It seems that everywhere you turn these days, there’s nothing but bad news: corona virus, financial collapse, high death rates, social distancing/isolation, etc. I stopped watching the news a while ago because I realized just how much it wasn’t good for me because it contributed to my already overactive negative thoughts, but still, some sort of terrifying headline somehow finds its way into my life (I went on YouTube today to find an at-home workout video and my entire front page was swamped with new outlets updating on how awful the world is right now).
With all of this negative fuel and being forced into a constant state of worry, it’s no wonder that I would also start to fall into my own self-made old ways of thinking:
“I wonder if he’s really still sober?”
“This seems like a more stressful time to cause him to relapse than times in the past…”
“Everyone is saying that relapse rates are high right now with everything going on…” (by the way, who is ‘everyone’?)
“He did seem more tired/agitated/moody/stressed out/down/fill in the blank today…”
Like a rock landing in just the right spot to cause an avalanche, so my thoughts start building up and barreling down the slope.
But this is where some mental focus comes in, and it applies to more than just my feelings about my partner’s life choices.
Let’s say he did relapse. It has the same call to action that would be warranted if I caught corona virus: there is literally no amount of negative mental action that would influence this outcome in any way. No amount of worrying, stressing out, trying to sort out every aspect of my life as if it has already happened, overthinking and micromanaging everything to a T just in case, would do anything to help out the situation in a good way. Now are there actual plans of action that I would need to do in either of these situations? Of course. But the thing is, none of those would actually need to be put into place until the situation actually happened.
Being a recovering chronic-worrier causes me to think I actually have some sort of control over these external events when in reality all I’m doing is getting myself worked up and irritated over things I have absolutely no influence over in the bigger picture. I might think I can do something grand and fool-proof, but all I do is cause myself to miss out on my life that is happening right now.
For me, it’s been difficult beyond the typical changes like not being able to go anywhere and having scary headlines on every social media platform. It’s also changed how I respond to stress. Even in times of worry and uncertainty in the past as a result of his use, I’ve had my normal life to fall back on: daily gym time, weekend visits with my family, therapy appointments, program meetings, time with friends. Being a big scheduler, that continuity and regularity kept me on track until I could get in the new groove of life as it was happening. But now, I’ve had to adapt beyond my normal comfort zone. I can’t go places that I used to and I’ve had to change the ways I could do the things I still needed to (like home workouts and grocery delivery).
As a result, I’ve actually started to thrive outside my comfort zone even more, by becoming more able to adapt to different and stressful situations. Sure I still have some ways to distract myself, which I think is still a little needed as I can’t constantly be “on” all the time and need some time to just recharge and rest, but I have noticed that I am much more free and excited about life, way more open to bettering myself (I heard learning a language helps with mental focus so the Duolingo owl and I are getting to be good friends), and eager to try new things (hello red lipstick!).
So until I actually hear that I have corona virus, or that he’s relapsed (both of which I hope to never hear), all I can do is live in the moment, focus on being grateful for what I have, and try to live a little more happy, while also washing my hands more often and focusing on bettering myself and controlling what I can.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from both having a partner with this life-long struggle and living through a global pandemic, it’s this: life is just too darn short to spend it worrying about stuff I can do nothing about. All I can do is, well, all I can do, and beyond that, it’s just out of my clean and germ-free hands. So I’m going to just keep focusing on not sweating the small stuff, living in the moment, and keeping up that daily list of what I’m grateful for (that I managed to convince him to do with me at the end of every day). And I hope that you are able to do this, too, because I promise you, it’s much better than the alternative.