Not drinking during the pandemic

Staying sober during quarantine. Or, how not to have fun.

I don’t have an editor for this personal blog. There is a typo or two below. The world will keep spinning! — Alex

It’s early May 2020.

We’re an age into the COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States, and the wear is starting to show.

At the grocery store this Sunday the customer base was about one-third properly masked, and one-third wearing industrial covers they’d seemingly found deep in their garage. The final third of folks shopping for tins of beans and other bits of haute cuisine covid looked like knock-off bank robbers, wrapping bandanas around their faces as if to say hey, we tried.

It’s an odd time.

But for a group of folks the COVID-19 era has brought with it a particular set of challenges, folks who can struggle with changes in routine and social isolation: addicts.

For folks sober from one thing or another — or all things, if that’s your jam — suddenly having your life’s patterns ripped up and made void, while also denying you social interactions you might have depended on for support (AA meetings, meditation spurts at a local zen center, overly aggro frisbee golf against your friends, whatever) is a particularly potent cocktail.

I’ve been dealing with this. If I was drinking, having a period of time in which I would be stuck at home, and very few people could see me would sound like paradise. After all, what time could be better to get hammered around the clock? Everyone else is suffering from their own stuff, so pass the breakfast vodka and call me on Thursday.

However, I am not drinking at all, and haven’t for years, and am thus sitting at home with the dogs and Liza trying to hold my shit together. This has taken some work.

In that vein, here are some learnings from my newly-reformed life of an inactive alky who wants to stay that way:

  • New patterns to fill old, lost patterns. I work from home most of the time, but I’ve traditionally done so with a number of daily walks and food routines that helped keep me both ambulatory and sane. When COVID-19 arrived, however, my coffee and lunch spots closed. I sat at home for too long at the start of quarantine. That was no good. Since then I’ve added new routines to my life that have helped. Evening walks, making myself make more trips to/from the coffee source, and more intra-day time outdoors with the dogs have been good.

  • Weight gain. This has been going really well. I was working on shaving my body-fat percentage this year thanks to a stupid personal goal of seeing my abs before the end of 2020. Ha. So much for that. We have M&Ms in the house, and four types of ice cream. I’m trying to keep my consumption low but I’m slowly gaining weight. That’s just fine. I’ll shed it when I can get back into the gym (more on that in a second). As one sober friend once told me, no one ever got arrested for fat driving. Amen. I shall eat my way through. (My goal, of course, is not zero self-harm; it’s zero alcohol.)

  • Getting better at bodyweight exercises. I miss the gym. I miss having the correct dumbbells for shrugs, being able to do decline sit-ups, and a solid bench for flys. Alas. But what I have done to help stay sane is double-down on what I can do. More ab wheel. More pushups. More pushup variations. And more air squats until I ruined my lower back this weekend. You can’t stop moving. If you do you won’t sleep and then you’ll drink. So rek your body in new and fun ways!

  • Investment into hobbies new and old. I now own hardware to do F1 esports, which is dorky as hell and I love it. I’ve been buying more books than usual, boosting the pressure on myself to keep my pace up. (16 books so far this year, a little behind my anticipated pace; I’ll do better.) And I am letting myself nerd-out on shit that I love. I’m rewatching the 2019 F1 season. Why not!

  • Talking about it. My sober friends and I text a lot. One sends me memes about substance abuse that are funny as hell. Some of my other friends are consuming more drugs and alcohol than before. So I’m talking to them about it. We’re all helping each other.

That’s why I wrote this. I promised a few friends on Twitter that I would. But it’s mostly for me. I need to talk about it.

I hit four years without drinking later this month, and I intend to make it.