Riding the lockdown roller-coaster

As a family member of someone with a substance abuse problem that’s what my life has felt like, metaphorically, and how I frequently describe it .. without the amusement bit. And I’d probably add “with dark tunnels and rapid changes”. With the recent unprecedented events, lockdown has made the usual roller-coaster feel more like Space Mountain (for those unfamiliar – a roller-coaster in the dark) than the usual theme park ride.

If I’m honest I struggled a little with my mental health a couple of weeks ago - somehow the change in the weather at the beginning of May brought with it dampened spirit and a ‘washed out’ feeling. One of my personal survival mechanisms, learnt, I have to say, over several years of having my head in some pretty awful places, is personal space, mostly outside the home. Those moments of respite have given me the capacity to rebalance and reflect before acting or responding. Being on the receiving end, I learnt a while ago that my own resilience and ability to ride the roller-coaster of changes in behaviour is in part due to the ability to get out – go to work, visit friends, go to the gym. Not being able to do that has been purgatory at times, literally.

The roller-coaster for me is the ride of constant uncertainties, the emotional highs and lows, the long dark tunnels and sudden turns that go with alcohol dependence, never quite being sure what each day is going to bring and eternally treading on egg shells. Sometimes I feel as if I’m the only one on the train, hovering in the dark over what could be a turn, a drop or a tunnel. Lock-down has heightened some of those things, but I’ve developed a level of resilience (or perhaps, being cynical, a thick skin) to manage the ‘oh good grief, here we go again’ moments.

Apart from my ‘blip’ over the past few weeks I’ve had good days and bad days during lock-down and in fairness even those without significant challenges at home have felt that way. I use breathing and relaxation techniques to keep calm when I feel anxious or things get heated, get one walk or try to do some sort of exercise every day (in fairness, that one’s a bit hit and miss). Most importantly for me I have at least two Zoom calls with trusted friends every week – as a family member, having the non-judgemental, empathetic ear is so important and together with support from groups like Adfam, I know I’m not quite on the ride alone and I know it’s not for ever.

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