Faith in the Time of COVID – Grapevine Article September 2020 By Louise M, Long Island , NY

Could she maintain emotional sobriety with the COVID bully at her door?

She and her Higher Power had a plan

With the entire globe in the palm of its hand, COVID-19 banged on my front door, yelling “You think alcohol is something to be feared? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Clearly, it had never come face to face with a genuine, bona fide alcoholic in recovery who had somehow found the courage to choose faith instead of fear.

When I approached Step Six in my second year of sobriety, my Higher Power had already performed the miracle of curing my alcohol addiction, so I felt great relief at the prospect of giving up all the character defects that had kept me hurting myself and others. I loved the program and the progress I was making, and had already become less aggressive, calmer, more loving. The only things I felt unwilling to give up were a special cherry ice cream I loved and that flirty little mocha pastry at the Chinese buffet my husband and I normally frequented once a week. But those delicious character defects had kept fear a million miles away from my front door—until now.

Could I maintain my emotional sobriety as the COVID bully stood on my front step, up to its ankles in unsanitized groceries, waiting for me to let it in? This was the biggest test yet as I contemplated living in isolation 24/7, coping with the only virus in our house—fear.

Faced with the Step Six challenge of being willing to be willing to maintain a very loose grip on my character defects while holding the hand of my Higher Power, could my faith pass the pandemic test? That ugly masked bandit was everywhere, waiting patiently to rob us all of our health, our peace, our sanity.

Now, almost three months later, the COVID-19 bully has actually inspired me to be an even stronger warrior for peace as I fight fear one day at a time. The first thing I did was ask my husband Tom, a news junkie, to help me maintain my emotional sobriety by keeping me informed on a need-to-know basis. Thrilled that I was no longer the anxiety riddled, panic-stricken wife of yesteryear, he agreed, and even changed our alarm clock setting from current news to 80s pop. And every day instead of scary news reports, he sends me funny, heart-warming animal videos and inspiring social media postings.

I think my attitude seems to have become contagious, as Tom also allows himself to loosen his grip on fear, if only for a few minutes at a time. Together we enjoy cooking, walking in not-too-crowded parks and beaches, and messaging our seven grandkids. Never rushing to say goodbye, we play audience to their video music routines, and when they end, we choose not to live in the sadness of waving goodbye without a real hug before our computer tablet goes blank. 

Indeed, for this baby boomer, virtual is no longer a dirty word. I have become a grateful “Baby Zoomer,” jumping from meditation sessions and virtual AA meetings to good old-fashioned phone calls with AA sisters. I get to pay all this gratitude forward, and mostly I am grateful that I’m not grateful that the liquor stores are open.

My gratitude list feels like a big, fat fear eraser: “Blue Bloods” reruns that I never had time to watch on Wednesday nights; electricity that brings my home group and hundreds of alcoholics from all over the world into my house every single day of the week; the laughter between Tom and me that doesn’t feel guilty in the midst of all the chaos; our health and the health of family and friends who have had the virus and are doing well; our ability to throw ourselves into nightly Rummikub games while eating homemade banana muffins and chocolate chip cookies, which, alas, come under the category of things I’m not willing to give up—yet.

Somehow, despite all the catastrophic, heartbreaking, fear-provoking ripples of COVID-19, maintaining my emotional sobriety in a safety zone of peace and harmony has become a priority. My world has become smaller, but it can hold thousands of people in a week’s worth of time, all seeking peace and sobriety. I am willing to be willing to surrender all of my character flaws and trust my Higher Power. Even in the midst of this storm, with the nasty bully of a virus trying to get into my back door if it can’t get in the front, my faith has deepened into trust. This is the miracle of Step Six.

I heard a story the other day about a medieval monk who was trying to prevent both Fear and Death from entering the city gates during a plague. Cautiously, the monk approached Death. “How many people are you going to take?” he asked.

“A few,” Death responded nonchalantly. “Maybe half.”

Then the monk turned to Fear and asked the same question. “None,” replied Fear.

The monk was shocked. Needless to say, the people were overcome by Fear during the trying months of the plague, and when the worst was over, the monk turned to Fear in disbelief. “I thought you said you wouldn’t take anyone!” he said.

“I didn’t,” Fear replied. “They chose me.”

I have identified the enemy; it wants me to bark at my husband, snap at a sponsee, eat (delicious) cookies. So every evening when the only day I have is done, I pray that I will feel entirely ready to ask my HP to remove my character defects, and most especially my fears, in the morning sun. I make a conscious choice to be a warrior for peace, no matter what is trying to huff and puff and blow my house down. 

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