Why alcohol and anxiety don’t mix

A year ago when I was just a big ball of anxiety and self medicating with alcohol, those who had trodden the anxiety path before me warned me that alcohol and anxiety don’t mix. I ignored them because I knew better, and besides, there was nothing else on offer to help me, no pills, no strategies, no therapy. They came eventually, but I needed a beer or three to get me through.

The main problem with mixing alcohol with an anxiety disorder, is while the alcohol perks you up, stops you spiralling, levels you out; the morning after your mood drops, the booze messes with your serotonin levels, it dehydrates you and makes you miserable. You might also have drunk enough to make some poor choices, so you’re hungover, moody, anxious and now you’ve got guilt about what you did last night too.

The really rubbish thing about self medicating with alcohol is that if you do it for long enough you could end up being an alcoholic. Cards on the table, I like a drink, there’ve been times in the past year where I’ve needed to drink, I’ve binged and binged often. A few people have suggested I have a problem, that I might be a social alcoholic. I don’t think I am, but then that makes me a bit of a cliche, denying it doesn’t it? I don’t drink much any more and I don’t self medicate with alcohol these days. My nights out are rare and I never drink alone in the house.

I’m largely on top of my troubles these days. I have the odd wobble, but I’ve got a fairly sound self-care routine that I can slip into when I need to. It’s human to feel sad or anxious, but it’s when these feelings bubble up beyond normal levels then I need to be watchful of myself.

Why am I writing this? Last night I went out with friends, I intended to have two or three beers and leave it at that. I ended up drinking far more than I planned to, made a little bit of an idiot of myself and staggered home. I’ve spent the day in bed because I was too hungover to move, and my mood has gradually sunk through the floor.

The anxiety which occasionally bugs me is in full force, I’m practically fizzing with it; my breathing is rapid, I can’t sit still, I can’t focus on anything, I’m a mess. My head is full of negative thoughts, there’s a constant chatter of self hate in my head right now. At first it confused me, why was I feeling like this? Then I remembered alcohol is a depressant and I was able to rationalise what was happening in my head. It’s just chemical reactions, but they’re really messing with me.

A year ago I didn’t know how to stop it and the spiral would continue. These days I’m better equipped to deal with it. Hopefully I’ll self-care my way out of it, I know that chances are I’ll be ok in a few days, but the worry, the fear is always there that my full on anxiety will return and then I’ll be in trouble. This is why I hardly drink these days. I’ve come so far, I don’t ever want to go back.

Alcohol and anxiety

6 responses to “Why alcohol and anxiety don’t mix

  1. brilliant honest post. its unfortunate that our culture places alot of emphasis on having to have a drink to have a good time when the reality is it just adds to ppl’s problems. its great that you have some self care strategies in place…you’ve come so far x

  2. uncheshire wife

    Another very honest post Jane, hope you are feeling much more in control now. x

  3. This is me too. Went to a festival Saturday, had a blast. Woke up Sunday massive panic/anxiety attack. This then continued… still suffering today…

  4. This was me in the past too. Thanks for sharing, I’m sure that there are quite a lot if people in the same situation and this post will help them reconsider their choices.

  5. I’m so glad to hear that things are better for you than they were a year ago 🙂

  6. mummyofboygirltwins

    The positive thing? is that you know it’s an issue so you can try to avoid the situation as much as possible. I think this issue goes for a lot of people. Drink away the week at the weekend and then drag yourself back to work on Monday – feeling awful. However when you have kids there’s no hangover allowed. I hope you continue to battle it. I am a rubbish drinker, I go too far and end up very stupid – so I just have odd glasses now. I feel better for it x x

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