"But for today, for today, let’s just not."
September 10, 2020 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Novelist Molly Jong-Fast has some recovery-inspired thoughts about dealing with lockdown.
posted by hanov3r (21 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is so good. She is one of my favorite Twitterers as well
posted by hydropsyche at 12:10 PM on September 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


After all the AA hate published in the Atlantic, I was surprised when I read this a while ago, TBH.

But as a fellow member, I approve this message!!

BTW, if anyone is interested; there was a Cochrane Review article recently that said AA (or it's kind of program) is the best we have for Alcohol Use Disorder.

From the review: "There is high quality evidence that manualized AA/TSF interventions are more effective than other established treatments, such as CBT, for increasing abstinence".

posted by indianbadger1 at 12:59 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]




I've been keeping up the shutin lifestyle as much as we can. Our roommate keeps going out which worries me. My wife has been under extreme amounts of stress with work (thankfully she works from home and we don't go out) and asked me to get some special apple pie ice cream from the local place. I didn't want to because of the risk and I wanted to keep up our own shutdown but finally acquiesced and picked it up today. I felt so dirty and guilty just standing there inside the place. The worst is I feel like when I do these things it gives the roommate carte blanche to go out as much as he wants and I'm afraid. I'm afraid for my wife, I'm afraid for all the people who don't have the option to stay home. We're putting people in danger simply because this is America. Nobody can ever be inconvenienced or limited or hampered despite having money to pay for it or it'll be the end of civilization.

I'm going to just hate myself in a corner and continue my own shutdown as best as I can.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 1:52 PM on September 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


AA here, can confirm. In AA we use the term "spiritual condition" to refer to a holistic grab bag of concepts that span from attitude to mental health all the way up to theology. Including that Buddha like approach to living in the current moment, making an effort to not pile the entire future upon our own shoulders all at once.

Many times in the last 6 months when I'm asked how I am I have responded with, "all I can say is, 'thank god for my spiritual condition'", meaning that I'm working my program and that has been keeping me from chewing the walls.

And here I am an atheist, for crying out loud!
posted by Horkus at 2:25 PM on September 10, 2020 [10 favorites]


AA is certainly NOT for me. But I'm happy if it works for some people.

If you need help with substance abuse, SMART Recovery was what really helped me. No god talk (unless you want to bring it up), no group prayers, no 12 (or 13) steps, no reading aloud from an 80 year old book and no re-skinned born-again christian stuff.

Most SMART members I know bounced into SMART and out of AA for some of the reasons I just mentioned. AA is not the only option—no matter what you might hear. PM me if you want to discuss. Help is out there.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:35 PM on September 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


I'm just never clear on what the emotional content is that makes "just for today, [xyz]" helpful. Like, how is it that it makes people feel? Because to me it doesn't feel like anything, it doesn't reduce anxiety or produce calm or anything, and it just doesn't seem to carry any real meaning. Like, sure, "just for today" I'm in a blistering hellscape, but also, I am in a blistering hellscape, and even if it only lasts 24 hours that's still quite a lot of blistering hellscape.

Does it just take a lot of years to come around to it? It seems like it kind of did for the author, but it was hard to tell, and I don't really have any analogous experience in my life to draw on (fortunately? unfortunately?).

I can see how quitting drinking or smoking or any other substance addiction would, in a reasonable timeframe, produce tangible benefits that make all of those days-at-a-time better to be in. But in a pandemic the benefits are all theoretical and the days remain the same hellscape. I just...I don't get it and I sure wish I got it, because I'm running out of options.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:47 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


it doesn't reduce anxiety or produce calm or anything, and it just doesn't seem to carry any real meaning

We don't know when *waves hands* all of THIS is going to end. And that feels HUGE and insurmountable and makes me want to curl up in the foetal position with my numbing agent of choice and never get up again. If you look at the entirety of all of THIS, it's almost beyond the scope of imaging, and it becomes everything.

But, today? Today ends. And tomorrow may be different. It may not be, but today has an end, and I can get to the end of today. Whether I can get to the end of tomorrow's "today" is up to tomorrow's hanov3r.
posted by hanov3r at 3:17 PM on September 10, 2020 [10 favorites]


But, today? Today ends.

It honestly just now occurs to me that because I haven't really slept in like 6 months, the days no longer ever seem to quite end, and maybe that's the issue. I don't ever feel all that confident that i can make it to the end of a day because that could take weeks! Huh.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:22 PM on September 10, 2020 [7 favorites]


Not to derail, Indianbadger, but that metastudy you linked to is a bit more complex than "AA is better than therapy ". Even in the text you quoted it says manualized applications of professionally run (or at least miniminally trained) AA meetings are more useful than straight CBT approaches. This isn't your run of the mill AA mtg in a church basement. Additionally, in the conclusion section of the paper the author even states that for clients averse to 12-steps it is "likely" that any form of fellowship (lifering, SMART Recovery, etc) is as helpful.

However, yes, I love this article because it gets at a point I often think about in working with folks with substance use issues which is that people in recovery are often even better equipped to deal with life than those who've never struggled simply for the fact that they have been forced by their addiction to put the hard work into being a decent human.
posted by flamk at 3:45 PM on September 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


I remember joking on twitter at the beginning of All This that us sober folks were better equipped to deal because we’re used to everything sucking all the time already, and not being able to escape it.

(it’s funny because I’m a much happier person now, things actually suck less)
posted by jeweled accumulation at 8:04 PM on September 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


I'm not sober or in AA, though I do think I qualify (and my partner likely qualifies) as an adult child of an alcoholic and recovering codependent. Having just awakened from my nth PTSD nightmare this week, and scrolling through the site for something hopeful and nontriggering, while avoiding doomscrolling social media, and having run out of Pokéballs in Pokémon Go, this article spoke to me and was useful. My partner and I, who both deal with respective mental health challenges, have been telling each other one day at a time since this whole thing started, and it's a useful mantra to go back to when things get bad.

Also, I always found her mother's writing comforting, and hers has become comforting to me as well. Love to you all.
posted by limeonaire at 11:23 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


The article aside, anyone who has been doing early sobriety in this is a goddamn hero
posted by thelonius at 11:54 PM on September 10, 2020 [8 favorites]


, sure, "just for today" I'm in a blistering hellscape, but also, I am in a blistering hellscape, and even if it only lasts 24 hours that's still quite a lot of blistering hellscape.

Ah but a key corollary to "one day at a time" is "one room at a time". In the same way that you let go of the whole entire future crushing down upon you in the now, you also let go of the whole entire blistering hellscape crushing down upon you in the here.

Live in today and also live in this room. Living in today doesn't mean you stop your retirement contributions and don't bother to plant flowers that will bloom in spring; similarly living in this room doesn't mean you stop volunteering at the food bank and don't bother to vote. But living in today and in this room does mean you commit to not letting thoughts about elsewhere and elsewhen enter your bubble except for functional, well- defined, strictly limited, practical purposes. Elsewhere and elsewhen are the lava floor. Stay off!

The benefit of reduced anxiety comes from being disciplined about not worrying about things you can't control. You can only influence the here and now, so you limit your focus to that.
posted by MiraK at 1:31 AM on September 11, 2020 [7 favorites]


Shane at Farnam Street put this link in last Sunday's newsletter to a speech by Bob Bowman, who coached Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. It's super long. But it includes the phrase "worrying is negative goal setting."

I think one of the virtues of taking it one day and one room at a time is that you keep your goals, positive or negative, small and manageable.

I'm sober but did not do AA or SMART. I have several AA people in my life. What I admire and envy about their experience is the solidarity of it. Yes, you're anonymous, but they've also constructed all these ways to exist with your imperfect self in community. We need more of that.
posted by sockshaveholes at 7:48 AM on September 11, 2020 [4 favorites]


@flamk: Thanks for correcting me. I meant that, actually. Meaning something like AA but in a more streamlined professional setting.

BTAIM, I am still not happy that the AA way is used as a one-size-fits-all cure for any and every addiction there is. What started out as a way for one alcoholic to get another sober has been stretched way beyond that, I feel.

This Cochrane review focused specifically on AUD, which I actually really appreciated.
posted by indianbadger1 at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2020


Oops, hope I caused no offense Indianbadger1! I'm a little sensitive to any hint that "AA = panacea" not because I'm anti-AA, but because I worry about what it means to folks who hear that sort of message when AA doesn't work for them . . It must be so crushing to find that the supposed cure for what ails you doesn't work despite your best efforts. Is there something wrong with me? Am I broken? etc . .
posted by flamk at 6:12 PM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]


Long term sober (46 years), no particular investment in whether other programs than the one I joined work, but anecdotally I'm really happy right now for the most part despite the fact that my life partner has stage 4 cancer, we're in the midst of a pandemic that directly threatens both of us, and my government has gone insane. Yeah, I'm sad, but I don't avoid the sadness and it's funny how I can be happy and sad at the same time if I don't avoid experiencing the feeling. I'm only unhappy when I am doomscrolling too much. I stay useful (postcards to voters, contributions to campaigns), practice the various suggested habits of my sobriety program, and focus on the day.

Read the article and reflected on the fact that AA's traditions suggest, among other things, "anonymity at the level of press, radio and films" plus no one actually ever speaks on an individual level for AA, so I suggest taking the article with a grain of salt. Plus AA as such isn't organized and the requirements for how it's practiced are surprisingly minimal, so any generalizations about the program depend on which meetings you attend, when you attend, and who you choose to talk to.
posted by Peach at 8:04 AM on September 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


MiraK: Living in today doesn't mean you stop your retirement contributions and don't bother to plant flowers that will bloom in spring; similarly living in this room doesn't mean you stop volunteering at the food bank and don't bother to vote. But living in today and in this room does mean you commit to not letting thoughts about elsewhere and elsewhen enter your bubble except for functional, well- defined, strictly limited, practical purposes. Elsewhere and elsewhen are the lava floor. Stay off!

sockshaveholes: I think one of the virtues of taking it one day and one room at a time is that you keep your goals, positive or negative, small and manageable.

I'm going to print out these words and put them where I can see them.

I'm anxious in the best of times, and since March I've self-medicated by doomscrolling nonstop and waking up at weird hours weighing the likelihood of the worst possible outcomes for (choose one): the world; the US; my elderly parents; my sister, a public school teacher, my brother-in-law, who's been laid off, and my teenage nieces; and/or my own professional future in print journalism (AHAHAHAHAHA).

I've heard depression (which I also struggle with) described as "response to past loss," while anxiety is "response to future loss." I've been glibly referring to my dawn patrol rumination sessions as my " 'response to future loss' practice," but I really can't afford to joke about it anymore. Living in elsewhere and elsewhen is draining me.

Thanks for giving me a different frame for this concept. It's extremely helpful.
posted by virago at 11:52 AM on September 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


I really liked this article. Reminds me of Kimmy Schmidt's "10 seconds at a time." (And now there's an app for that.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:31 PM on September 13, 2020


I'm alcohol free for 2 years, and cigarette free for 1 week, I go even more granular down to just this hour, just this minute! I have a print of this illustration at home.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:41 AM on September 18, 2020


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