So here it is again. The Twilight Zone within the Twilight Zone. THAT time between Christmas and New Year. The week when if it hasn’t already ground to a halt, everything grinds to a halt for many. During the pandemic lockdowns, I used to say, “this feels a bit like the week between Christmas and New Year.” Now I’m saying, “this feels a bit like the lockdown.”
Some may be recovering from an excess of food, chocolate, and people. Others may be recovering from loneliness or feeling their Christmas’s were “less than” the togetherness being depicted across the media and especially in advertising. Others may not have celebrated Christmas and can’t wait for it to be over. Others may be feeling resentful at having a second Christmas destroyed, curtailed, or reduced by Covid or its accompanying restrictions – self-imposed or otherwise.
Everyone’s experience will have been different and unique, for better or worse.
For those of us in the Twilight Zone used to the structure of 12 Step Meetings schedules – or others who rely on routine and certainty - being dispossessed of that structure can leave us vulnerable. One of the surprisingly positive outcomes of the pandemic is that Zoom 12 Step meetings are now so frequent, on a global basis, that it’s possible to find a meeting at any time. I have found the Everything AA mobile phone app particularly useful, especially its Online Meeting Finder which lets you know the next available meetings. I’ve been a visitor to several fantastic overseas meetings over the holidays while some of my regular meetings were on a break.
Although the Twilight Zone is an opportunity to make the most of time off, to reflect and recharge, for me, it’s also hugely important to keep up my meetings and try and fit as much structure into my day as possible. While also remembering that it’s okay to not do anything sometimes. And be, erm, on holiday.
In this modern age we seem to believe that we must be doing something - anything - all the time, to keep us busy and productive. The belief system instilled in me at the dawn of blackberries and mobile phones was that the most ‘successful’ person in the room was the busiest. The enormous kudos of being ‘in demand.”
I remember a story of record industry executives holidaying together in Thailand who, unable to get a mobile phone signal to download texts and emails to their blackberries, would switch them on, wrap them in plastic bags and send them out with the early morning fishing boats, where they would pick up a signal, download emails, and then be returned later in the day. Whoever had the most emails in the evening would be deemed the winner! The busiest. The most in-demand. Relevant.
In recovery, I have learned that I don’t need to play those games. We don’t have to be like them. We can be perfectly comfortable with ourselves enjoying our own company and those of our family, friends, recovery companions, nature, the sights and sounds of our urban environment, a quiet and relaxing period of reflection or meditation enjoying the simplicity of the moment. Validation comes from within. If I find myself unreasonably looking for outside validation from things such as the size of my inbox, I’m in trouble. And it was taught to me early in recovery that if I wanted self-esteem, I should do esteemable things. And for me, that includes being able to enjoy the Twilight Zone for what it is, and just be – rather than trying to make myself busy to occupy my mind and distract myself from being present.
Unless of course, my mind turns into a septic tank, when hopefully I know what to do from years of experience– usually a meeting or something else that helps me to connect with others, remind myself that I am in recovery, and be grateful. I used to use alcohol and other substances or behaviours to change the way I felt. Now I know that they are the most damaging things I could do. There is another way, which is available to everybody, no matter who or where.
For those who may be working during this period thank you. Thank you for keeping things going. Thank you for turning up. We hope that you feel valued and appreciated for what you do. For those volunteering or doing other unpaid work, such as caring for a loved one, thank you for your service. For the marginalised, abused, economically disadvantaged and people at the fringes of society - we believe in you. You are not alone. And if you are on the outside looking in – support can take many different forms and can be just a short walk or even a Zoom call away.
And for those seeking to change their lives - we are here for you.
A massively Happy and ConnectedTwilight Zone and Festive Season to everybody.