According to a survey taken by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 7.9 million Americans are living with addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder. For a large majority of those people, anxiety is a common and frustrating state they regularly cope with.
For many, the drugs and alcohol were often the only way a person could stifle the intensity of their anxiety, so what is left to do once the person has gotten clean and sober? At JourneyPure, not only will you or your loved one be treated for their co-occurring disorders in a dual diagnosis licensed facility, but the individual will also learn healthy ways to manage their anxiety while maintaining their sobriety.
What Characterizes Anxiety?
Generally, anxiety is defined by several disorders that can cause nervousness, fear, and worry. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a certain level of anxiety is normal for people, but when these thoughts become a constant attack on a person’s mental state and ability to do daily tasks, it can reach the level of becoming a disorder.
Most commonly, mental disorders that are characterized by high anxiety are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Separation Anxiety
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The difference between run of the mill nerves or butterflies before a big event, anxiety can often be debilitating for those who struggle with it, making it extremely difficult for people who are trying to stay sober. A good way to indicate whether a person is experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder is to identify why the person is feeling worried, and then assess whether their symptoms are a healthy or proportional response to that effector.
So, if you know by now that you struggle with anxiety, and don’t want it to inhibit your sober life, here are some tips on how to manage symptoms of anxiety in sobriety.
Clearly, “letting it go” isn’t going to be the most helpful advice to get when struggling with an anxiety or panic attack. However, deep, diaphragmatic breathing has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, and reduce tension that is commonly associated with stress.
Incorporating meditation can sometimes feel like an impossible challenge because getting the mind to slow down can take some real practice and dedication, but when it is utilized in the battle against anxiety, it can oftentimes make all the difference.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation, or, simply being in the present moment, is literally the antithesis to anxiety. Again, no easy feat, however, taking a few moments to sit in a special spot, focus on your breathing, and focus on being exactly in the moment, with nothing to do and nowhere to be except right there, breathing, will be more effective than any drug or drink would ever be.
Adding in a few moments of mindful breathing to your day, every day, will not only help the practice be easier for you, but it will be easier to settle into that place in times of severe anxiety.
Being of Service
If there is one thing that 12 step programs teach us, it is to be of service to others. Granted, when we are trapped in a loop of the future or of things we can’t control, reaching out to someone else can often be the farthest thought from our mind.
However, it is crucial, in those moments, to do just that, to reach out to someone else when we are feeling anxious. Reason being is because it allows us to get outside of our own heads, even if only for a little while.
Reaching out to others, asking about their day, taking a newcomer to coffee, can often put what we are anxious about into a new perspective. When we let our thoughts run wild in our heads, we can start to warp them, blow them out of proportion, and the next thing we know, our anxiety is through the roof and we feel like completely shutting down.
However, when we speak to another sober person and truly LISTEN with the intent to understand them, we often find that we develop a new perspective on whatever it was we were stressing out about. Not only does it help us, but it also helps the other person to know that someone thought about them and cared about them today.
Talk to Your Therapist
If you know darn well that you have anxiety, and you haven’t seen a therapist for it, you should probably change that, as soon as you can. Here’s why. Having a sponsor is all well and good, and having sober supports is wonderful and amazing too. However, there is SO MUCH value in seeing your own therapist.
Plain and simple, your sponsor is not your therapist, they have one real job, which is to take you through the book of the program you work to stay sober. Your sponsor should not be your life coach, your parent, or your therapist, they don’t get paid enough!
Your therapist, on the other hand, is literally a trained professional who specializes in understanding what you are going through and helps you work through your anxiety in a constructive and healthy way. Your sponsor and sober supports might empathize with you, but your therapist will provide you with healthy options and coping mechanisms outside of the 12 steps. Such as EMDR and specific forms of therapy.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy is a form of therapy that reprograms the distress and uncomfortable emotional responses that occur from unpleasant or traumatic events. In other words, it retrains your neural pathways to heal themselves around a memory, creating a more positive response.
It sounds wild because it is, but think about it. If you could remember that one traumatic event in your life as something that you grew from, rather than with intense feelings of guilt, shame, fear, anger, sadness, etc., wouldn’t you want to try it? JourneyPure offers individuals who struggle with anxiety from traumatic events the opportunity to heal through EMDR therapy.
Anxiety is more common than many people know, and for those who live with it daily, it can often be excuse enough to continue their patterns of drinking or substance abuse. However, that doesn’t have to be the story forever.
It can be overwhelming even thinking about going to rehab, never mind actually doing it. However, if you are suffering from even just one of these signs, reaching out for help is the best chance you have to put an end to your substance use disorder for good.
Do not ignore yourself and your needs. You are worth getting the appropriate mental health treatment so that you no longer have to live in this dangerous cycle of abuse. Reach out to us right now. We can help.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.