What propelled my drinking along?
Updated: Apr 13, 2022
I have had sweaty hands and feet since as long as I can remember. I always used the phrase, "I am an anxious person." I used it as an excuse to myself and to others when I didn't want to do something, when I doubted myself or when I felt intimidated by a situation. By the end of my drinking, this was multiple times a day.
My friends and I used to joke about our anxious feelings and the fact that motherhood made us this way. Our kids amplified our worries and fried our nerves. We laughed about how every mother in our town had prescriptions of Lorazepam. I used to pop those like candy by the end of 2020. (Thankfully, I don't take those anymore.)
But, I have always felt anxiety, ever since I was a little girl. I remember hating school, because I didn't like being called on. I would turn bright red, as I was often day dreaming and my teacher would yell at me for it. I remember the feeling of butterflies in my stomach at the start of math class in 4th grade. I despised the phrase "Let's go around the circle and..." Still, to this day when those words are spoken at meetings that I attend, I get the feeling that I want to throw up. Recently, on a writer's conference of about 12 people the instructor said that. The old me would have signed out of the zoom. The new me didn't.
As a kid, I would get belly aches throughout the day at school, and this only got worse as I got older. I developed not only extremely sweaty hands, feet, but once I hit puberty my armpits began to sweat. I eventually got surgery for this. If I had a presentation or something that I needed to do publicly at school, my sleep would be impacted for days beforehand. My sleep was a mess as an adult, and alcohol became the only way for me to fall asleep for years.
Playing sports alleviated some of these feelings of self doubt as a kid, but I felt the nerves leading up to them. Stepping foot on the field, court or wherever, I instantly relaxed, often escaping in the physical action of the sport.
As an adult, in college, my anxiety progressed into deeper self doubt and panic attacks, but this is where I truly learned that alcohol could suppress the fears but only temporarily. Booze gave me the confidence I believed I needed to go into any social situation. I began to use it constantly to escape. I once found sports and playing outside as my release when I was younger, but booze became my ultimate, quick fix by the age of 18.
Little did I know, that temporarily masking my anxiety was only adding fuel to the fire. Every time the cloud of booze would lift, my hangover would leave me feeling wracked with fear, nerves and all that accompanied my anxiety, but magnified. Over the years, it got worse and worse.
By the last days of drinking, my anxiety was so debilitating, I was beginning to feel like I couldn't leave the house for major social functions without alcohol in my system. I didn't know how to look people in the eye, carry on a normal conversation or walk into a crowded room without the social lubricant of booze coursing through my veins. Not to mention - my stomach was destroyed, I was getting depressed and just wasting away, all to keep my anxiety at bay. All to keep alcohol in my life.
Today, I don't control my anxiety anymore with alcohol. I have so many other ways that I take care of myself. It wasn't until I got sober that I actually realized that was what was going on with me for the last thirty plus years of my life. No one ever told me. I was never officially diagnosed with anxiety. I had a prescription to Lorazepam from my P.C. to help me sleep from years ago, but I never believed that what had been happening to me since I was a kid was anything special. I thought all kids got upset stomachs the way I did. I thought all adults got a little nervous walking into a crowded room, maybe I was a bit more extreme than others, I told myself.
I am grateful to not be escaping into a bottle of alcohol everyday. I know that I am actually dealing with the things that caused me anxiety now and managing it all appropriately. I am significantly less anxious these days. Talking through things in therapy and working out problems of my past has allowed me to peel back layers of trauma and feelings that I kept buried since I was a young girl. I will continue to heal. It will be a process that I know will take time. But I know alcohol will never be a part of that process again.