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Old 05-22-2014, 03:11 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Anxious by nature


Good morning all. I am by nature an anxious sort of person. I wish I wasn't but it has dogged me all my life one way and another. It is one reason alcohol was so attractive to me I think. It temporarily sedated and calmed me down and gave me a break from my anxious thoughts. I can even remember waking up with a hangover but the alcohol still swimming around my system still delivering a feeling of being at some sort of peace with myself and the world.

Of course ultimately when we drink problematically the times when one isn't drinking (most of the daytime in my case) become a nightmare of anxiety and anguish. Even so we keep drinking because when the alcohol hits the brain later that evening all that is washed away almost instantly. It its a horrible merry go round.

Now that I am returning slowly to some sort of normal, my 'natural' slightly elevated anxiety levels don't have the oblivion of alcohol to leaven them and so are returning. Relative to the hell while in drinking mode it is much reduced, but more so than when actually drunk, if that makes sense. So the point of this post is really to ask people with more time under their belts than I do and who perhaps suffer the same thing, as I suspect many problem drinkers do, what if anything do they do to cope with being less than serene and calm as their normal state?
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Old 05-22-2014, 04:27 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Mention - yes. You describe me exactly. My anxiety is higher in social situations. As I'm reminded constantly by my extroverted coworkers 'Tang your problem is you're an introvert.' silly humans.
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Old 05-22-2014, 04:42 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I have the same deal going as you, but I don't consider it by nature. I consider it by the nurture part of the ol nature vs nurture thing. My mother and father were both fearful, often over protective parents, and I am quite certain that that's rubbed off on me. Everything I did up until about the age of 15 worried them to death. Be careful! This or that might happen! Don't do this, you can get hurt! Don't do that... and on and on and on... I learned fear at an early age, and it was reinforced regularly. My father used to yell at kids he didn't know riding their bicycles on the wrong side of the street because he was worried they were going to get hit by a car.

I was always shy, anxious, and fearful. Alcohol and drugs helped excellently for a very short while, and then kicked it all into high gear. It took me about 2 years sober before I was a completely functioning human being again.

Because of the above, I've come to refer to myself often times as a high maintenance alcoholic. Some people can just put a drink down and their lives get better. Some can just go to AA meetings (or other group) and do nothing more. Some resort to medication, I tried that route (more than once) but it never sat right with me. I found that for me to be contented and happy, I have to do lots of things. They vary at times, and I'm always open to new stuff, but the following are staples. I feel I MUST do them, and if I slack in any area I start feeling it. Feeling it right now in fact, because I've been working too much and definitely falling back on more than one of these....

Meetings
The 12 steps
Exercise (aerobic and anaerobic)
Eating healthfully and staying away from processed sugar
Prayer
Drink lots of water (I don't get thirsty for reasons unknown and have to drink consciously)

The other stuff I do or have done, when I have the time or resources are:

Volunteer work
Read positive material (ie: Maryanne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, N.V. Peale in early sobriety)
Therapy
CBT
Mediation
Relaxation exercises
Journal Writing
Forcing myself to do new things, or things I don't want to do (like going out to dinner with my wife's coworkers who I never met )

There's more, but I'm blanking out right now. I want to note that while it may sound odd, I'm grateful that I'm a "high maintenance" alcoholic. It keeps me in check, and keeps me on a forward path, always. I have no fear of picking up a drink. I have 0 desire to drink, and it's been that way for decades. Picking up a drink to me is the equivalent of putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Would just take a little longer, and be more painful. I do have a fear (concern might be more accurate) of the crippling anxiety coming back though, as it almost has a few times. All those times I had stopped doing what I know works.
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Old 05-22-2014, 05:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Joe - awesome response. I had an overly protective mom and very socially judgmental. I attribute a lot of my social anxiety to her, but know I have to own that problem now.

Thanks for sharing your 'maintenance' techniques.
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Old 05-22-2014, 05:59 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Very helpful Jo! Though it matters little whether one is what one is because of nature or nurture at the end of the day I guess. I have some theories about my early childhood, but I won't go there!

Anyone else have words of wisdom or observations on this?
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Old 05-22-2014, 06:01 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks, Joe and Mentium for bringing this up. I am feeling a lot of anxiety, nervousness lately. It is my nature as well, also relating to how I was "nutured" growing up. I am now realizing that I did a lot of self-medicating with alcohol. When I was in my twenties, I was put on Paxil for anxiety, but I gained a lot of weight and felt somewhat like a zombie, so I quit taking it. I hope to stay the natural route this go around with better eating habits, yoga, meditation, prayer, exercise and having an outlet to express myself. (SR! )
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Old 05-22-2014, 06:03 AM   #7 (permalink)
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My sisters and I laugh about having the anxiety gene in our family as personified by the grand old dames in the family ( my great aunts now in their late 90's). Having them all in one room for a holiday was an experience, especially when your parents are drunk and gearing up for another holiday disrupting fight, just sit back for the ride. Actually my first getting drunk experience occurred at one such gathering when I was 12. Now that I'm not drinking (40+ years later) I know how much my drinking was self medicating. I finally saw a Dr. and told him about the anxiety that started to really explode as my drinking accelerated. My anxiety was especially harsh in certain work/social situations that I began to avoid to my detriment. Finally got some relief through antidepressants and benzos (that I still use in specific situations, I fortunately do not have the desire or inclination to misuse them). The best medicine however was quitting drinking. My doctor also prescribed a beta-blocker for my hypertension. That really made me feel normal for once. Now I don't need it ( BP back to normal) but it is still prescribed to me for use in extremely stressful, social anxiety type situations. Talk to your Dr. about your anxiety and get help. Joe's tips are a great resource as well. Chill
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Old 05-22-2014, 06:14 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I think you have described me there perfectly whilst writing that post, Mentium.

I think Joe has covered a lot of the major points, but a few things that tremendously help me:

Keep talking to people: Whether it's a fellow AA member, a partner, friend or family member, the worst thing you can do is bottle things up when they are becoming overwhelming. I've learnt this the hard way.

Keep your hobbies in your life: There are days when my anxiety has been so bad, it has been a struggle just to get in the shower or leave the house, so it is very easy to fall into the trap of not doing anything and letting the anxiety build. Personally, I find playing the piano, playing on my DS or doing some cross-stitching very therapeutic. It doesn't have to be anything really huge - just as much as you can conceivably manage. If you feel well enough to take up a hobby that is also a social outlet, then even better! Just anything that you can lose yourself in for long enough that your anxiety will begin to abate.

The last, and definitely the hardest, is - learn to accept the feeling of anxiety and allow it to sit with you for a while. This was one of the most useful pieces of information I learnt in rehab. Yes, it will cause an array of unpleasant physical sensations, and yes, you may believe you are in significant danger, but once you believe that they are not going to harm you, which they aren't, you are well on your way to breaking the cycle. My CBT therapist once said to me that you can only stay in a heightened state of anxiety for so long - your body won't physically let you indefinitely. The more I practice this, the more it is beginning to become apparent.


In answer to your more recent question, I personally believe that you can always break the cycle (e.g. with CBT or other techniques), but nature and nurture make it much harder for some than others. You just have to believe you can. I think a lot of my anxiety stems from my OCD, which comes from my perfectionism - I was bullied for many years in my youth, so was constantly finding fault with myself and feeling like I was never good enough. My mother is also an alcoholic, which I believe is a result of her own low self-esteem.
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Old 05-22-2014, 07:12 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Mentium... I am going through the exact same thing. My social anxiety is the reason I'm an alcoholic in the first place, when I discovered at 16 that alcohol could make me a confident and anxiety-free person.
Mine is so bad most of the time I choose not to leave my house and I avoid any and all social situations. I could do these things drunk. Sober... not so much. So I don't have any advice. I'm in the same nightmarish boat.
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Old 05-22-2014, 07:55 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tang View Post
Mention - yes. You describe me exactly. My anxiety is higher in social situations. As I'm reminded constantly by my extroverted coworkers 'Tang your problem is you're an introvert.' silly humans.
It took me into my mid to late 30's to embrace introversion and see it as a gift. The problem isn't introverts; the problem is a society that raised the status of extroversion over introversion and views it as an affliction to be cured rather than to recognize its contribution.

A major turning point for me was reading a fairly recent book by Susan Powter, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. It was one of the first times in my life I felt completely validated and normal as I came to understand that introversion wasn't a problem but rather a powerful solution.
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Old 05-22-2014, 08:02 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Joe Nerv nailed it. What a great post! The only thing I can add is that there can be a lot of peace, tranquility and serenity in embracing a quiet, simple life. There is a line from a song that I have found to be quite true and meaningful: ....for in quietness shall be your strength.
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