When I was prompted to write a blog on this topic, I smiled with reluctance as I reflected on this past year. Isolation is the fuel to the fire of depression and I am not immune to the hardships that have transpired this year. For those of us in recovery, the community is everything. I’ll speak for myself when I say that this last year in quarantine has stripped away the conventional fellowship that plays an integral part in my sobriety. This year has been challenging. I have experienced bouts of depression and anxiety returning like an unwelcomed foe. Upon taking some inventory and getting back to the basics of what I know, I have realized that yet again, I am powerless with respect to the world around me, but I am in control of the work that I am putting into my sobriety and my spiritual growth.
When this whole quarantine thing started, I was pretty excited. Keeping up with total transparency, I fancied the idea of being able to work from home in my PJ’s, being able to order my groceries online, and avoid venturing to Publix with my wild children. The first few months were weird, but I was not opposed to this new way of life. Almost an entire year post-quarantine – I am over it. I miss my friends. I feel more isolated than I care to admit. I miss having to show up at an office every day. I miss exchanging smiles with the cashier at Publix. I miss being able to walk freely into an establishment without having to cover my face with a less than a fashionable mask. I miss local AA meetings followed by dinner at the diner.
Slowly but surely, this new era has provoked old, depressive feelings that I was certain I had healed from. For an alcoholic like me, a disruption in structure and routine can completely dismantle my sanity. I have found myself reaching this place of “burnout” over the last month and I’m not a fan. I’ve become less motivated. I’ve questioned my purpose and had some intrusive thoughts. Fortunately, I have a sponsor who has a sponsor and a ton of strong, beautiful women in my circle who have reminded me to get back to the basics.
We have been stripped of our usual meetings. Social distancing has limited our fellowship. It’s tough finding new sponsees online. Sober festivities are limited to small groups of people. Many go-to remedies for combatting depression have been put on hold as we navigate through this COVID era. When I first got sober, I remember waking up with the sun every morning to meditate and set some spiritual intentions before beginning my day. This was probably the most serene and happy I’ve ever felt in my life.
I may not have the option to see familiar faces at my home group or grab dinner with some sober friends, but I am always able to connect with my higher power and seek spiritual growth. Selfishness is said to be the root of all of our problems as alcoholics and addicts. When I am growing spiritually, I am walking away from selfishness. When I take the time to meditate, take inventory, pray, and help others, I find myself less irritable, restless, discontent, and depressed. Here are a few ways my spirituality has helped combat my depression:
I’ve been more hopeful
When I first got sober, I was instructed to find a power greater than myself to believe could restore me to sanity. Coming from a background with an understanding and belief in God, I wasn’t too turned off from this request. In fact, my belief in God always gave me a little hope that everything wasn’t absolutely hopeless. The faith that I have sought out to strengthen has reminded me that positive change can occur, and it’s not just wishful thinking.
One of the most important things those of us in recovery need to understand is that life can be better. Otherwise, what incentive do we even have to get sober? Hope is the antagonist to depression and despair and through spirituality, we can establish hope.
My perception continues to change in a more positive direction
The more I seek spiritual growth, problems that arise do not seem to be obstacles but rather opportunities for growth and learning. The more I tap into my spirituality, the more I believe that I am right where I am supposed to be. This doesn’t mean that I am ecstatic when problems arise, but I actually have been more inclined to ask myself what I can learn from this experience over getting angry and resisting the opportunity to grow.
My attitude and behaviors have been evolving in a more positive direction.
If you are reading this, it is likely that you have read multiple articles discussing the benefits of prayer and meditation. The more I meditate, the less likely I am to react to my emotions. When I am consistently praying and meditating, I find myself responding over impulsively reacting. I have learned how to tune into the quiet and listen. There have been a ton of situations when I was feeling uneasy that I have made the decision to do nothing and to practice acceptance. Almost instantly, feelings of anxiety and depression seem to disappear.
Another significant benefit of seeking spiritual growth has been the shift in my inner dialogue and my critical narrative. The more I lean into my loving Higher Power, the more I realize how lovable, capable, and worthy I am. This shift is revolutionary when it comes to overcoming depression. I am learning that I don’t need to necessarily change everything as much as I need to quiet my mind, clear the confusion, and accept the truth with love.
Over the last few months, I have made it a point to practice self-care, which includes making my spirituality a priority. I have spent more time in the stillness. I have been waking up early (before my kids) to sip my coffee outside by the lake and pray. I have also started reading daily meditation every morning. These seemingly simple practices have helped to establish a foundation in this less than the conventional world we are living in. I have found myself complaining less, more patient, loving, and tolerant.