Why I Left Alcohol Behind in My Anxiety Recovery
In my experience, when you grow up surrounded by addiction, you take notice. You see things in others and in yourself that some people might miss. You learn quickly addiction is not always black and white. A lot of addiction lies in the grey area of life.
When I was young, I often found myself with a drink in my hand. I thought it was key to my mental health. Yes… you read that right. I thought it “mellowed” me. I thought it took away my anxiety. I was a lot more fun to be around after just a couple of drinks (though it never stopped there). I felt more like the real me. It cleared my mind and took away all my worries. I felt like a “normal” person. I stopped drinking when I became pregnant with my son and rarely drank while he was growing up.
Then I started again. Vodka was always my choice. I still love it. That first sip feels like freedom. I know the second it hits my tongue that in mere moments, I will start to feel the person trapped behind my anxiety press forward and take charge. I liked her. But here’s what I didn’t like. Even though it was always just a couple of drinks and I wasn’t getting drunk, I noticed something didn’t feel right. I was spending all this time trying to learn about my mental illness. I was managing my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety with meditation and mindfulness. I was practicing yoga for my body and getting outside as much as possible to allow nature to do its work. I was eating healthy, whole foods. I was growing and making all these huge strides for my mental and physical health.
And then I would drink. After drinking, I would often wake up in the middle of the night in a panic. I’d lay there questioning why I was drinking. I became terrified that I was headed down the path of so many of my family members. Was I an addict? Did I need this? How much is too much? I started noticing I was reaching for the bottle when I was stressed, celebrating or even on a random Tuesday night. Never an obscene amount, but the bottle was there.
I made excuses in my mind. I’m not getting drunk. If it were wine instead of Vodka, I’d be like every other mom these days. I deserve a break. But the truth remained. I felt like I was doing something wrong. I had actual guilt about a cocktail.
After much thought, I realized that alcohol is not just alcohol for me. Alcohol represents everything I’m moving away from. It reminds me of a time in my life when I thought I liked who I was, but I was only covering up who I was. I didn’t want to accept myself as is. I wanted to be free and wild and unapologetic. I used alcohol to get there. It was a crutch, an excuse, a ticket to the head of the line.
The reality is, nothing gets resolved that way for me and with anxiety, it only puts off the inevitable. The anxiety was still there when I sobered up. I had to realize that for me, alcohol only added to my anxiety. It brought on more second thoughts, more doubt and more fear.
Am I an alcoholic? No, and I would never claim to understand the plight of an alcoholic, but I think I’m desperately afraid of being one. I realized drinking, even on occasion, makes me feel like I’m living in the grey. I choose to be wild, free and unapologetic when I’m sober. I don’t need or want alcohol to be the reason. Instead I use strength, self-love and confidence to free that person trapped behind my anxiety. She presses forward and takes charge. I like her even more.
If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.
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Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.