Catherine J. Collins, Regional Business Development Liaison, Spectrum Health Systems and the New England Recovery Center
We are home and in social distancing mode. We’re not doing as much as we’d like to be, and certainly not thinking, “Hey, maybe I’ll stop drinking and doing drugs during this time at home.” Let’s face it, when you are planning on getting clean and sober, is there ever really a right time? We usually don’t plan it out, because if we do, there are a million and one reasons why anytime is not a good time. The kids, the job, the spouse, the parents are sick, the roommate is fun, life will be boring – the list can go on and on ad infinitum. Usually, the ‘right’ time is right now because we just got an OUI, or our drug dealer is missing, or we are given an ultimatum by our partner or employer.
So, the real question is: Why not now?
If you are currently in the work force and have a substance use disorder, the stress during these times is likely compounding your use. It certainly isn’t less stressful these days. Now more than ever is a great time to escape our feelings, which likely include anxiety, fear, insecurity, and did I mention anxiety? It’s easy to go into full blown panic mode about the unknown.
If I have a job, will I lose it? If I lose my job, how will I support my family, pay my bills, contribute to my living situation? It’s so stressful if you don’t have a stash of cash locked up and awaiting a six-month pandemic. I know this, because when I was actively drinking, 22 years ago, I worried constantly about how I would pay this bill or that bill. If I pay this one late, will this other one be able to get paid this month? Will the fees be worse than the hit to my credit score? It was a constant state of financial insecurity. I juggled the same $100-$150 in my savings account constantly, occasionally asking my out-of-state parents for cash to “buy gas or help pay the phone bill.” Living paycheck to paycheck was all I knew. Having a slush fund didn’t come until many years into my recovery. However, my sobriety quickly brought with it the level of peace and serenity that I didn’t even know I was missing in life.
By getting clean and sober, I eliminated unneeded expenses and unneeded worry. No more expensive alcohol or drug investments. I was living right, and I was reaping the benefits. If I couldn’t make a payment one month, I was now able to make a clear-headed phone call to the creditor and ask for help. Ask for help? Yes, if you are telling the truth and have a genuine and sincere desire to pay your debts, people will work with you.
If financial worry isn’t your thing but being absent from your family because you are out every night drinking with the gang is, then getting clean and sober will help you begin to repair your family. If you are quarantined and getting cabin fever, trust me when I tell you: a cranky sober person eating too much sugar, candy, and donuts is way nicer than a bummed out and hungover dad, mom, sibling, or partner. Have you ever felt the wrath of a hungover person? It’s not pretty. And oftentimes the only thing the hangover puts into your mind is a greasy cheeseburger or a cold beer to act as the ‘hair of dog that bit you’.
These are just a few examples of why getting clean and sober right now is a good choice. You might have financial insecurity – but you’ll be able to deal with it. You might be at odds with your family – but you will find a way to work through it, for better or worse. Nothing happens by the snap of the finger. You will have to work at it. But, believe me, sleeping soundly at night without worrying about who you offended that day is worth the effort.
The bottom line is, there will never feel like a good time to give up a substance that feels like it’s your solution to life. If you are looking to improve your living situation, your peace of mind, ease your burdens and add some serenity to your days, then today is as great a day as any to look in the mirror and admit: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” If you say that, then there are so many options to help you move forward.
If you have insurance or if you don’t, if you want to get outside help or not, take the first step: admit to yourself that you are no longer comfortable living this way. Then, ask for help. So many choices, but you can always start with your family doctor, a friend, a teacher – someone willing to love you through the process and guide you to help. You deserve to live a happy life, and I think today is a great day to start that journey.