When Rules Bind Too Tightly

A hand writing on a journal: Text: When the rules bind too tightly
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These days, it seems like we’re all just making up the rules as we go along.  

During this global pandemic, virtually every aspect of life has changed. No one really seems to be in charge, with different factions making different rules, and everyone rolling the dice, hoping their decisions are the right ones. And no matter who says what, no one really knows how any of this will play out.  

The simplest of acts (at least in America)—going to the store to buy food, has become a venture requiring planning on par with a military maneuver. People are losing not only jobs, but entire businesses. Sometimes family legacies, decades in the making, are disappearing like puffs of smoke. Figuring out how to cope every day, let alone plan for the future, is like shaking a magic eight ball.

Question: Will today be any better? Answer: Not likely. 

For those struggling with addiction and their families, uncertainty is no stranger, and risk is a constant companion. But when even the most basic “givens” are not guaranteed, stress and anxiety can compound exponentially. And while structure is good for those suffering from abuse, when that structure seems punitive, as current restrictions do, even the most stable of us may chafe at the restraints. Addicts may be tempted to use, just to ease the pressure.  

So how do we—struggling, sober, or “normal” (yes, do notice the quotation marks), manage to follow the rules, but not lose our sanity or sobriety in the process?

For me, the best place to start is with the daily (sometimes hourly!) reminder that this will not last forever. These are extraordinary times, and the inconveniences and restrictions are serving to help me notice how very blessed and lucky I am. When life itself becomes something we shouldn’t take for granted, each breath is quite literally a gift. With that mindset, temporary rules become easier to accept. 

 Another thing to keep in mind—we’ve all got plenty of company. As in the whole world. Never before has absolutely everyone on the planet been concerned with the same problem. You are not alone. No matter how you feel, someone else is feeling the same thing at the same time. Talk it out. Sober or struggling, talk to those around you. Ask for help, ask for a listening ear, ask if someone else in your home or “village” needs a shoulder to lean on. Seeking help or providing that for others helps us know that we are part of a community, both now and in the future. That feeling of belonging is of great support to those challenged by substance abuse.

Yes, the rules during this crisis are tough and constantly changing.

But by living in gratitude for what we have and asking for, or providing help, we can get through this—together. 

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at www.maryfranbontempo.com.

Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.