Anxiety — A feeling that can range from an almost undetectable sensation of unsettlement, to a full blown out of control and distressing emotion.
I have lived w/ anxiety for as long as I can remember. Even as a child I remember feeling chronically unsettled, nervous, and unable to fully relax, but, because ‘having anxiety’, or any other uncomfortable feelings, were never discussed w/ me growing up, I never knew there was any other way to feel. Anxiety was my ‘normal’.
My primary caregiver, my mother, has been, and is, to this day, the most chronically anxious person I know. To sum it up, one of her famous sayings is: ‘I’m not happy if I don’t have anything to worry about’. She seems to pride herself on this thought process. This is the woman who raised me. The woman who I got so many of my mannerisms and habits from. She was my primary role model from childhood right through to adult hood. So it makes sense that anxiety has been ingrained in me.
As a young adult I eventually came to recognize that my constant feelings of worry and unsettlement was not the normal for everyone. I had a chronic health condition. It was called ‘anxiety’. And oh yay… by the way mom, you have anxiety too…. really really bad anxiety. Too bad you are unwilling to see that.
Until very recently I always viewed my anxiety as comparable to an asthma exacerbation… sometimes I had it, and sometimes I didn’t. It wasn’t until just a few months ago that, during a new thing I was trying, meditation, I came to understand that I lived with anxiety 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Yes…even when I felt happy or life was going good, I came to realize, sitting on my meditation cushion one morning, that I have lived every moment of my life with some degree of anxiousness. …WOW. A light bulb went on in that moment and I knew I had uncovered a very big truth about myself.
So, how does my anxiety relate to my addiction to alcohol? Well, let me give an example: Best case scenario – even if I am in a relaxed environment, having good times with friends or family, I still have an anxious feeling inside of me. When I drink alcohol, I feel a release of that anxiousness that is a core part of who I am. I recognize that now. When I drink alcohol I find my mind is able to have a break from my anxiety for a bit, or at least lessen it. No wonder I like to drink.
The way I understand addiction is that the more you do something that feels good to you, the more you want to feel this way…. no matter what the consequences. ‘In the moment I feel better when I drink alcohol. It doesn’t matter that I feel bad after…. I just need to feel good right now.’ This is how addiction starts… So I drink….innocently, trying to help myself feel better. Self-medicating my anxiety. Next thing you know, I have anxiety and now I have an alcohol addiction.
It has been one week and one day since my last drink of alcohol. One day at a time is a good motto to live by.