How I Coped With Anxiety Through Alcoholism
This isn’t the true story of a young woman overcoming her issues with alcohol, and the pain and sadness that it brought her. If you’re looking for an inspirational memoir of finding sobriety and all of the happiness that comes along with it, then turn back now. I’ve yet to overcome my struggle with alcohol, but I’m going to share with you some of the stops I’ve passed along the way and the journey that it has taken me on.
Discovering alcohol was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. It was good to me when it gave me freedom from myself and the parts of me that I hate the most. I’ve always been quiet, shy, and uncomfortable around new people. Constant worry is generally my default emotion, and I agonize about things that other people don’t seem to even notice. I feel different from everybody else most of the time.
About 20 percent of adults with social anxiety and depression also experience alcoholism, addiction, or drinking excessively to cope with the symptoms of these disorders. In the beginning, it worked for me. My reserved nature all but disappeared when I had a bottle of vodka or a case of beer handy. Everything that made me scared or nervous faded into the background when I drank alcohol. Life was a party, and I loved every minute of it. It brought me back to life and washed away my self-loathing and insecurity. I was able to talk to people again, make friends and fond memories. Like most students, I looked forward to Friday afternoons when I could escape from school for two whole days. But instead of thinking about homework or plans for college during the week, my biggest concern was how I was going to get alcohol for my weekend plans. I was convinced that I needed it to have a good time.
But all parties must come to an end, and eventually I started waking up with more than just a hangover. Feelings of embarrassment, shame, humiliation, and disgust consumed me. My drinking is self-destructive, and some mornings the guilt I experience is so awful that it seems as if I could actually choke on it. Not only have I hurt myself physically with self-injury, broken bones, and countless bruises and scrapes from a plethora of drunken falls, but I’ve also hurt other people emotionally. I desperately wish that I could be a happy, fun-loving drunk. But when alcohol enters into my bloodstream, I become somebody I wouldn’t even recognize when sober.
How do you drown your sorrows when drinking is one thing that makes you hurt the most?
Anyone who has had a troublesome relationship with alcohol knows the part that comes next: the classic “I’m never drinking again” line, which is a path paved with good intentions but is often more winded and rocky than straight and narrow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought I learned my lesson. I don’t want to even think about all of the mornings that I crawled to the medicine cabinet for painkillers, stomach rolling and mind racing to catch up with the flood of memories of what I’d done the night before.
Nearly everyone who drinks alcohol has had a night and subsequent morning like this. Some people can laugh it off and get on with their lives. I’ve always envied those people. You see, for me a hangover isn’t just a headache and maybe a bit of cringing at myself for how I acted. It’s an all encompassing, crippling feeling of complete and utter self-hatred, in which I make myself sick replaying in my mind every single thing I did or said. I become convinced that everyone hates me and that my friends never want to see or speak to me again. I turn off my phone, hide in my room, and cry until I can’t anymore. If I’m lucky, this lasts for a few hours. If I’m not so lucky, this can last for days, sometimes even a week or more.
But alcohol isn’t the only bad guy in my story. I have my own issues with depression and anxiety, and I suspect that if I faced some of them, my drinking could be less problematic. Not only is alcohol a way of self-medicating when I feel sad or lonely, but it gives me “liquid courage” to be myself in a room full of strangers. However, alcohol is a depressant, and what feels fun and exciting at the time often ends in a downward spiral of negative emotions in the days following a night of heavy alcohol consumption. You would think that an alcohol-related arrest would be my final wakeup call, but even that didn’t knock some sense into me.
The isolation and loneliness is the most daunting part of realizing you might have a problem with alcohol. I’ve made excuses and told lies and hidden things to downplay my drinking habits. Being surrounded by people who enjoy alcohol so carelessly, who can have a few drinks then stop any time they want, becomes unbearable when you realize you can’t control yourself. I’ve talked to alcoholics and drug addicts, friends of mine who have also waged a war against themselves in fighting alcohol addiction. It never makes me feel any less alone to know that there are others who have the same darkness in them that I’ve experienced firsthand.
So maybe this isn’t the end of my journey. I might not get sober today or tomorrow, perhaps even this year, or maybe I never will. But I’m done hiding who I am because I’m ashamed. I’m tired of pretending that it isn’t killing me inside to bury this within myself. I can’t lock it up and hope that it goes away forever. Alcoholism isn’t a choosy disease – it can affect anyone, and I’m not the exception. It is definitely not that simple to overcome. But I’m not alone in this, and to anyone out there reading my story who has gone through what I have, I just want you to know that you are not alone either.
Living sober isn’t easy, but there are many resources out there available for anyone who suffers from alcohol addiction. Please seek medical help through a rehab like Narconon if your symptoms become severe or you experience withdrawals. If you need someone to talk to, someone who has been there and understands, leave your e-mail in a comment and I’ll be happy to get in touch with you.
Reader submission by Sydney S