My first anxiety attack happened while checking out at K-Mart
I was 25 years old, hungover and on my lunch break. Out of nowhere I got a rush of tingles throughout my body. The adrenalin kicked in and I started shaking. In one swift action I swiped my debit card, grabbed my bagged items, and rushed to my car. What the Fuck was that?
These anxiety attacks would continue for the next 17 years
I avoided going to public places because that is when my anxiety attacks would happen. This became an issue and I went to the doctor. He put me on Xanax and Antidepressants. These medications didn’t result in much relief. I noticed the anxiety attacks dissipated while pregnant with my daughter. They started up again a few months after my daughter was born and my doctor thought it could be hormones in my birth control pills. So we tried a non hormonal approach. I tried holistic medicine, meditation, hypnosis, and breathing exercises. But drinking seemed to be the only thing that calmed my anxiety.
Writing this now, I can see the correlation between the anxiety attacks going away while pregnant, and then returning when I started drinking after my daughter was born. That was the only time I took a break a long from drinking. But as I said in my blog post Is Alcohol a Drug? I defended alcohol at all costs. I didn’t see it as the problem but the solution.
I was pouring fuel on the dumpster fire aka my anxiety.
By the time I hit 40 my anxiety was at an all time high and so was my drinking. I noticed the attacks would hit anytime I tried to sit still and relax. Imagine getting a massage and having an anxiety attack. Yep, that happened, and was as awful as it sounds. I noticed they were worse after nights of heavy drinking. Hangxiety much? The last couple years I really started connecting the dots between anxiety and alcohol. What I learned opened my eyes to what was really going on inside my body every time I consumed alcohol. Once I came to terms with the fact that alcohol could be causing my anxiety, I knew I had to cut it out of my life.
Here is what I learned
According to healthline.com alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours, or even for an entire day after drinking.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America ADAA.com 7% of Americans suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder. This in turn causes 20% of them to use alcohol to ease their anxiety in social situations.
After having a drink of alcohol our bodies are trying to get back to homeostasis. This process involves a rush of adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol causes the fight or flight response to go off in our bodies. This describes to a T what my anxiety attacks felt like. With the amount of drinking I did it’s no wonder I was suffering from persistent anxiety attacks. Read more about chronic drinking and its effect on cortisol levels.
Sobriety proved alcohol caused my anxiety
My anxiety attacks didn’t stop right away. I was still having them the first 60 days of sobriety. They started to get less intense and less frequent, until one day I noticed they were gone. That day I was confronted with a situation that usually triggered an attack. I waited for the rush to come over me, but it never happened.
I am almost 8 months sober. My anxiety attacks are in the rearview mirror. But, I will never forget how horrible they made me feel. I know I never want to go through that again. And that keeps me sober.
Yours Truly Sober,