I hope you are doing well and that you are staying warm – or, if you are living in the southern hemisphere, I hope you (lucky bastards) are enjoying your summer.
This week, I would like to say a quick word about my experience of the link between drinking alcohol and having anxiety and encourage you to read two recent articles on that topic.
Using alcohol to self-medicate anxiety
It’s great testimony of a guy (called Mat) who knows alcohol makes is anxiety worse but does not feel able to stop drinking. How many of us can related to that? We all know it is bad for us, but we find it too difficult to stop drinking because of various reasons: social pressure, “I need alcohol to have fun”, “I will lose my friends if I stop drinking”, etc.
See a couple of quotes from the article:
- “I’m not ashamed to say I’ve used alcohol substantially throughout the years to aid me,”
- “It’s like alcohol is the way out, but I know it isn’t – it just makes things 20 times worse.”
- “I don’t think I could give it up because I think I’m mentally dependent on alcohol to help me get through things.”
[In the article, there is also a video of Mat having a panic attack. He filmed himself to try to make people understand how bad they can be. I encourage you to watch it.]
Was I using alcohol to self-medicated my anxiety?
You bet I was.
I was drinking to make me feel (temporarily) better. And to be 100% honest, it did make me feel better… TEMPORARILY. Until it made me feel worse. And when I was drinking, I knew I would be feeling worse, but I did not really care on the moment itself, because I felt I really needed a quick way out.
I know that, although I mainly talk about being sober on this blog, the actual name of the blog is “a year with DAILY MEDITATION and no booze”. [I actually started the daily meditation 19 days before I stopped drinking]. And I can say that combining these two things (meditation and being sober) has been very useful. They are both awesome tools to connect better with what you are feeling. And they both helped me tremendously to face my discomfort and (some of) my fears.
The vicious cycle of alcohol, tiredness and anxiety
This article tells us how Lauren experiences a lot of anxiety after drinking alcohol. See the most interesting quotes below:
- Anxiety triggered by alcohol (…) takes the form of a cycle of irrational thoughts, negative thinking and intense regret.
- “I don’t feel capable of fighting against it or choosing to think in a positive way because I’m already feeling run down and lethargic.”
- It’s important to distinguish the trigger, because while some people with anxiety may drink heavily as a form of self-medication, others – like Lauren – have anxiety directly caused by the alcohol.
- Anybody can feel anxious in association with a hangover because that’s part of what alcohol does to your brain.
- Although alcohol’s depressive effect eventually makes you sleepy, the quality of sleep you have is poor.
- “Anxiety is much more common if you haven’t slept well”
- Then there’s the general hangover effect on your body – which comes from dehydration, fatigue and the sudden drop in the pleasure hormone dopamine in your brain.
- If you are physically unwell, then you are more likely to feel anxious.
I definitely relates to Lauren’s experience: I always noticed that when I am tired, I am much more likely to experience anxiety.
My anxiety did not disappear as soon as I stopped drinking but, touch wood, it has been gone for a couple of months now. I know my anxiety was not 100% due to me drinking alcohol, but I also know that it clearly did not help and was making my life worse. Alcohol was weakening my body and my mind.
Now, when I am tired and my body is achy, it’s because I have a demanding 7-week baby to take care of, not because I had wine, beer and whisky in the same evening.
Take care amigas and amigos.
Twenty-eight weeks done. Twenty-four more to go.