In the review of my drinking history, it is more clear to me now that social anxiety led the list of reasons why I drank more than any other catalyst. Among those catalysts, there are fears; being alone, being under-valued or judged, pressure and stress, no coping mechanisms against societal rules and ideals. All of my fears and insecurities led to my character defects in combination with my drinking self. Those character defects range from self-seeking egotistical traits, people pleasing mentality, obsessiveness, acting out and general disregard for others as I hid behind my mask(s) of negativity, insecurity and escapism. But social anxiety encompassed all my reasons to drink.
Now that I am 10.5 months into sobriety, I have noticed that my social anxiety is getting worse. Even though my general anxiety is improving, my social anxiety is heightened. So let’s recap the definitions of those two type of anxieties for those of you not familiar and if you are alcoholic then you likely are very familiar.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder – is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. For example in a sentence, “Jen’s GAD gets worse the more she drinks because she obsesses about death, health and the future more than she lives in the present day. Her alcoholism increases her worry because it is building more anxiety within her.”
- Social Anxiety Disorder – it’s the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations: Social anxiety disorder can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it. For example in a sentence, “Jen has mini heart palpitations and her brain gets foggy every time she has to go somewhere. A few deep breaths can sometimes help alleviate her fears. Increasingly however, she doesn’t like being in groups, feels the walls closing in and wants to go home and crawl into bed. This can cause isolation and anti-social behavior.”
I am sure that you have heard from others and some shared experiences that drinking helped them deal with society or loosened them up at parties, etc…there is no surprise that psychologists know that about 28% of those diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder are prone to heavy drinking and are dual diagnosed with alcoholism. Add a little bit of trauma in there and you have the recipe for dis-ease.
So, how am I ridding myself of the anxiety? Well, through age and some knowledge I feel as if I am better equipped to cope today than I was able to the first time that I experienced a breakdown of sorts. When I was in my early 20’s I had a time period where I couldn’t leave the house or sometimes even my bed because my fears of going outside were astronomical. The sun even scared me. I remember only allowing my boyfriend to pick me up and I had to start drinking immediately or I wouldn’t be able to function. It has been a long time since then; but I also have been drinking through it. Now recently, the pre-gathering anxiety creeps in. It would be easier for me to just stay home but I have obligations. Just thinking about it makes me rock back and forth and leg starts to shake. I pray I don’t look at people funny or start to twitch. When I go to the gym now I feel like all eyes are on me, judging me. I have to put myself into a zone or I don’t make it. A lot of these thoughts that jump into my head come from acceptance. Who will accept me?
Who will accept me? Why do I feel like the world is watching sometimes? Why do I feel like the biggest dork in the room? Let’s review this, shall we?
Who will accept me? Answer: do I really care? Should I care? Who do I care about and why they accept me? What makes me accept others and do I really think this long and hard about this? Do I overcomplicate accepting others? Nope. Move on.
Why do I feel like the world is watching sometimes? Paranoia? Insecurities? Because I grew up in a home where it was expected you would be watched so outward appearance was really important?
Why do I feel like the biggest dork in the room? This is because my anxious voice is affecting my movements and my facial expressions of which I cannot control so I feel dorky. Even thought I feel this way, others might not even notice. Some people might think I am snobby, some people think I am shy. Some might think I am a bitch; but I know the truth inside and here comes the dilemma:
We show how we feel inside to others through our actions.
So, since I have stopped drinking and acting a fool, will I show a different side to me eventually? Will my anxiety cease to surface? I know that there are times when it is OK. I can have a conversation with someone and walk away feeling OK; then there are those times where my mind reviews the conversations 100x until I realize it still was OK. I know this much, I would rather be who I am now then the person I was a year ago. I won’t trade that; plus there are some very good meds out there. I take one every night.