Anxiety has been a problem for me since my early teens. Coincidentally, this is around the time that I first began “experimenting” with alcohol, cigarettes, and pot. Drugs and alcohol used to ease the anxiety that I would feel in social settings. It also helped with the stress of watching my parents’ marriage fall apart (in part because of alcohol-related issues). Over the years my skills for coping with stress and anxiety have not improved much. Drinking helped to soften the emotions and hush the anxious thoughts that were often racing through my head.
In the past few months my anxiety has been off the charts. I think it was a combination of post-partum related anxiety and depression, and the horrifying way that my drinking continued to spiral out of control after the birth of my child (I quit while I was pregnant with him, and somehow thought that this break would solve everything). Alcohol was no longer helping the symptoms of anxiety, but rather making them worse. Luckily, after being sober for a week, the symptoms of anxiety are starting to ease up a teeny, tiny bit.
In the past week I have been placing myself into a protective little cocoon that doesn’t feel too scary. My husband decided to quit drinking to support me, which has helped a lot to make our home feel like a safe place. I don’t even know how to express how much this means to me, how lucky I feel to have a partner who would do this for me.
I know that I won’t be able to live in this self-made cocoon forever, and these thoughts trouble me. How will I handle the Holidays with my actively drinking (and often alcoholic) family? Will I ever be able to go out again? What will people think when they see that I don’t drink anymore? Will we be able to entertain at our house in the future? Am I still going to be a fun person? Was I EVER a fun person? What should I do when I get an invitation somewhere? And on and on and on…
When my thoughts go out of control like this I try to stop them by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on the here and now. I am trying really hard to live each day “in the moment.” I am fighting the anxiety that usually leads me to drink. I am spending time praying and trying not to think too much. I am eating healthy foods and getting as much sleep as I can (I haven’t really had a full night’s sleep since the baby was born). I am trying to meditate for at least 5 or 10 minutes each day. I am going on lots of walks. I am spending time laughing and talking with my husband and a few close friends. I am going to attend my first AA meeting tonight. I am taking steps that I HOPE will help in the future even if they are not necessarily helping too much right now.
It all just feels so shaky, like alcohol could just jump into my system with one wrong move on my part. I am trying to remember to be patient and to have faith. When I successfully quit smoking (my only other experience with addiction) it took a long time to feel normal again. I have to live one day at a time. And so far, even with some anxious thoughts and a lot of uncertainty, today is a good day. I am sober.