The mother of an essential worker shares how AA helps her stay sane and grateful during a pandemic
Having a controlled view of the world from my bedroom, I read another news article on my computer about the progress of the pandemic. It’s my daily check on the numbers in my state.
I have been stuck in my house for so long now I feel like the makeup I had on hand is now going to last the rest of my life, but the toilet paper will not. Some days I walk around with a mask and some days I just lay in bed. I watch too much TV and read books. I work from home and my hours of business have moved to the wee hours of the night. COVID-19 changed the world, and with it, me.
My virtual AA meetings have been a lifesaver and are the only time I actually brush my hair and put on a bit of my now lifetime supply of makeup. I take showers and brush my hair, but that’s about the limit to my daily hygiene regimen.
AA has adapted well to these types of changes. Our virtual meetings have helped a lot. My sponsor started a meeting every Saturday at 3:00 p.m. for her sponsees. We’re given a topic, and this week it was “acceptance.” During the week we must do something creative with the topic. Some of us make collages. Our sponsor even dropped off plenty of magazines at our doors, so acceptance can be just a scissor cut away. Some of us paint. One of us painted a pinecone and explained how the colors represented feelings in her life. Last week, the topic was “keep it simple,” and I wrote a poem. This week I am writing this story.
I primarily stick with the women in AA. I attend some speaker meetings that are cross-pollinated with males in AA, but for the most part I stick with my sober sisters. We all seem to be sharing about the same things. Those who are married are trying to find creative ways with their husbands to get out from under each other’s feet. Families with small kids are pulling their hair out trying to manage their own sobriety and deal with crayon drawings on the wall. We all talk about eating too much and isolation. And nearly everyone is attending more meetings than they usually do because jumping on their computers is so darn convenient.
But the real feelings that I hear are on my one-on-one calls with these beautiful and brave women. We share how afraid we get about the various aspects of this virus.
My son is an essential worker. He’s in Tennessee working at a grocery store. Since he has to show up for work in person, this virus is a very real concern for him. I felt so afraid for him I couldn’t breathe at first. He’s not a doctor or nurse. He is a 22-year-old man working as a cashier. Sometimes the customers don’t even want to take the receipt from his hands. He often gets looks of distrust and fear. It’s taken a psychological toll on him. He and his colleagues work long hours every day, and are listening as customers complain about being stuck at home with their families. Many of their friends are at home kicking back and playing video games, watching movies, doing whatever they want. But cashiers have to work in person. They have to gather the carts and do their jobs. They go home tired and mentally exhausted and feel lonelier and more isolated. That’s their reality. I get angry at people I don’t even know because I’m in fear for my son.
Fear is the chief activator of my character defects. The seven deadly sins are my main defects of character: sloth, pride, anger, lust, gluttony, envy and greed. This virus has activated almost all of them. I lay around all day watching way too much TV. I procrastinate so as to avoid the 15 hours of work I have during the week until my deadline approaches. The virus has cut into my budget, but I’m luckier than a lot of people. I use social media to preach my opinions, which is my pride telling you I’m right and that you better listen.
Gluttony is served all day with pretzel pieces eaten in bed on my good linen, and cheese and cracker crumbs on the floor. I’m jealous of those who do get out of the house. How dare they? They’re going to spread this virus and I’m going to be stuck here in my bedroom forever.
Then comes anger. I plow through it in my writing, feeling shame about not being kind to myself and others, even if only in my head. Greed hits me as I have to pay my mortgage. I have the money, but it’s so tempting to take a deal and save the cash in case the economy bottoms out. Thinking of myself rather than others is always my fear-based go-to habit.
I’ve always heard in the rooms of AA that faith is the answer to fear. This may be true for some, but for me it’s humility. The Sixth Step is about fear and how our defects of character mask the symptoms of this disease. Fear tells me I have enough days in sobriety that I can afford to act out now and then. I’m good most of the time. It doesn’t really count in a pandemic, does it?
Humility is what the Seventh Step demands of me as a means to combat fear. The easiest way to humility for me is working with others. I usually find humility after I’ve talked honestly with another member of AA. I tell them my secret shames and they share their shames with me. Then we laugh or cry or understand.
Acceptance comes after humility, in my experience, and it arrives after I understand that I’m not alone. I remember that there are plenty of others who feel and think the way I do. That’s when I can relax, accept, and then move on with my life.
And my son at the grocery store? Instead of fear I can feel proud of him. He cares more about others than he does himself. He knows he could probably quit and ride this out with video games while ordering pizza. But he chooses not to. He’s my hero. He accepts that God put him in that job for a reason. His example helps me let go and trust in God.
I don’t know what this world is going to become. The pandemic is a mystery to me. One thing I do know is that I will remain sober, a day at a time. I will work with others on my computer and my phone. I’ll make sure those who are new have my number in the chat box of most meetings I attend. I will check on newcomers and oldtimers and those in between. I’ll write articles and try to come up with new ways to find humility. Acceptance comes when I do the work and allow God to handle the results. We are in this together and maybe, just maybe, we will come out better.
#44 Daily Acceptance
“Too much of my life has been spent in dwelling upon the faults of others. This is a most subtle and perverse form of self-satisfaction, which permits us to remain comfortably unaware of our own defects. Too often we are heard to say, `If it weren’t for him (or her), how happy I’d be!'”
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Our very first problem is to accept our present circumstances as they are, ourselves as we are, and the people abour us as they are. This is to adopt a realistic humility without which no genuine advance can even begin. Again and again, we shall need to return to that unflattering point of departure. This is an exercise in acceptance that we can profitably practice every day of our lives.
Provided we strenuously avoid turning these realistic surveys of the factsof life into unrealistic alibis for apathy of defeatism, they can be sure foundation upon which increased emotional health and therefore spiritual progress can be built.
- LETTER, 1966
- GRAPEVINE, MARCH 1962