How Sober People Are Making It Work During Quarantine

Culture

It’s controversial, maybe, but sobriety doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be a weight you carry about and worry about and think about all the time. It’s possible to rewire some things in your brain—to change your beliefs—by being open to change and feeding yourself new information. Once your beliefs change, new behaviors become effortless. This happened for me and it remains one of the closest things to a magical experience I’ve ever had, but it was just normal. It happened.

Edith Zimmerman, Writer and illustrator, Drawing Links, sober for four years

“This is a good challenge to go through with a clear head.”

This is probably the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place in years and years. I think there is some anxiety involved in that. The sobriety part of it didn’t necessarily cross my mind, initially, but then, a couple of weeks in, you start to think, “there’s a lot of time to fill here.”

Previously, I would have been zonked out, of course, but also, it would have been like, “Okay, how am I going to get this?” Because I wasn’t into drinking. I was into pills. It would have been a very different experience and I definitely would have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about trying to procure what I needed In situations like this, for alcoholics specifically, you can go buy [booze] at the store. That’s a very easy thing to do, it’s a very easy thing to indulge in. If I wanted to go get a hundred Oxycontin pills right now, I couldn’t do that.

I’ve gotten super into running, which is probably the easiest thing to do right now. And the most high you can get is when you finish 10 miles when it’s cold outside. That’s about as good as you can feel from exercise from what I’ve experienced in my life. You’re pushing yourself. It’s goal-oriented in a lot of ways, which I think is also a way to keep focused on something positive.

I think boredom and the unknown is a bad combo for drug use. Luckily, I think I’ve had enough time to learn how to process those feelings in a sober way. So, I know what I’m getting into and how to go about that if I’m starting to feel something I don’t like. I think this is such a big shift for society. And I think that this is a good challenge to go through with a clear head. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from sobriety, in general, is just you feel everything at a very different level than you did before when there’s nowhere to hide.

— Chris Black, founder of Done to Death Projects, sober for three and a half years

“I no longer feel like I’m weakened or I have a handicap because I’m an alcoholic, but that I have sort of a minor superpower because of it.”

The house I live in here in Phoenix is almost 100 years old. And my plan when I moved here was to be on the road four months out of the year every summer to avoid the worst of the heat. Everything that I had lined up for the summer—my entire European tour, teaching at Yale—just went in the shitter and I was like, “I’m just going to be locked down in this baking inferno for months and months and months and my brain is going to eat itself.”

I think that sober folks already have the toolbox to deal with all this shit because we have dread and anxiety and panic attacks and freakouts come up because, “Oh, it’s Tuesday.” We’re used to having to manage your own mind, having to manage your mental health, having to manage your insecurity, the small swings between euphoria and self-loathing. I’m in this space of sobriety now where I no longer feel like I’m weakened or I have a handicap because I’m an alcoholic, but that I have sort of a minor superpower because of it. I’ve lived through some shit. I’ve had a lot of upheaval in my sober life. What I realized early on in isolation was my life changed very little and I was like, “Oh, this is a sign that I need to not live like this. I need to go out every day and engage with people every day.” I resolved to change that going forward.

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