Saturday, January 7, 2017

Understanding Anxiety (and Alcohol)

Anxiety is a bit of a quandary.  It isn't easy to define. What is it precisely?  Hard to say--maybe sweaty hands?  Maybe very quick heart beat?   Is that all, though, or even the core of it?  I don't think so, though I'm not sure. The core of it seems to be more about a mental state, and that mental state is one that can only be defined by what it is not: satisfied and secure.  It is everything but secure, warm in a snug cabin as snow falls.  It is as if the bottom has dropped out, as if all the accumulate framework of knowledge that you've relied on to broker inner life with reality has disintegrated, that every breath, every assumption is somehow insecure in its moorings.

And that's frightening at base.  What may be more frightening is that it may allow us a glimpse into more of reality "as it is" and less of just our cocky human mind layers of confidence.  

Which is also to say that anxiety allows truth to emerge in fractured and jagged beauty.  I'd hope that this, too, could ameliorate the dread involved, but perhaps not.  Even after all of it, anxiety is not controllable, and that lack of control can itself trigger further heightening of fear and panic.  

Alcohol is also about control.  And oddly enough, after every drink, every bit of loosening of the reigns of one's control, there is I believe in effect a zero sum overall game in relation to anxiety.  In other words, it will be back, and it will be back stronger and more lasting than before.  The only way a lot of us deal with it is to have another drink, thus pushing the intensification and latency of anxiety further.  Which starts a vicious cycle, of course.

So, how to tame alcoholism?  Be able to deal with anxiety without alcohol.  If you cannot, then you cannot drink.  It really is all logical deep down, somewhere that we do not want to often see.


billythamountain said...

With regard to anxiety, I’m pretty convinced that we’re hardwired with a certain level of background, ambient anxiety. Part of what makes us who we are is the nature, degree and focus of that anxiety. It almost seems like there’s a floor, a minimum level of anxiety that is just part of us, and very, very difficult to overcome. For some of us that minimum is set rather high, and its a bitch to live with.
Personal history can certainly seed us with anxiety and dysfunction, learned responses like Pavlov’s dog, and all kinds of nasty stuff, but I think there’s also a baseline level that’s just part of our individuality. We’re born with it. Maybe we have to find ways to own it, know it, live with it.
Right now I’m anxious that maybe I just wrote something really obvious and inane. This is just an opinion based on raising kids, so take it for what it’s worth.
Dude, this blog has meant a lot to me, so thanks, from the bottom of my heart. I found this after trying and failing many times. Sometimes I’d sit and read posts while I waited for the liquor stores to close, and maybe later, waiting for the bars to close.
Its 15 months for me now. Love and good luck to you all.

hmm said...

Thank you very much for your comment and I'm glad this blog could help you.

Keep going.

As far as baseline anxiety--absolutely agree. Question is really how alcohol amps up or mixes in with that baseline, and to what degree. I'd say that for addicts/alcoholics, alcohol provides a tremendous release from anxiety that is sharply curtailed as sobriety resets itself, thus fostering the need for more booze to push back the anxiety. This alcohol-induced anxiety is greater than baseline.

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Anonymous said...

Glad I found your blog. Reading all the comments I've realized I'm not alone. I find this difficult to write as I'm admitting that I have a drink issue, one that I hide well or at least I think I do. But I don't want the guilt and deceit of hiding my secret anymore or the horrible way i feel the following day. I don't even like alcohol how nuts is today is day1, alcohol free...I want to say a year from now, this is 1 year free...thanks for your blog.

Anonymous said...

I found a book called Switch on Your Brain and there are five steps to do each day for 21 days to retrain your brain against a toxic thought. I've been doing this process which includes gathering your thoughts, bringing them to the forefront and then writing about them in graph like chart form and then look and review what you've written to see how things are in that brain of yours then determine to look at the positive thoughts instead of the negative ones and believe them truly as you reach for a new reality. its got me down off the ledge a number of days now and given me the ability to take captive my thoughts - especially the ones that make me feel anxious.

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