Isolation – Are You Kidding? Ruth H. Grapevine July 2020

Who said change is easy? Staying sober and sane through a health crisis requires all the Steps she’s got

Without the support of my Twelve Step programs, I don’t know that I could navigate the kind of change that’s happening now. As it became obvious that COVID-19 was going to impact our world and my days, I decided to stay home, away from people before our governor declared, “stay at home.”

I was already retired, working only part time. My days were filled mostly with yard work, household tasks and cooking. I met friends at my AA meetings, joined them for fellowship afterward and did service work. My husband still worked full time. I had no idea I was living a life of peace and quiet at home, until I wasn’t.

My first days of “isolation” were no different than any others. My husband was still at his workplace and I continued my days at home sticking with my routine. I spent a little more time in prayer and meditation, keeping our world in mind as I witnessed the spreading of COVID-19 on the news each day. Working the Eleventh Step helped me feel like I was making a difference.

I hadn’t realized that my days had been so quiet. Soon my husband began to work from home. Well, as my first sponsor, Grace, always said, “Let’s waltz through the day: Steps One Two Three…One Two Three…” Suddenly I had a “loud talker” in the house and on the phone. He paced the house as he talked with clients. This was not going to work. I needed to work Steps One through Three, but also needed to do an inventory—Step Ten. What was my part and what was my husband’s? We needed to negotiate space and, yes, volume. 

Basically, he’d be in his office with the door closed; that way he can talk as long or loud as he wants. I would hold my online meetings upstairs to preserve anonymity and have the privacy I need. We met up for meals and then the evening news. When the demands of his job lessened, we scheduled walks together each afternoon. It gave us both time to give voice to how different life was and how fast the world situation was changing. I’m fortunate to have a husband who works the Steps too. We could talk about surrendering to this new way of life. Steps One through Three and Step Eleven became more important. Then we talked about Step Twelve. Each of us did our part to organize meetings online for our home groups and others. We became tutors to old-timers and newcomers in technology that we were learning ourselves.

As our lives changed, so did our daughter’s. She’s a full-time student herself and did her schoolwork while her 13- and 17-year-olds were at school. Her professor husband had been away at class all day. She too had quiet days and busy evenings. Then suddenly, her husband started conducting his classes from home online. Then her 19-year-old son came home from college to finish his semester online; his dorm was closing.

Then her daughter, a 22-year-old recent graduate who was just beginning a career in theater education, was laid off from her jobs. Our daughter now had a household of six again! 

So now this required another look at the Twelfth Step for my husband and me. How could we be of service? To help our daughter with the transition, we let our 19-year-old grandson come to our home. He was mostly busy with online classwork. His clock was different than ours. He joined us for breakfast while we ate lunch, as we already had a half day of work completed. He had his headphones on, working away. He joined us for dinner, then back to classes through the evening, then talked to friends and played video games till well after midnight.  Now my husband and I both needed to work the Fourth Step. Our grandson was an adult after all, he would have been away at college, yet this was our home. Acceptance is the key! We needed to allow our grandson to have his “college experience” in our lower level without our interference. After a week he was ready to return home.  Next, our 22-year-old granddaughter needed a break from the family of six. Again, Steps Ten and Twelve. What do we need, and can we be of service? We began the week with our granddaughter with a lovely talk, lunch, and then a long walk. Her jobs worked things out and she will be doing some teaching from “home.” So now we have another new situation. She comes with a lot more energy. She’s social, disciplined and determined to make this career work, which includes acting, singing and coaching her students as they rehearse. The show must go on! Her energy in the house will be very different than the slower, more serene energy of the last weeks. This ever-changing life of little isolation will continue for a while. But who knows? My job is to work the Steps and get out of everyone’s way. I need to let them live their lives while I live mine. I need to waltz through the days…Steps One Two Three…One Two Three. If someone irritates me, I need to take that Tenth Step inventory and look at my part. If I owe an amend, I need to make it promptly. I need to continue my prayer and meditation, not only for my family, but for the world.  Last, I need to be of service by calling those unable to attend online meetings. I can send cards, be present and listen to those who sit with fear, loneliness and sadness. I can bring humor and lightness to meetings and others’ lives. I thank the Holy Mystery every day for bringing me to the doors of AA and for the desire to continue working this program in all my affairs.

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