A very common trait of an alcoholic/addict is anxiety disorder. How many of us began using drugs or alcohol because it relieved us of social anxiety? How many of us who are sober now, experience anxiety, but live with the discomfort instead of abolishing it with a substance? Although I no longer have full blown panic attacks, I often find myself very nervous and trapped in my own anxious thoughts. I recognize this when it happens, but so far, this is as far as I’ve gotten with it. I refuse to take any anti-depressants or meds for the anxiety. Instead I try to get as much exercise as possible, and I also take deeper breaths throughout the day.
People love to label every little emotional nuance as a disorder, and the first thing doctors want to do with disorders, is medicate them. I am quite aware of my anxiety issues, and I realize that I stress out more than I probably should. But overall, I’ve managed to live a really stable life (minus a relationship that didn’t work out for various reasons), and I don’t beat myself up for not being a perfect human being.
I grew up around nervous people, and it seems like the generations before me were constant worriers. I’m pretty certain that mothers and grandmothers back then, were raised to think that if you didn’t worry, you weren’t a good parent. I did not take on this trait, per say, but I’m one of those people who cannot smoke weed without sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth and sucking my thumb. As an adult, it gave me paranoia to the point of being debilitated. I don’t even know why I used to smoke that stuff. It just goes to show how much of an addict I truly am. Apparently anxiety runs on my dad’s side of the family as well, but this information doesn’t really help me. What does help me is deep breathing, and being aware of my thoughts so that I can manage them.
This weekend I went to my cousin’s wedding in Tahoe and discovered myself pulling a napkin apart under a table. Most of the night I didn’t know what to do with my hands, and I pretty much sat in the same chair the whole time, except for when I was dancing or playing video games with my children. I recognized my anxiety, but I didn’t get mad at myself for having it. I didn’t sit there and judge myself for it. Instead I just allowed it to be there with me and got curious as to why I was feeling that way. The good news was, even with all the anxiety, I wasn’t tempted to drink. The booze was flowing and I found myself a comfortable spot playing cards with my son. Years ago, I would have gripped onto the wine like it was my knight in shining armor, but I am way past this now. I can live with the anxiety. It’s not debilitating, and it certainly isn’t eternal. That weekend was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. Most of it was serene and lovely. My anxiety was sporadic and random. The fact that I had no desire to drink was incredibly relieving, however. It’s nice to be able to trust myself now.
I know a lot of people who are anxious in crowds. It doesn’t just occur with addicts. Personally, I’m very sensitive to my environment, and a lot of people in one place means there are a lot of different energies moving about. I feel this stuff. I lived in Berkeley for over two years and knew that I couldn’t stay because of the way I experienced the energy bouncing around there. I moved to a quieter town surrounded by nature. I think of my anxiety as me being extremely sensitive. I have not learned to balance this sensitivity out yet. It’s something I’m still exploring in myself, which is why I don’t want to medicate it. If I can learn to tap into my intuition a lot more, I trust that I will learn how to harmonize these strange bouts of anxiety I have. It will one day be an asset, but at the moment, I’m still a bit frazzled because of it. Instead of trying to rid myself of the anxiety, I attribute it to being spiritually imbalanced, and I’m willing to discover a natural balance in myself rather than shove meds down my throat. There is a reason I am this way, and I refuse to label myself for it. As an artist, I’ve learned that these “imbalances” invoke a lot of creativity. Most of the good writers were alcoholics. I think we are simply more sensitive to our environment, and we either learn to dance within our limitations, or we self-destruct.
I suggest getting curious about any anxiety you experience. Take an interest in yourself, and mediate on it. Be aware of what comes up for you and when it occurs. Don’t beat yourself up for anything you feel, or label yourself for emotional imbalances. Take your time and let them be with you while you watch them. We live in a society that numbs itself out, but what if your anxiety was a great asset in disguise? Anxiety has to do with fear, so once you bring light to this fear, there must be something significant underneath. It could be that this imbalance needs to be honed in on, and directed in a dynamic way. It’s just like the little kids who get treated for ADD, and they are simply bored with their environment. We are not living in a natural state of being. Humanity is institutionalized. This is unnatural, and it is no surprise that we have so many “disorders.” I doubt the Native Americans who lived in harmony with nature, had bi-polar disorder, or ADD.
Have compassion for yourself today, and don’t judge yourself for your anxiety. Look at your lifestyle. Be aware of your surroundings (is it unnatural?), and take charge of what you eat (is it full of chemicals?). Breathe deeper, and become interested in yourself. If you are experiencing a lot of anxiety, this is a good time to go on an internal exploration. I’ll do the same, and I’ll let you know what I discovered upon my return! Ask for guidance and then go forth and be guided!