- Remembering that Pouring Alcohol and Drugs on a Problem Never Solved It
- Contributing to Problems in a Healthy Way
- Staying Close to Good Relationships
- Limiting Time in Front of the News
- Reading About Others who Survived Difficult Time
- Prayer and Meditation
- Staying Mindful, in the Present
- Looking Over Our Past to See Where We’ve Overcome
There’s plenty of bad news lately: War, inflation, political disarray, and social strife. We need only turn on the TV or open a news website to think the world is ending. With those of us recovering from alcoholism and addiction, we feel the sting of the world’s difficulties even stronger because we no longer rely on our old crutches to numb the pain. This fact is despite recent evidence that alcoholism increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, and many are not coping well.
It is vital to keep hope during difficult times. Alcoholics tend to be sensitive folks who isolate and internalize problems so that we quickly become restless and dissatisfied. We have to stay close to the light of recovered friends and the activities that got us sober in the first place, no matter what is occurring in the world. We kept in touch over Zoom and outdoor meetings even during the pandemic. We must hand together or die separately, as the Big Book makes clear.
It might comfort us to think back to the early days of AA, soon after the Big Book was first published. World War II was forming in Europe, and many new AA members had to go overseas to fight. Despite these dreary times away from home, they stayed sober and often fared better than AAs at home. AA has survived and thrived during bleak phases of human history.
What can we do to stay sane and happy? What are some suggestions that we can apply from AA principles? Let’s discuss a few I’ve discovered. Please share your own insights in the comments.
Remembering that Pouring Alcohol and Drugs on a Problem Never Solved It
We frequently drank when we felt we had a problem we could not solve. When we felt defeated, we drank to escape the pain or dream up new solutions. We didn’t think of the terrific consequences of the hangover; we wanted to get over our problem now.
When romantic relationships turned sour or we faced problems at work, the drink was a ready tool.
This kind of escape doesn’t work. If we’re honest with ourselves, it often leads to even worse outcomes and unworkable solutions that we concocted while drunk. If our personal lives reflected worse consequences from drinking than it solved, how would drinking solve any of the world’s problems?
Sure, we might flee the pain for a while, but we always return to ourselves. “Wherever you go, there you are,” as the saying goes. We can’t escape ourselves or our feelings about a problem for very long. And when we do, we’re faced with the handover and sickness that drinking brings.
Contributing to Problems in a Healthy Way
Rather than lashing out at others complaining of the world’s problems, we can contribute to resolving issues, however small. This contribution could mean volunteering to help refugees, donating money to organizations on the front lines, or keeping afflicted populations in mind during our prayer time.
Complaining and fighting online leads nowhere. It leaves us feeling worse off. However, when we make beneficial contributions, we feel like a bigger part of the solution.
That doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice all of our time and money to save the world. But it means doing something constructive to put us more at peace with our role in the world as productive members of society.
Staying Close to Good Relationships
We should avoid folks who bring us down and offer no solution to keeping hope. There are many. They sigh over the world’s problems and are in constant conflict with anyone who disagrees with them. They don’t provide an understanding ear to hear our pain.
If we’ve been around the AA rooms for a while, we’ve likely identified people who are great listeners. This skill is one in a million and a great comfort to those of us who become mired in hopelessness. We should seek out those who can understand without trying to change our minds. They can relate if they don’t express their disagreement.
Limiting Time in Front of the News
While staying completely aloof may not be ideal, I don’t believe that recovery demands we beat ourselves up with the sins of the world. We must keep our serenity, which means finding better ways to fill our time besides reading the news.
Many of us become addicted to current events. They provide an escape from looking at our problems or seeking more constructive ways to spend our time. The problem becomes when our whole lives revolve around getting the latest updates on the issues that interest us.
Instead, we could spend that 10-15 minutes calling a friend, reading spiritual literature, or going for a walk. Those minutes in front of a screen add up during the day, which we could spend on more healthy activities.
Reading About Others who Survived Difficult Time
We can get immense hope from reading about the lives of others who made it through difficult times. This includes biographies of Holocaust survivors, spiritual leaders and saints, and veterans.
These people often led lives not much different from ours and possessed no exceptional talent for endurance. You’ll learn how they found the strength to carry on in the exact moments they needed it. You may conclude: “If they can do it, I can do it.”
Learning about how ordinary people overcame insurmountable obstacles can make us feel like we’re part of the human family, too.
Prayer and Meditation
11th step work comes to mind as a powerful tool to gain hope. We can pray for groups who are suffering and bring us strength to be a light in the world. Prayer can be a ready tool we can call on at any time.
Meditation is often hard for many addicts. We have a thousand thoughts racing through our minds all day long. If we struggle with doing meditation alone, we can seek out meditation meetings that build it in. Doing meditation with others in the room provides a framework for our minds that this time is special. It becomes less of a struggle.
Staying Mindful, in the Present
Mindfulness is powerful. It means focusing on only the current activity we’re engaged in. It means putting aside the thoughts and worries we carry throughout the day and putting our whole hearts into what’s in front of us.
It is a skill that takes time to build us. Often called “the Zone,” mindfully staying in the present isn’t always easy. It helps to apply all of our fives senses to the activity and verbally describe what we’re doing in our minds.
For instance, while we’re doing laundry, we can bring ourselves into the moment by thinking, “I’m folding this shirt…I’m applying a crease to the shoulders. I’m laying the shirt down on its appropriate stack. I’m putting the shirt in my drawer.” Thinking of the activity as we’re doing it helps crowd out any worry thoughts we’re having.
Looking Over Our Past to See Where We’ve Overcome
We can reference numerous occasions where we persevered if we’ve built up some clean time. Getting sober in the first place is a miracle in itself that wasn’t easy. Many cannot reach sobriety before death or permanent insanity.
We also have plenty of times where we thought our world was ending but came out fine. When someone asks us to be the discussion leader at a meeting for the first time, our anxiety may be high, but the meeting turns out great. When we have to confront a troublesome coworker or manager, we feel we can’t summon the courage to speak our minds, but we get our point across in the end.
Looking back helps us see how we can move ahead. It also reminds us that problems don’t last forever if we only hold on and continue practical action as we’ve learned in recovery. “This too shall pass.”
The above are some tips to keep hope when the world seems dark. As you mature in recovery, you’ll learn more ways to keep yourself grounded and in a spiritual relationship with God, who provides hope as well.
Please feel free to share anything you’ve learned in the comments below.