It is hard for people to comprehend, especially if they don’t see your use in everyday life, that you have a substance abuse problem. Now before you get all confused and ask, “Rachael, when are you going to talk about anxiety? That’s what we came here for dammit!” I promise I am going to tie this up beautifully like a bow.
On the 22nd of September 2017, I gave up drinking alcohol and have not had a drink since then. Nine months, nine months without beer, gin and tonics, late nights out with friends, shots, and all the culture that goes along with it. Do I miss drinking? Well, it’s complicated, however for about 90% of the time I don’t. The other 10% of the time I do want a drink is when the world seems to get too heavy and I start to feel anxious.
This time last year I attended a July 4th party and my significant other was coming with me for the first time. We had been together for about ten months at that time and I was just starting to let my friends and family get to know him so for me this party with my whole family and a lot of other people I didn’t know well was creating a shit storm in my mind. I cannot even describe to you my thoughts at the time but just thinking back on that day now I tense up and get that “spacey” feeling in my head.
In my stupidity, a psychology bachelor’s graduate, I thought it would be a great idea to drink a red bull before the party and also not eat. That’s called, “Hey! I know a way to make your anxiety even worse!! Let’s add a lot of caffeine and leave no food in your stomach!!YEAH!” Idiot. As I walked through the house and found out that my family wasn’t there yet I began to feel very awkward with all these people I wasn’t really friends with and began to tweak out (in my mind). The only thing I knew to do was to reach into our cooler and crack a beer. Alcohol has been my coping mechanism for anxiety and depression (two diagnosis that often occur together) since I first turned 21.
Over the years I had learned that if you were in any shitty situation and you wanted to feel better you could just have a drink and immediately feel good (thank you dopamine the brain neurotransmitter). Or if you felt really awkward and out of place you could do a shot and become the fun extroverted person you are not. Unfortunately, for those of us who drink too much, we build-up a tolerance to the effects of alcohol and have to drink more and more to “feel good”. My tolerance was at an all-time high at this particular party and so I drank and drank and drank and then my family showed up and something triggered my anxiety so I did a shot or two and then I drank some more and ended up completely drunk. My family definitely noticed and I did some stupid things and my significant other ended up taking me home, very early, from the party.
He had seen me like that before so it was no surprise to him that I was balling my eyes out the whole way home. Feeling completely ashamed, guilty, stupid, like an asshole, all of the above. There is no guilt worse than the guilt you feel when you know you have disappointed your family and disappointed yourself. God bless my significant other because when I changed my mind and asked him to take us back to the party he took us back and then when I freaked out again by the time we pulled up to the party again he took us back home (he is a saint).
After this I became very depressed and laid in bed crying, unable to pull myself together, and wanting very strongly to just be gone. To not exist. To end it all. And this my friends, is when you know you have “hit your bottom” as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous. And let me say that everyone’s “bottom” is different. Some people have to lose their children due to their substance abuse, others end up selling their possessions in order to get their drug of choice, and others lose their cars and driver’s license. Not everyone’s “bottom” looks the same. So do not judge someone’s addiction, substance abuse, or what have you by what you perceive, or what you think an addict looks like, because you will never understand where that person is coming from. My bottom was letting my anxiety control my life and using alcohol to cope. I never, ever, ever want to feel that low again. And so, I no longer drink. I don’t have my anxiety under control yet, but I do have control over alcohol. And for once in my life I have hope that I won’t always be anxious and that everything is going to turn out “okay”. It may not be perfect, but I will be okay. As always, thanks for reading,
Check these out:
Article on Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse:
Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Do you or someone else need help?: