You know the days. The ones where you feel like you literally can’t breathe. Your mind feels like it is going 1000 miles per second and you cannot keep the angst at bay. You aren’t able to focus on any specific thought really, because you are trying to think about too many things at once. It feels like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. The days where it feels like life itself is sitting on your chest and all your worries, fears, and anxieties are suffocating you slowly. Those are the really bad days. The days you are so overwhelmed with life that you just want to reach for anything that will lift that burden and give you some sort of relief. Even if that relief is only temporary. Just enough relief so that you can take a breath, and release some of the stress that is plaguing your mind. Just something to give your mind a break and make you numb to the world of worries, even if only for a couple hours.
If anyone who is reading this has anxiety or depression they know exactly what I am talking about. I have pretty severe anxiety if you couldn’t tell from that description above. I have my good days, and of course the bad ones. Then I have the really bad ones. It is hard for my mind to shut off, and I often find myself feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis. Most days I just roll with it and keep it inside. An outsider wouldn’t even know I had anxiety. I am sure it just looks like I am a type A personality who likes to stay busy. I have had anxiety since I was a child. It would come and go in spurts. Sometimes it was really bad, and other times I barely noticed it at all. As I have grown older I have noticed that it seems to be situational. I am either really bad at handling stressful situations in general, or it is specifically the ones I cannot control that throw me into a tailspin. Control. That’s a funny concept isn’t it? I mean, it is almost comical to think that we really have any control over what is going to happen to us in our lives. I heard a quote once and it has stuck with me for years; “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” It is true. As much as I do not want to admit it, life is unpredictable and trying to control every situation is futile. There is no such thing as planning your future and expecting it to be a straight shot with no detours or unplanned stops.
This is much like the path of recovery from addiction. As many of you know when you begin your journey you may imagine it looking something like this: “I can never do this, I can’t get through the sickness, okay I have to do it I can’t keep going like this, I am going to get clean, wow I made it through detox and I am still here, okay going to try this treatment program thing, I have made my first plan and actually saw it through, now I am going to make some more plans, and I won’t ever have to look back.” Wrong. Recovery is riddled with roadblocks and detours for most of us. As much as I wish I could tell you that once you make that choice to get clean and commit to staying clean that it is smooth sailing after that; it just is not the case for the majority of us. Relapse is a part of recovery. For many of us it is a part of our recovery again and again. A lesson to keep being retaught and until we actually understand what we are suppose to be learning, it will keep rearing its ugly head. Rebuilding or ending important relationships that we have had in our lives often times brings heartbreak, which at times can seem unbearable and we wonder how we will get through. Maneuvering heartbreak, failures, and let downs on our new found sobriety is trying to say the least. Most of us want to run back to old habits to find the familiar comfort that using gave to us during these times. I get it and so do many others who have relapsed.
Life throws curve balls and its unpredictability can make someone like me with anxiety feel as though there is no other way to cope with life then to use. In fact, that is how it began for me. I started drinking when I was 15 but it was just casual. I guess if you could call any drinking at 15 casual? I guess what I mean is that it wasn’t anything heavy. Just the occasional “let’s sneak a Mike’s Hard Lemonade” or some other kind of malt beverage, and then we would split it between four girls. I started smoking pot when I was 15 as well, once again, just occasionally. I experimented with plenty of other drugs throughout my time in highschool but never really felt the pull to use more then recreationally. I knew I did not care for uppers, they just made me feel more wired then I already was. The same with hallucinogens, no thank you, I do not need to feel anymore paranoid about bad things happening then I already do. Downers were my preference and as I got older and my partying started becoming more frequent I was drawn to them more and more.
In comes Xanax. Benzos really changed the game for me and that is when my addiction really started to take off. It was the mother of all relaxation for me. Especially when I mixed it with other depressants. That sensation that came over my entire body when I used was like a warm blanket that just made everything okay. It all started out as an occasional thing, I only did it on the weekends. Fast forward a few years and I found myself in a full blown addiction. Trying to manage my life and hide my addiction was just too much. I was crumbling under the weight of it all and finally hit my bottom. It took me three different treatment programs and several relapses to finally understand who I was and what that meant for me. Me as in someone with anxiety and depression. Someone who was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol because I needed that comfort and just wanted to feel normal.
I have since learned ways to cope with my feelings of excessive worrying and being extremely overwhelmed with life. I have learned ways to relinquish my need for control to feel secure. For me this looks like daily self affirmations, yoga, meditation, and exercise. I have be careful with exercise because I find myself becoming obsessive about it when I start to crave that endorphin release. I have learned that I need to monitor myself in that area, and lately have been doing okay with it. I practice yoga as a way to reach a higher spiritual state and connect with a higher power, and the same with meditation. I can’t say that any one of these things has been more important than the other when it comes to maintaining my sobriety. They all play a significant role in helping me to to stay out of my head and in reality. When I get lost in my head among my thoughts of worry and angst that is when things take a turn for the worst. If you suffer from anxiety or depression and addiction, there is hope. Seriously, I know that sounds cliche but I can attest to it. I know those days when the anxiety and depression have become physically debilitating, it feels like there is no point in living anymore. Don’t give up. It might not always be a straight and smooth road, but I can tell you that it will be worth it.