Alcohol, Anxiety and a real slow learner...
I read a great post this morning written by my good friend Susan Settle Larkin about alcohol and anxiety, and I thought I'd share a little story of a battle I fought for 30 years...
In my mid to late 20s, I entered a difficult period of my life when I was crushed by unexpected panic attacks and overwhelming social anxiety. When that first panic attack blindsided me, both my professional and social potentials, as well as my personal goals all came to a screeching halt. I spoke with a physician who asked about my drinking habits, and even though I lied about the amount, he advised me that I needed to stop. I left his office vowing never to return, as he had asked me to give up the one thing that actually worked to alleviate my anxiety to function somewhat normally. I had no idea that my ‘solution’ was just the fuel responsible for keeping my anxiety alive and adding to it on a daily basis.
For 30 years I tried everything some exercise to self-hypnosis. I practiced techniques prescribed by professionals as well as those ‘sure fire’ home remedies prescribed by strangers. The results were always the same, producing zero relief. The only thing that worked was more alcohol. I had no idea that it was in turn preventing both medicinal help as well as mindful help from doing their jobs. The more I drank to alleviate anxiety, the more I needed to drink to alleviate anxiety. I was simply dumping fuel on a fire that was raging out of control.
I look back at my drinking history and can give you all sorts of reasons as to why I drank like I did, but anxiety is the clear-cut number one reason on top of that list. I had no idea that my drinking was causing me to ‘need’ to drink. I was caught in that self-perpetuating cycle of hell, blaming everything else but the actual cause.
In 2019,two weeks after I stopped drinking, I was driving up north and found myself surrounded by 18 Wheelers while cruising in the high-speed lane. It was a situation that typically sent me to the first available exit with a pounding heart and sweaty palms, positive that I was about to die. But on that day, I realized with a sense of miraculous awe, that I wasn't feeling the panic and anxiety I was accustomed to for last 30 years. Yes, I was still ‘fearing the fear’, but for the first time in a long time, I wasn't living it. At that moment I realized that I would never drink again.
The list of reasons why I don't drink today is too long to post and would probably be outdated by tomorrow. One thing will not change though, the number one spot will always be the freedom I received from a curse that stole so much of my life. The realization that I had the solution all that time is tough to swallow.
I am not one to focus on ‘what could have been’ in life, but knowing what I know now, I do wish I could go back in time and talk to that kid as he walked out of that doctor's office. I just wish he had known what I know now.
Everyone is different, but I hear too many similar stories from too many people, that alcohol is a primary source for anxiety. What we look at as a source of relief, is actually a primary cause. Removing alcohol from my life relieved me from anxiety. Alcohol wasn’t relieving my anxiety, it was causing it!
Unfortunately there are those that don’t get the same relief when they quit drinking, and that crushes my heart. Anxiety is brutal. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But for many, relief is common and real when alcohol is removed from their lives. I’m living proof! My advice is simply to give it a shot, you can always go back! But think of what life could be if you were free of anxiety. It worked for me, and I know it can work for you!
If you’d like free yourself from alcohol induced anxiety, and be able to enjoy life without fearing it, there are solutions. This is my story; now I’d love to hear yours. Message me and let’s talk about it