As we head into April this year, it is nearly impossible to go through March without reflecting on how it has been a whole year since the Covid-19 pandemic began. I don’t know about anyone else, but it was the single strangest year of my life, and I’ve had some strange ones before! The pandemic has also taken way too many lives from us. I have a couple of friends that lost family because of Covid-19.
The pandemic wreaked complete havoc on people suffering from addiction or any kind of mental health issue. Combine that with losing a family member or friend due to something like a virus that has shut down basically the entire world, and you have some difficult things to cope with and deal with.
For those in recovery who lost someone this past year during the pandemic, grieving is never easy; we in recovery can be new to feeling such intense anger or sadness.
While I did not lose anybody close this past year, I did get sober right after losing my father unexpectedly about six years ago. If it weren’t for the fellowship and, most importantly, connecting to a higher power through the 12 steps, I would have never been able to deal with it.
I got sober on May 17, 2015. March 17, 2015, 2 months prior, the worst thing that’s ever happened to me occurred. My father died. He had a heart attack while sleeping on his couch at 60 years old. I was 26 when he died.
My life had already been rough from about eight years of substance abuse, but this completely shattered me. My father was my best friend and biggest supporter. Once he passed, I had felt more hopeless than ever that I had a shot of recovering, but I stand here today not only as a sober individual but as someone who has accepted the loss of my father and found the silver linings in it.
Here are a couple of things from my own experience to help anyone who is trying to manage sobriety while losing a loved one during this pandemic.
Look back on the good times.
I’ll never forget the first person I told about my father’s passing after I found out. He told me that he never knew his father and that he grew up in 8 different foster homes with many issues in each. That hit me hard; it made me almost instantly reflect on how lucky I was to have a supportive, loving father and that not everyone is quite so fortunate.
Whoever the person you lost is, do yourself a favor and think about your favorite moments with them, find pictures of you together and just soak in the nostalgia. Photos with my dad had become so much more special to me once he was gone; I still look at them all the time. The memories I have with my dad, which were plenty, have kept me afloat when I find myself missing him the most.
I had many emotional moments in early sobriety where I just wish he was with me, and I always brought it back to the fact that I was just glad I had him for 26 years of my life and that he was remembered as a great father over anything else. Hold those good times close to your heart; they will never leave you.
Honor Who You Have Lost.
Before I lost my father, he made it very clear throughout life that all he ever wanted was for his children to be happy and successful; that was all he cared about. I was devastated when I first lost him and cried myself to sleep every night.
The first thought that motivated me to go and get sober was that all he would want from me at that moment was to get sober and go live a fulfilling life. It’s a simple thought, but it had the most powerful inspiration I had ever felt in my life.
My dad spent a lot of time teaching me morals, values, and lessons about life from his own experience. My drive to get sober came back when I knew that if I finally applied what he taught me in life, my guilt and shame would go away because I would no longer feel like he wasted his time on me while he was alive.
I fairly quickly made the connection that the only way I could truly survive losing him was if I went to make a life for myself; I can not overstate how true that sentiment was.
Whoever it is that you lost, what would they want you to do with your life, whether they were still around or not? The answers are usually pretty straightforward when it comes to recovery; let that inspire you.
Remember Who You Still Have
For me, losing a parent made me even more grateful that I had another parent who was still alive and provided the same amount of unconditional love that my father had. Obviously, not everyone will be in the same situation as me, but ask yourself, ‘Who else is in my life that loves me?’
There are sure to be others; learn to value that love while they are still around. There are two paths we have when somebody we love passes away. We can live in self-pity for the rest of our lives and let it define us, or we could reflect on it, learn from it and most importantly, grow from it.