positive for us as there are several projects that we have never had the time to start or finish.  Now we are going to have the time to do them!

Reframing is just looking at an issue in a different way.  It is one of the key pillars of Positive Psychology, counselling and, of course, Bottled Up.  Reframing does not change a situation; it changes your view of the situation, which gives more options on how you handle the situation.  In Bottled Up we show you how to look at your drinker and/or your drinking differently and therefore find ways in which you can tackle it more effectively.

One good example of this is the SHARE tool.  Instead of seeing drinking as the problem which leads to arguments around topics like – “I’m not an alcoholic” or “S/he drinks much more than I do” or “I’m not drunk” SHARE focusses on the consequences of drinking on your life.  That way you can discuss the issue in a much clearer or objective way, talking about the damage to your relationship or health, rather than in vague terms such as drinking too much or whether or not s/he is an alcoholic.

Reframing then is an empowering strategy because it provides a broader, less emotional view of a situation and this brings options that could not be seen otherwise.  When I got sober, I believed that my life was finished, that all the fun and enjoyment had gone.  In reality, my life actually opened up in amazing ways.  The misery and terrible withdrawals went and suddenly I had a future full of options.  In fact, I had a future!

So, to return to where we started, rather than view this coronavirus initiated isolation as a prison sentence, we have decided to view it as an opportunity to pursue some projects that we have struggled to find time for.  Reframing is not just a strategy for coronavirus.  Therapists employ it to motivate people, to treat depression and anxiety.  Management consultants use it to guide businesses into new areas of profit.  And we use it in Bottled Up to help you look at your or your partner’s drinking in a way that empowers rather than shames.

Maybe you could use this time to look at, and implement, some of the program of Bottled Up which is designed to help you reframe your situation and empower you to change your life.  Maybe, just maybe the coronavirus could turn out to be a positive time in your life.  Be careful and stay well.

If you feel that you need help with your drinking you can join Bottled Up here for free

If you feel that you need help with a partner’s drinking you can join Bottled Up here for free

13 Replies to “Coping and the Coronavirus”

    1. Hi Sandra
      When I was getting sober I found it enormously comforting. I still do. However, today I concentrate more on the wisdom element as I’m still inclined to get it wrong and try and change things that I should accept. Thanks for your comment.

  1. I do not like alcoholism as it seems it’s been a part of my 66 years most of the time. I have feared becoming an alcoholic most of my life. Now my two adult sons seem to be alcoholics to me for quite awhile but that is up to them to decide. I just see 10-12 beers each night 7 days a week to be problem but until they might see it as a problem I can only deal with the ramifications myself. I use reframing to try to manage how it is and it does help. It helps me see and know them out of love and not bad guys as I sometimes feel.
    As the corona virus unfolded and the community started to close down, which included bars, social clubs, liquor stores, my sons focus suddenly changed. They got their alcohol via these venues every day. I could hear them plotting as to where they could go to get their alcohol. It started to consume them and their demeanors changed drastically.
    I am older and have three health issues that make me vulnerable to the virus and it is frightening. I also am not able to walk well due to pain. When our furnace went out and required going to the basement to reset the motor so we could have heat, I had to call my son to come in and rest it. Past experience told me that we may very well have to get a new furnace or parts may be hard to come by as it is an older furnace. If the furnace quits for good it may take several days or a week to get that done. I asked my son if we could begin to plan for that possibility and get someone in sooner than later to figure it all out. Our temperatures are still cold where we live and with my health conditions the cold temperatures bring on a lot more pain.
    I tried to explain this and the possibilities of a dying furnace could bring, but I lost my son and his focus because he was so worried about getting a stockpile of his alcohol. he lost focus of everything including work, family responsibilities, community responsibilities and even helping me out. My other son did it but in a little different way. At first, it hit me hard because it was hard to connect the dots, but when I heard them say they had 8 cases of beer and several bottles of liquor stockpiled I could finally see and understood their addiction. I wasn’t crazy in what I had been seeing despite their denial in wondering if they were alcoholics. The clincher was when they came back from the store with their first stockpile and I heard them already planning their next liquor stockpile run. I saw it and I am not crazy and I could laugh with love. I also learned a lot about myself, too.

    1. Hi Margaret
      I think that many people will have to ask themselves what they can do without and what they can’t. This may be a time when some people will have to face up to their dependence on alcohol. Stay well.

  2. Margret,
    All I can say is, “Wow!”. My heart goes out to you. My father was a workaholic not not an alcoholic. However, both my brothers were alcoholics. I understand what you’ve described. It is vital that you know it isn’t you.
    I’ve struggled with being balanced myself. I get grief if I have a beer a day. Now, I don’t normally do that. Keep being patient an secure in the knowledge that you are doing the best that you can.
    Best wishes,

  3. I am having a terrible time right now with my husband, he just keeps getting worse with his drinking. He drank 2 26oz bottles of vodka through the weekend and who knows how much more he drank. We have a business and he can’t even focus, I have been doing everything! I always seem to be making excuses for him but I am so angry right now that I told him I hate him! Such strong words! We have been married for almost 36 years & at 55 years old I just can’t keep going like this! He has already been diagnosed with cirrhosis but he swears it’s not from drinking even though he was told by his doctors that he has to quit drinking & he has for 2 weeks sometimes & then he is violently ill & says that’s it never again and then it starts over again. Last year in March he was close to death when he collapsed and lost so much blood & had to have several transfusions but he still doesn’t get it!! I’m always every name in the book and it’s always my fault. I am just lost & feeling really alone right now especially during this craziness in the world! Any words of wisdom will maybe give me a little comfort if only for a while.

    1. Hi Sherry – I’ve not posted before on any site but read plenty, however your situation rang such a chord for me. Same age, similar situation and in particular the duration of the drinking. I simply want to empathise with you – it’s an absolute nightmare isn’t it. Even more unfathomable is how we’ve allowed ourselves to get to this position and the frustration of investing so much of our life into our family / business / relationship. John and Lou you make sense of it and yet I find myself still buying into my husbands chaos, wanting to make things right time and time again. I’ve just read The Search for Meaning by Viktore Frankl and two things he says stand out for me ‘when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves’ and ‘between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to chose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom’ . I’m in New Zealand with 4 weeks lockdown and am focused on using this gift of time out to sort things out – it’s been too long on the same merry go round. Like me you sound strong and definitely you deserve to be happy – take care.

      1. Hi Sara, I really appreciate your words! I will definitely read the book that you suggested. Things went from bad to worse, my husband was drinking one morning even though he denies it & proceeded to go on a ladder, fell off called ambulance, had surgery on broken tibia, almost lost his leg because if infection. And now because of his cirrhosis his mind is not working! He has not drank since April 10th only because he can’t get to the alcohol because of leg & then he fell & broke his wrist. He looks like a fragile dying alcoholic, his brain is so effected by his disease he is angry all the time at me, yelling, calling me every name under the sun. I basically have to do everything for him & I am wearing down! I feel sad all the time & I don’t know how I am going to keep doing this! I hope the time you had alone was a blessing for you. Take care & stay healthy

  4. I have been reading and hearing. But I didn’t know what to say to anyone. I re-read my first post which was a week ago. It has been a rollercoaster ride each day. What can I say to anyone? I think I have to start with, :Know you pain is very real” Even if it is jumbled and pain, know it is real. For me, trying to sift through the pain made it more difficult and unmanageable. But just knowing and accepting for yourself that there is pain and it is real helped me. I have a personal relationship with Jesus and I would use this relationship to bring soothing comfort to me. For someone who doesn’t go this way, self talk and soothing words are helpful. Validating and affirming oneself. I use those as well. Doing this isn’t easy especially if you have lived an other oriented life. Hope this helps someone.

  5. I am struggling today. I am keenly aware of the burden so many people are carrying during this crisis. I am the oldest of five children and we were born pretty close to each other. I had to understand that the younger child’s needs came first and it was real because several of the kids had real medical problems and needs. Often I got lost in the shuffle.
    I am in conflict now, during this crisis, as to how important my needs are compared to others. I have medical needs that need managed, as well as, other supportive needs. Yet, I struggle with even trying to get my needs met or asking for help. I get so anxious when I have to address my needs. I don’t know whether to put everything on the back burner and I do because there are more important issues with the crisis. I struggle with knowing how to address my own needs as there are so many unknowns in this crisis. I don’t want to be a burden and people are busy with life and death.

    1. I believe that many people, especially the families of alcoholics, have trouble asking for their needs to be met. They often feel that there are more important considerations to be addressed and it feels selfish to ask for my needs and wants to be addressed. This can be seen when they come to this website, the search is all about the drinker and even when we point out that they also have needs, that information is often batted aside.
      One analogy I often use is the safety briefing on an airplane. The steward(ess) tells us that oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling and that we should put our own mask on before trying to help anyone else. This is sound advice. If you can’t breathe, it makes it very difficult to help anyone else. Indeed, you will very quickly become a liability rather tan a help. Similarly, if your needs are not being met, you can very quickly become unwell (physically, mentally, emotionally) and so helping others becomes increasingly difficult. Even if you can still continue helping, your judgement about what is beneficial for the other person can become clouded. In Bottled Up we encourage you to tend to your needs – not for selfish reasons but for health reasons.

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