The first time I spoke the words “I am an Alcoholic,” was 23 years ago at the age of 20. While I half believed them, I was at a place in my life where my use and abuse of alcohol to try and numb the anxiety I felt was no longer working. I knew what alcoholism was. I grew up with it. I also swore I would never drink. Alcohol was a solution for my anxiety symptoms for a while. Self medicating with alcohol seemed like a better way to deal with things, then to keep trying to play trial and error with anti-anxiety medications that did not seem to work.
After my last podcast, Carrie Fisher- mental illness and addiction, I started to think about the things that work best for me to stay well in mind, body and spirit. The thing about addictions is that the actual physical use of alcohol or drugs is a symptom of a much greater problem. Not drinking did not put an end to my problems.
I had many problems. Some of them stemmed from the feelings of inadequacy, terminal uniqueness, self-esteem, resentments, ego and codependency, but they all had a root directly related to my anxiety.
I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Making the decision to become sober after alcohol began to take over my life was not easy. My anxiety got worse and I had no idea how I would survive without my medication of alcohol. It would have been easy to just go back to drinking as a solution but I knew where it could take me. I might have had temporary relief of my anxiety symptoms, but the choices I made while under the influence were not healthy ones. I had to find new ways of coping with my anxiety. I had tried things like counselling, self help books, meditation, mindfulness and 12 step recovery programs. All have been helpful and helped me to learn and grow within myself. I became very active in my recovery 12 step program. I noticed a pattern in my life that when I replaced alcohol with these healthier things, especially my 12 step program, my anxiety was less. I feel like I go into remission.
At 10 years of sobriety I stopped going to my 12 step meetings and although I stayed sober, I fell apart mentally and spiritually. My anxiety was rampant once again and I was in the bottomless pit of despair. After a few years of being in that dark place I decided to go back to meetings to see if that helped. Within a year I became a different person again. I was on my way into remission and was feeling happy, joyous and free.
I swore I would never let that happen again, and committed myself to the program of recovery for my own sanity.
At 20 years of sobriety I stopped going to meetings again. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I ended up right back where I was with anxiety, agoraphobia and depression setting in. I stayed stuck in this state of despair for a while. You would think that the easy solution would be to just go back to meetings if that is what helped before. My anxiety had gotten so bad that I had trouble going anywhere alone, so going to meetings was terrifying for me.
I began to do a lot of soulful work by reading, meditating , taking classes and writing. It brought me back to the place where I could comfortably go back to meetings again.
I went to a meeting last week and this week. The difference I am feeling is already amazing. Someone last week spoke at the meeting about his struggles with mental illness as an Alcoholic and after years of being in and out of hospitals the Dr. told him, “everything you need to be well, you can find in the rooms of AA.” That is my story too. It might not be your story, but it is mine.
I am an Alcoholic , I have a mental illness and my recovery, my medicine, and my solution is in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.