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“I deserve a break,” is a thought that ran through my head on a regular basis.
My chest was always tight. I burst into tears at the slightest provocation. Everything hurt my feelings, and everybody was an idiot (except me, of course). I don’t even want to admit how often I snapped at my children and everybody else who dared so much as a whisper in my direction.
Real life was that thing that got in the way of me “relaxing”. On any given day, I was counting down the hours or days until I could either escape, or dull, reality. The kids were too loud, the house was too messy, the bus came too early, and the bills never stopped.
I thought alcohol was a necessary vice, my savior from the daily stress. It was the only thing that never let me down, or so I thought.
The first drink was always gone quickly. My anxiety would drop and my mood would rise instantly. By the end of my second drink, I felt like a completely normal, happy, relaxed person. A happy, relaxed person with a bit of a buzz, but not much. I rarely stopped at two drinks. It would just snowball from there.
I was anxious about everything all the time, but I didn’t even know it was anxiety. It was just life, the only thing I knew. I was always going, always solving problems, always planning ahead (worrying), always juggling everything for everybody. The world was on my shoulders, and I could not afford to slow down.
Now that I’m approaching two years sober, I’ve learned a lot about anxiety and alcohol. These are just a few of the many lessons I’ve learned:
Self-medicating with alcohol or other substances only stunted my emotional development.
We have emotions for a reason. Using alcohol to quiet or run from them only prolongs the struggle.
Enjoying a drink from time to time, and needing a drink are two very different things.
When I quit drinking, the chaos in my head slowed down. I started dealing with my emotions instead of running from them and pushing them away like mosquitos buzzing around my head. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.
Alcohol actually increases anxiety.
The more we use or drink, the more anxious most of us become over time. In the days following a binge-drinking episode, I was a mess of nerves. Even if I only had 2-3 drinks, I would feel the emotional effects. I would drink again a few days later to calm the anxiety, and the cycle continued.
I made jokes about being a robot, about being emotionless. Turns out, I’m not emotionless. I never was. It’s just that I was numb, and I used alcohol to cope with trauma that I couldn’t bring myself to face. It’s scary to me how long it took me to realize that alcohol was holding me back. Way too long.
Most importantly, and most humiliating for me to admit, is that I was not the mother that my children needed and deserved. That’s a hard truth for any parent to face, but it’s an important one.
For at least 7 years, my decision to self-medicate with alcohol affected my children in different ways. I never drank around them, and they never saw me drunk or even knew that I drank, but that didn’t matter. I couldn’t handle the stresses of life sober, and that showed up in many ways that affected them.
There is no way I would be a fit guide for them now, had I not quit drinking. It would be like you trying to follow a guide through a dense forest full of predators and poisons, but with a guide who has never been in the woods before, and keeps whining to go back home. Yikes.
Now that I’m sober, not only am I less anxious overall, I am also better equipped to guide my children through the emotional upheaval of growing up. They are preteens now, so you can imagine the range of emotions that we experience on a daily basis.
I can say with complete certainty and gratitude that my life is so, so much better since I stopped using alcohol to deal with anxiety. It never ceases to amaze me how most of the time, the solution to our problem is right in front of us. That was certainly true in my case.
We only get one life, and I’m finally living mine honestly. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to rebuild my life.
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Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around. Read my story...
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