Even those who do not suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction can relate to the anxiety of a hangover. The sweating, pounding headache, restlessness all cause anxiety. This generally dissipates by the end of the day, and the normal drinker who drank too much the night before feels normal again.
This is not the case with those who have developed an addiction. The anxiety remains because of the destructiveness this disease has over its victims. This article will help those understand their anxiety and provide ways to help fight anxiety in sobriety with coping mechanisms, which will eventually reduce anxiety’s effect.
Why Am I Anxious?
Simply putting the plug in the jug or stopping the use of your drug of choice does not mean you will return to feeling the way you did before you ever used. Because your body has become accustomed to drugs/alcohol, in many ways it is yearning for more of the same. In the past, we simply picked up another drink or drug and our anxiety left us. If you are reading this, I assume you no longer think this is a viable option.
We are anxious for several reasons. In the first 72 hours, our bodies may be experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms, especially if you drink daily. In many cases, checking into a detox facility that can help you safely withdrawal is the right move. At the end of my heavy drinking, I would sweat profusely upon waking, experience chills, was severely dehydrated, and was in a fog. I wanted to be my normal self, but experiencing these symptoms of withdrawal was disheartening, which triggered more anxiety.
To my dismay, I had also developed pancreatitis, but my levels returned to normal after a few weeks thankfully. Over the course of several months of continued sobriety, your body and mind will experience discomfort, but it should be a sign that you are on the right track. Think of it like sore muscles after vigorous training; just as your muscles are recovering and growing stronger, your body is learning to cope without drugs and alcohol and is repairing itself.
Anxiety Due to Living Life on Life’s Terms
After a few months, many of us may feel like our normal selves. This can be dangerous, because we often start putting other things before our recovery and relapse. On the other hand, our illness may have progressed to a point where we are unsure what “normal” feels like.
As sober individuals we now have to experience life’s challenges without the ability to resort to our favorite fix. We have used this fix for so long that it began to seem natural. Our backstabbing friend is no longer there to help us through stressful or traumatic events that befall all people.
Now, we must approach life in a more straightforward path actually experiencing our emotions. So many of us dulled our emotions to the point where we no longer truly alive. Through practice and patience, we will learn to deal with our problems the right way. For those who know The Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous: “We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us” will become a reality.
Using Coping Mechanisms
In speaking with many recovering people, coping is also seen in a negative connotation. However, the actual definition is: to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties,especially successfully or in a calm or adequate manner. There are many strategies to coping with anxiety.
First, it is important to engage others who are dealing with the same problem. Although the topic of this article is fighting anxiety in sobriety, you will likely be anxious about joining a support group. However, after a few visits where you truly start to participate, you will find that these people have gone through the exact same things and are generous with their time helping others achieve sobriety.
I hated going to support meetings for a long time actually. I tried every other method I could so I could state I was not a member of AA and could do it all on my own. Hubris is the downfall of many an alcoholic. Today, I actually enjoy meetings and find I get something out of everyone I attend. I am actually amazed that many times people will discuss the exact topic in which I am currently struggling. Of course, there are some bad meetings out there, but I’ve found a solution to that too. I simply avoid them!
Second, get a sponsor. It is important to have at least one person you can unload all the garbage. We are already anxious, so this person can be viewed as an adviser. Many people will not enjoy a sponsors suggestions, but this is all the more reason to do them. It gets us out of our comfort zone, which helps reduce anxiety in the long run. When we first learn to ride a bike there is a lot of apprehension, but there is also an equal dose of excitement. An example i in my life is public speaking. I am not a boisterous person, but when I am required to speak to a group of people, my heart rate is jacked before I start speaking. Simply put, I am anxious, but I always enjoy the experience and at least seem at ease to my audience.
Third, find something to distract you. It is little wonder that I see a lot of people in recovery twirling pens, or playing with fidget toys when they can’t do much else. Anything that gets us out of our heads can be helpful.
My last suggestion is to get back into a hobby you once enjoyed sober. This can be an athletic pursuit, drawing, meditation, or creating a website dedicated to helping others recover from addiction. Wink, wink. When the weather warms up a little, I plan on pursuing golf wholeheartedly. At present I am a bit of a hacker, but an above average one. I find that golf is a lot like recovery. I may be all over the place on the course, but if I hit that one perfect shot, the whole round seems worth it. Similarly, my whole day may be going wrong, but if I am able to help one person that day, the day was worth living.
If you find that you are consistently anxious, especially when you have nothing worthwhile to do, I recommend using a fidget spinner. These little tools are favorites with addicts, as it keeps our minds off our drug of choice.
It is important to give back in sobriety. This can be as simple as asking if anybody needs a ride after a meeting, saying hello to a newcomer making them feel welcome, or sharing your experience, strength, and hope in a meeting. After working the twelve steps, assuming you are going that route, start sponsoring others. Seeing how you used to act and feel through the eyes of another will help affirm how far you have progressed. It will also serve as a reminder of what could happen if you began using again.
Many of us thought we had no purpose, but now we have at least one. This is to help others get what was so freely given to you. Not only will it give you a feeling of satisfaction, teaching someone how to deal with life on life’s terms will reaffirm your own sobriety. It will also give you a deeper understanding of the steps.
Managing Anxiety Successfully
In sobriety, we know that we will be successful by simply avoiding a relapse. The path is often more arduous than we would like, but each day sober is a step in the right direction. While there is no way to wipe out anxiety completely as this would mean we were now robots, I hope this post has helped people see that it is OK to be anxious.
Be patient with yourself and you will slowly start feeling better both physically and mentally. Allow the miracle to happen by taking it one day at a time. I assure you, it will. Reach out to others who have had similar experiences and it will make it all the easier. Employ the coping mechanisms mentioned here and from others who have gone through the same thing. And finally, try to help one other person who is newly sober. This can be as simple as shaking their hand when they come to a support group meeting for the first time.
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