How I Improved My Angst with Alcohol
Contributor

Like many of you, I am a child of an alcoholic, which means I was in a constant state of fear.  My mother had a difficult life being born in a native Indian village inside the Arctic Circle and given up for adoption at the age of 16 with her two younger sisters.  In 1961 uprooted from her sustenance living, moved into the city and had electricity and running water for the first time.  By 1965 she was drinking when she met my father on his was to serve in Vietnam.  In the years after I was born until my parents divorced in 1976 I don’t have many memories of my mother that she didn’t have a glass of liquor nearby. 

Alcohol doesn't console, it doesn't fill up anyone's psychological gaps; all it replaces is the lack of God. It doesn't comfort man. On the contrary, it encourages him in his folly;  it transports him to the supreme regions where he is master of his own destiny. ~Marguerite Duras

Avoidance

 

As I entered high school beer was available.  I didn’t partake for fear that I would become an alcoholic.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the first use of alcohol typically begins at age of twelve. I did research papers on the subject and read that alcoholism was hereditary so I stayed away from all alcohol and people who drank it.  I didn’t want to be around those that could become drunk because they were mean and hurtful, or so I assumed because that is how my mother was.  Therefore I avoided parties.

That's all drugs and alcohol do; they cut off your emotions in the end. ~Ringo Starr

In college, due to peer pressure, I tried some beer and thought it tasted horrible.  I started to volunteer to be the designated driver so some of the pressure for me to join in on all the fun they said they were having was alleviated.  I also learned to carry a glass of cola on the rocks and allow others to think I was sipping rum and coke so they wouldn’t keep trying to give me a beer, cocktail or whatever they were drinking.  I would get anxious at these parties especially when the anger would come spewing out of those who were drunk. 

I did a good job avoiding alcohol and those that drank it, even casually, for years.  Then I married my husband who was a social drinker.   At first I thought it didn’t bother me and with his encouragement I learned that I did like to drink if I couldn’t taste the alcohol- what he called froufrou drinks; yummy strawberry daiquiris and what we named chocolate milk which was Kahlua and cream.

Acceptance

Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. ~G.K. Chesterton

Meanwhile I was now socially drinking and that meant that I was around more people who drank and realized how uncomfortable I was in these groups.  I was having a good time with these people but I kept waiting for someone to get upset and angry but I learned that not everyone drinks to excess.  Not everyone drinks to escape their past or to forget.  Some people drink to relax and enjoy themselves.  Could I be one of these people?

When you only drink cocktails that you can’t taste the alcohol you forget how much you had.  I had been tipsy a few times where I felt funny but I still could think clearly.  So unbeknownst to me I had a Wallaby Darn before my salad arrived and a second one before my steak arrived and the third was finished with dessert.  I was dumbfounded when I had trouble standing up.  I also realized as my husband got me to the car that I was not feeling myself.  I was dizzy and my thoughts were spinning in my head.  I went on a verbal tirade on why anyone would want to feel like this; out of control of one’s mind and emotions. 

This episode scared me.  Maybe I could become an alcoholic like my mother?  As it turns out alcohol makes me flirty and then puts me to sleep so I would not be mean and nasty the way she was.  After this I was much more careful about drinking in public.  I made sure that I had only a sip or two before my meal came and I only ordered liquor if my hubby was with me. 

Out of the blue I realized that even at home when it was just the two of us enjoying a hard cider together, I would be anxious.  I guess I was waiting for my husband to react negatively and get mean despite the fact that when he has more than enough whisky he starts to tell stories.  He is a big teddy bear.  So why was I still getting fearful when someone near me was drinking?

Awareness

Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness. ~ Seneca

I am a very logical person.  I can see the case for those you drink casually with friends to relax on the weekend.  But once you are past the tipsy phase into being drunk I don’t understand why anyone would want to feel that way.  My mother was a functional alcoholic.  She held down a job with one company for over 20 years but she spent all of her life not facing her past or her fears and due to her addiction she lost everything and died utterly alone and still fearful.  I realized that I was afraid that I was still around her despite her passing almost ten years ago. 

All traumas we go through as a child are more difficult to overcome due to the inability of our childlike minds to deal with the situations we were put in.  Subsequently my inner child saw alcohol and prepared herself for nastiness despite my adult self knowing the truth could be so different then what I had experienced.  Alcohol was not the problem; my mother not dealing with her life was the problem.  Alcohol was what she chose as her way of hiding from her reality like so many others do too.

Consequently I realized that my angst was my problem not anyone else’s.  I needed to take responsibility for my state of mind.  My inner child was reacting to something from her past that really had no bearing on the present.  Therefore, I had to let go of the fear that someone would be unkind.  I was no longer a trapped child trying to hide from her cruel, drunk mother. I was an adult and if I was uncomfortable around anyone drinking I could easily remove myself from the situation.  By being accountable for my emotions I was able to teach the little girl that not everyone uses alcohol like my mother did.  Not everyone drinks to excess.  Not everyone is mean and nasty when they choose to partake. 

I was able to outgrow my fear by using these steps and so can you. 

1. Become Aware

Being able to recognize that a fear is hindering you is the first step in overcoming that fear.  This means that you become aware of the situation that causes you undue angst.  Then you realize that there is another way to see this circumstance. Becoming aware that the worry is not serving you but actually harming you is the first step in disabling your fear.

2. Discover the Cause

Understanding why you had the anxiety in the first place is a necessary part of immobilizing that dread.  What caused the fearful response?  What was the situation you felt you could not remove yourself from that causes you to react?  These types of questions can help get to the root of your anxiety.  Spend some time to ascertain the origin of your reactions so that you can overcome the fear. 

3. Reframe Your Thinking

Once you have scrutinized the cause of your negative reaction it is then time to determine what you need to do to realize that the distress is illogical at this point in your life, especially if your fear comes from your childhood.  This requires that you look at your reactions logically not emotionally.  Once you recognize that it isn’t logical to react with fear you can change your response.  Reframing your thinking when your fear reappears is vital to the overcoming process.  This is where you remind yourself why this fear is not illogical for you and put into place your new practice. 

Almost anything can be preserved in alcohol, except health, happiness, and money. ~Mary Wilson Little

By following these steps you too can overcome your own angst and begin to live fearlessly.  As you begin to live your life without fear you start to authentically communicate with others and start to expand your horizons.  If you would like help in overcoming your fears, I would be happy to help you improve the angst you have so please contact me.

 

 

 

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