Passing Time

It’s an odd time. We are each having our own version of a shared experience these days. I feel  united and separated all at once; we are alone together.

I used to wonder what people who didn’t drink did with all their time. Like, beside not drinking. I remember looking at the lit windows of our many Mormon neighbours, assuming they’d be doing wholesome things with their evenings. Did they just sit on the couch and watch tv with their hands folded in their laps? What was going on over there? What was it like to move through life without being attached to a stem glass?

Now I know. I have a teacup, a paintbrush, a pencil within reach and I don’t miss the wine.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

I spoke with someone the other day who is now in that place herself, trying to imagine life without wine.

“Really?” she asked. “Do you actually stop thinking about it at some point? Does it ever feel normal to not have it?”

Yes, it really does. I plop on the couch to watch Survivor and am delighted to have my SleepyTime Vanilla tea. On a hot afternoon, I love a glass of tonic water or an iced decaf with a bit of vanilla and sugar. Alcohol takes up zero brain space for me now.

It’s a good thing, because there’s a lot of space and time to fill.

I’ve felt my interests drift and shift over the past 60+ days of isolating at home. I went through a puzzle stage, a letter-writing stage, a baking stage, and added several shows to my completed binge list (Shameless, Sopranos, Tiger King, Orthodox, and most of Letterkenny). 

I painted so many bookmarks and tiny watercolours that I had to post them on Instagram for giveaways. (Follow my feed at @jeanmccarthy_writes if you’d like to jump in on my next round – I sent bookmarks and a personal note to anyone who wanted one until all of the items were spoken for. It’s a nice way to connect with people and say thanks for following along.)

My husband and I have also been having fun leaving surprises for our grandsons on their doorstep. You can see those on my Instagram feed as well – homemade custom Lego kits, a treasure hunt of painted rocks, and other fun ideas.

Doing little things for others really helps with the blues, as long as I don’t get into the codependency trap of over-doing for others > expecting accolades > feeling disappointed > building resentments. I learned about this from reading Codependent No More (Amazon affiliate link) and it was a real eye opener.

There’s one more thing I’ve done and it’s kind of a biggie.

I’ve been writing a new novel these last months and had hoped to have the first draft done by June. This is not happening, not at all. It was moving along pretty well over the winter but since the pandemic has unfolded, I’ve barely written a word. It’s meant to be a contemporary story about quitting drinking, but I can’t shake the feeling that the world exists differently now and I don’t know it well enough to write about it yet. 

Then something unexpected took shape. My novel included a character who writes poetry, so I’d created a few poems for the book. Once I started writing poems, they kept coming. I’ve pulled back from songwriting since I quit drinking and I didn’t think I missed it. But poetry seems to have reawakened the pleasure that exists in finding just the right words, in reducing an emotion or experience down to its essence.

I only needed two poems for the novel, but wrote more than fifty. I couldn’t stop. 

I laid them out across the floor and sorted them by theme, and realized that I’d written about the trajectory of losing myself and finding my way back, telling the story in bits and pieces. 

The Ember Ever There by Jean McCarthy

The result is a book that will be released in June, “The Ember Ever There: Poems on Change, Grief, Growth, Recovery, and Rediscovery.” As of today the ebook is available for preorder (Amazon affiliate link) and the print book will soon follow.

I’ve been telling people that I was trying to write a novel and accidentally wrote a poetry book. The release date is mid June, more info to follow. You can also learn more at

Stay well, everyone. I hope your recovery is serving you well through this difficult time and if not, please reach out. You don’t have to do this alone, even in isolation.


  1. Good for you for staying sober! My husband is a recovering alcoholic, and I too have decided to start a blog with my experience with his addiction from the spouse’s perspective. I’d love to cross reference your blog on mine at I have friends who are alcoholics reach out to me all the time asking for help.

    Side note, my husband grew up Mormon, but has since converted to Christianity. I read in your post you have Mormon neighbors and thought it was a little ironic.


  2. I celebrated my 10th unpickled anniversary on 24 April. The day came and went like any other util my sister phoned to congratulate me. Wow, 10 years, and never a thought or a longing for alcohol. Tea? Yes please, milk, no sugar. Coffee? No. Just cannot like the taste. Soda? Not even that. The sugar put me right off. Alcohol free drinks? Too expensive.

    So here we are on day 51 of our Covid-19 lockdown. I have been busy making masks as I have a dedicated sewing room in our village and I am allowed to work there. My tally so far exceeds 200 – I am masked out! In between masks I started on a quilted mini Christmas tree to hang on a wall – real/plastic trees are cat magnets in my house… What fun.

    Would I have been able to do this if I were still drinking? NO!

    Best regards everyone; this pandemic too will pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tears of joy reading your post, knowing you and your bravery of sharing your story and vulnerabilities all these years. Thanks for shining the light!


Your Turn! Have Your Say:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s