I am 36 days in to my sobriety. And I am fucking struggling. Not with my abstinence. I don’t want to drink. I am struggling with my emotions. In particular, my anxiety.
Quite frankly, I am not coping. I hate admitting that to myself, let alone writing it on here, admitting it to you. I feel frustrated, angry, resentful even, that I can’t cope when others seem to take things in their stride.
The worst part is that I wasn’t expecting this. I’ve challenged myself to temporary sobriety in the past and I found it relatively easy. No big deal. So when, on Thursday 14th July, I made the decision to be sober for life, I thought it would be the same.
Yet here I am, surprised by the constant anxiety I’m experiencing. It is wearing me down. I am exhausted. Every single day, every minute of the day, I am anxious.
I wake up anxious.
I am anxious about having enough time to eat mindfully.
I am anxious about making the train to work on time.
I am anxious about reaching my desk for 9am on the dot.
I am anxious about what I’ll eat.
About what I shouldn’t eat (I also have huge food issues. Also exhausting).
I am anxious about doing a good job at work.
I am anxious about not forgetting to do something at work.
I am anxious about getting told off for forgetting to do something at work.
I am anxious about not being an asshole.
About upsetting someone.
About being assertive (massive struggles here).
About knowing what to say.
How to be.
I am anxious about sitting next to someone on the train on the way home.
I am anxious about asking someone to take their bag off the empty seat on the packed train so I can sit down.
I am anxious about them putting the armrest down between our seats because I don’t like it but feel too awkward to say anything (I hate conflict).
I am anxious about going to sleep on time.
I am anxious about getting enough sleep.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night so anxious, that I’m holding my breath.
I am anxious the whole fucking time. Is that coming across at all?
And it’s doubly surprising as, over the last three years, I’ve not drunk that much, nor that regularly. And I didn’t feel anxious then. So what’s this all about?
I believe it’s because I’m slowly, but surely, peeling away the layers of pain. Hurt. Grief. Worry. Stress. Addictions. Childhood trauma. As each layer comes off, a new issue, trauma, feeling is uncovered. And I have uncovered anxiety.
“There’s no way around grief and loss: you can dodge all you want, but sooner or later you just have to go into it, through it, and, hopefully, come out the other side. The world you find there will never be the same as the world you left.”
― Johnny Cash
My old pattern would be to numb. And I confess, I am numbing, albeit to a lesser degree than previously. I’ve started smoking again, as for me, it holds less power than my alcohol, food, drama, or people addictions.
According to Johnny Cash, there is no way around grief and loss, you have to go into it and through it. I believe the same is true for all emotions, including anxiety. Buddhists advocate leaning into our emotions. To be fully present with them. To really experience them. What you resist persists.
That is my challenge.
My old self doesn’t WANT to feel this. But the new me tells me to submerge myself in the murky waters. To ride this tempestuous wave. And I will come out the other end stronger. Healed. It may take a while and I need to accept that. But eventually, when I’ve healed from what I need to heal from, this too shall pass.
And so my anxiety is a gift. It is a door to something beautiful. It will allow me to access the next layer, whatever that might be. Eventually I’ll have stripped away all my layers and I will come back to me. To my core. My inner self. My glorious wonderful self. Where she will have been waiting for me all along.
Onwards, and upwards, and inwards. I will keep fighting, looking my anxiety straight in the eye. In the name of my recovery.