We are all in this together, and there’s no way out. This is our reality check every day now, as we watch the world change drastically as the epidemic grows all around us. What was standard a month ago is now impossible to imagine, for example, meeting with friends for a coffee or eating in a restaurant. Everything is on hold now: concerts, art openings, movies, renovations, reunions, public celebrations, and many things we haven’t yet anticipated. If you open a newspaper today, you will notice the sports section is gone. Or perhaps you’re an instant adapter, and you’re shocked at the fact that there are still newspapers being printed (for now, there are). Wherever you are currently, it’s best for your mental health that you acknowledge this is happening, it is on-going, and it will probably not dissipate any time soon.
In my practice as an independent addiction consultant and my own personal experience, I’ve found that acceptance is crucial when it comes to maintaining my sanity. If it wasn’t for me accepting that I had a substance use disorder and that I needed help with it, I wouldn’t be sober today. Similarly, if it wasn’t for me accepting that I was relinquished as a child and suffered trauma as a result, I would perhaps crumble underneath all the complicated emotions and pain and reach for the bottle again. Once I was able to connect to reality—of me having an addiction and of me having been relinquished—it gradually became easier to deal with what I’ve been dealt. I believe that, had I continued to drink, I would’ve never experienced life the way it’s meant to be experienced: in its glory and with all of its miseries. Accepting helped me to overcome my challenges, and it taught me that by staying mindful and present, I can deal with a lot more than I think I can.
I know it seems ridiculous and mind-boggling that something as innocent as a walk in a park can have deathly consequences, but pretending everything is as it used to be doesn’t serve anyone. Over the last few days (March 18—March 21, 2020), Spring Break celebrations have shut down in the U.S., after damning footage of young people partying and being blasé about the dangers of COVID-19. Every day, though, we are still presented with images of others not taking this seriously, gathering in groups or crowding the sidewalks unnecessarily. When I see those images, I think, sadly, how it’ll have to take a lot more tragedy for people to understand how we’re no longer living in the reality where we take things like our liberty for granted.
Indeed it is not good for humans to self-isolate for long periods as we need stimulation and contact with others. But we have to be mindful of being able to do it without congregating and hoarding the parks or outdoor spaces where others in isolation who may have special needs or at higher risk also need to take advantage of public spaces and parks. Being aware of others, our environment and our current circumstances are crucial now. And accepting that this is our new reality is what will help us deal with this. There is no escaping this, and coming to terms with it will only help us. It’s painful and scary and unusual, but being in denial about it is dangerous. We will get our freedom back, and the world will recover from this, but right now, accepting that we are in the state of emergency is what will, ultimately, save us.
This isn’t the “new normal.” Nothing about what we’re experiencing is usual, typical, or expected. This is, instead, the NEW REALITY. Accepting this will help us to survive and thrive.
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