I started sneaking alcohol from my parent’s liquor cabinet when I was 14 years old. I did it out of plain curiosity the first time. I have a sister who is 10 years older than me and she always looked like she was having so much fun when she was drinking with her friends. I wanted to know what that felt like.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that alcohol enhanced my mood and calmed me down. I had suffered from anxiety for a long time, but I was too young to even know what anxiety was. I had moments where I would find myself hiding in the school bathroom having a panic attack while I felt like the world was spinning faster than I could keep up. I was extremely insecure. I would second guess everything I said to others because I was afraid of what they would think of me. These incessant thoughts consumed my everyday life.
Alcohol took away these feelings. It allowed me to feel peace. I took what worked for me and I ran with it. Years later, I found myself dependent on alcohol to get through the day and cope with my emotions. When I made the decision to put the drink down for good, my anxiety and insecurities were still there. Without another way to manage my emotions, I had to find ways to cope with my anxiety without alcohol.
Mindful meditation is one of the first things I tried, and it has always proven successful in alleviating my anxiety. I usually rely on a guided meditation because it is easier for me to focus on another voice or other noises if the thoughts in my head are spinning. I begin by taking several deep breaths, allowing my body and mind to relax, then go wherever the meditation takes me. When it is over, I always feel alert, calm, and at peace.
I had always heard about people journaling, but I thought of it as cliche. However, when I tried it, I was surprised at how much I wrote in so little time. Journaling has been found to effectively minimize stress and anxiety. While there are various methods of journaling, I usually just write about my day or whatever is on my mind at the moment. It only takes 5 minutes each night and it helps me organize and work through my anxious thoughts.
At the end of my journaling, I write down a short gratitude list. Recognizing the things I am grateful for helps put the stressful things in my life into perspective. Gratitude is a key to happiness and a better emotional view of myself.
Psychologists suggest that as little as 10 minutes of physical exercise can help alleviate anxiety. By the time I chose to stop drinking, I wasn’t in the best physical shape. I started with low impact exercises, like walking and yoga. Eventually, I started going to the gym and starting my day off by taking a jog early in the morning. Regardless of the type of exercise, the physical release I experienced help relieve my anxiety immensely. Exercise began as something I dreaded doing, but it has become an important part of my life. In addition, it’s a lot easier to exercise when you don’t have a hangover!
To my surprise, after I had abstained from alcohol for a year, anxious feelings come to me much less often than they did before or during drinking. On the rare occasion that it does, I have healthy coping techniques to use rather than taking a drink.
Cassidy Webb is an avid writer. She writes for JourneyPure and advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.