How You Can Walk Through Anxiety in Sobriety

anxiety in recovery from addiction

Picture this: You’re walking down the sidewalk whistling to the tune of one of your favorite songs. Maybe you’re walking along looking at your smartphone. It really doesn’t matter because we’re usually blindsided every time it strikes. I’m speaking of course in regards to anxiety in sobriety. Out of nowhere it will smack you like a brick and leave some of us crippled in hesitation. I mean, what do you do when there’s nothing you can do but you can’t do nothing?

There are those who happen to have little bouts of nervousness and minor panic attacks from time to time. Then there are the addicts and alcoholics who are diagnosed and have IT- chronic anxiety. Dealing with anxiety while trying to be the best clean super duper version of yourself you can be very tricky. For one, as mentioned before, anxiety will appear out of nowhere like Houdini and usually show up at the most inconvenient of moments. The space in between your ears starts getting chaotic. It gets to the point where your thoughts are so loud that you can barely hear yourself think. Your heartbeat picks up and you are in this steady feeling of fear and anticipation. Even worse is when there isn’t anything in particular that inflicted this bout of unease. Half the time when it hits, we haven’t even the slightest clue as to what we’re anxious about. Fortunately, though, there are ways to deal with such matters.

The Link Between Anxiety and Addiction

Before we begin to cover how to help anxiety specifically, it is important that we go over a few aspects regarding the link between anxiety and addiction. It is unclear whether anxiety causes addiction, or vice versa. What is clear is that misery loves company. This means that there is a clear connection between anxiety and addiction. Here is how this comorbidity occurs. An individual who struggles with an anxiety disorder is constantly stressed. Unable to understand whether this stressor is just in their head or if they really are stressed out, they search for helpful coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction, anxiety is not seen as an imbalance of neurochemicals, but is often considered just something wrong with the person’s way of thinking or perspective. Many of their peers will tell them to simply “cheer up”. However, when this doesn’t work, the individual will often turn to drugs. A sense of relief may immediately wash over them, however, addiction will only lead to more stress. This stress in turn only results in more addiction, until a co-occurring disorder is formed. A co-occurring disorder is when two diseases are experienced simultaneously. Instead of just being two diseases, they intertwine and become something stronger. It is highly recommended you receive treatment for both conditions combined, rather than both separately.

Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

When attempting to conquer anxiety in sobriety, it’s imperative to have a variety of tools to work with. Sometimes certain methods can be more fitting than others. For instance, it can be intimidating walking into a room full of recovering drug addicts and alcoholics when you’re the new kid on the block. We’ve all been there before in some manner, being the new one that is. Start introducing yourself to new people and connecting. This is one of the first major pieces to the puzzle of addiction and anxiety. We all need help and require friendship of some sort. It’s simply human nature to want to connect and relate to somebody dealing with the same worry ridden issues we are. I don’t mean it in a “misery loves company” way either. There’s just some level of ease knowing at the end of the day that somebody understands you and the mental blockades we go through. Having these people to contact and relate to can help decrease some of the apprehension.

Often times, anxiety is widely correlated to stressors and things that are weighing us down. Taking a look at some of the patterns and things that are routine in your life is definitely a key component. It’s wise to look at the things that are bothering you most in life and to come up with a solution of sorts regardless of whether you have anxiety, depression or no mental issues and you’re perfect. Chances are that there is something weighing us down causing our thoughts to go haywire. When we really become introspective and self-aware is when we can really begin to understand what makes us tick. Now don’t get me wrong, it takes a full lifetime to figure one’s self out completely. Human beings are extremely adaptive and ever changing creatures. Yet, once we begin to discover our character defects as well as our positive qualities, this is when we can truly grow and prevent such mental anguish. Understanding one’s self and learning tricks and trades to battle the anxiety will make a world of difference.

man having anxiety in sobriety

Then there are all the aspects of taking care of self that come into play. For instance, hale and hearty sleeping and eating patterns are essential for maintaining a healthy mindset. When we eat too much or too little, our body begins to function differently unbeknownst to us. Food is meant to be used as energy for the body, and anxiety can be traced back to eating garbage food. Yes, that’s right and not a myth. Eating TV dinners, hot pockets, and other fake foods will change your brainwaves. Studies do show that eating real, healthy food and keeping up with a balanced diet can and will help reduce anxiety in sobriety.

Well, what about sleep for nourishment then? Catching a visit from Mr. Sandman every evening will keep your mind recharged like a battery. This, in turn, will allow you to continue thinking rationally and functioning properly in the scummy mesmerizing bubble of society. Our bodies need time to rejuvenate whether we like it or not. Finding a regular routine with your bed or corner of the floor will improve the quality of life dramatically. Life will become a much lighter feeling as the stress leaks out and begins to diminish.

On top of this, it is important that we treat our body the way we should. Beyond eating our fruits and veggies (and let’s not forget protein), we can’t forget to get our body some exercise. Being outside also has proven benefits for our body, as well as our mental health. In fact, many people consider being outside and in nature a powerful release from the exhaustion of our daily lives. So, get out and take a hike! Or, maybe go on a run, get a gym membership–anything to get moving! Exercise releases natural endorphins in your brain. This is a simple and natural way to feel better. But, make sure you do not over prioritize exercise, as it can easily become a stressor. Whatever gets you moving, happy, and sweating is a great way to cope with anxiety.

Some people are going to hate this one, but exercise is one of the best things we can do for the human body and in conflict resolution with anxiety. Releasing the dopamine and raising your heart rate in this natural format will help you to feel that much better. On top of that, it will also give you the necessary time to distract your thoughts from the outside world and clear your mind. For some, it is viewed upon as a form of meditation that soothes the gears spinning wildly inside our thick skulls. If not soothing in that sense, exercise is always great to work out some aggression that could be causing such trepidation. Despite what route is actually chosen, the idea is that there are ways to treat this mental funk we find ourselves in. Nobody enjoys that feeling of anticipation that takes over and locks our thoughts down. It really just boils down to enough being enough and taking matters into our own hands.  

Finally, on the topic of meditation, let’s talk about holistic care. Don’t think that you have to become a monk to practice meditation; it is simply the practice of being aware and in the moment. You can also try yoga, breathing techniques, and many other ways to practice more a holistic approach to treatment. Treating the body, soul, and mind are all ways to engage in holistic care. There is much more to us as human beings than just our thoughts and our movements. Try engaging in a yoga class, meditational practice, or even acupuncture, which has been proven to have positive effects on the body as well as the mind. Or maybe, as we discussed earlier, take a nature bath! Some people find that going out into the forests, fields, and so on and just being is very helpful and healing.

Stand Up for Your Right

Ever been in that space where it’s impossible just to walk out the door because the anxiety is so defying? Please don’t worry any more than you have to because you are not alone. Fighting anxiety in addiction is a team effort and requires a bit of a push and a shove sometimes. If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need detoxification, please call 1-866-802-6848 or visit www.coastaldetox.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting by to help figure out what options are best for sending your life is a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.

Article Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.