By Diane Cameron, author of Out of the Woods: A Woman’s Guide to Long-term Recovery
We are just a few weeks into working at home, teaching from home, self-quarantine, and trying to find a new normal.
On social media pages, you see the jokes and cartoons about drinking and eating to excess as a coping mechanism. You may have joked, as I have, that Twelve-step meetings will triple in size come September. And I do worry that some folks will have their drinking/eating/using pushed over the edge by Fall.
I have joked that there will be a run on folding chairs in September.
So, that’s funny, not funny.
And here’s the thing, this possibility of using substances to cope is an issue for people with long recovery. Yes, there is a great risk of relapse. WE have to be so careful. But there is also a great risk of transferring addictions at a time like this.
I see this in myself. I’m at risk for Amazon, Nordstrom, and eBay.
Funny, not funny.
I, and others, are at risk for ice cream, candy, and cookies. I started my recovery in Overeaters Anonymous (OA), so funny, not funny. And folks who gave up cigarettes years ago are tempted back. Folks who were “careful with candy and cake” before COVID-19 are slippy-sliding.
Here’s what we know in later recovery: almost any substance or behavior can be used to stop our feelings. Well, maybe not apples and kale—but exercising, eating, smoking, shopping, etc. All those and more can be invited to, “fix my feelings.” That is called transferring addictions.
Here’s why it can be extra hard at a time like this: Let’s use the analogy about the tiger. An alcoholic puts the tiger in a bottle and then puts a cork in the bottle. A food addict, on the other hand, has to take the tiger for a walk three times a day. Similarly, with relationships and work. They are essential to life, so we have to be careful and mind the subtleties.
While we are worried and fearful, and either stuck at home or going to very stressful frontline jobs, we have to pay attention.
It’s all about discernment, checking our motives, and not keeping secrets about what we are doing and using.
Can we ever get to the bottom of addiction and compulsion? Will we ever know what’s under it all?
Well, as someone told me when I was new to recovery, “If you want to know why you drank, just stop drinking and you’ll find out.”
It was good advice then and great advice this week. We can apply that to overeating, compulsively working, exercising, shopping, or other distracting behaviors. Give yourself a break from what may be the addictive behavior and the source will reveal itself.