The Crest of a Wave
It’s a month today since I decided to cut alcohol out of my life and also admit my use of doctor prescribed Anti-Anxiety medicine wasn’t helping me anymore. I have had debilitating anxiety attacks since I was teenager. They were awful and it was hard to vocalize the depth of terror I constantly felt. I didn’t know why I was afflicted with this disorder - I just wanted to be like everyone else around me. Laughing and having fun.
Then my mom and I were flying back from Nashville the day after Christmas Eve. The plane landing was something out of the movies - incredibly violent, turbulent - lights flickering, all of it. I remember people praying. It’s insane how I have a hard time accessing this memory now. I believe that’s my brain’s way of protecting itself from that feeling of diving straight to our death. That night I had the worst panic attack of my life and it only got worse. I HAD to get help and I went to my doctor and told him about my panic attacks, how my therapist wanted me on anti-anxiety medicine but I was scared, how I had no idea how to cope with my anxiety anymore along with the pressure of college. He gave me a prescription of Ativan. My mom was beyond stressed with me. I was home on college break and I knew me being home full of panic attacks was a constant burden. I didn’t want to feel that way so I finally gave in and said I’d try it. I was terrified to take anti-anxiety medicine, as ridiculous as that sounds.
Over time silently and slowly it became a crutch and a vicious cycle. My anxiety was very real and Ativan provided relief but I had no other coping skills. Sedating myself and running through my prescription was keeping me off kilter. I didn’t want to admit, the one thing that helped my anxiety was also a spiraling dependency. The fact it was doctor prescribed, it wasn’t an illegal drug and I wasn’t doing illegal things or compromising myself or values like you see on Lifetime movies for ativan made me feel like it wasn’t a problem. I need it, after all, I told myself.
I keep trying to pinpoint when it really accelerated - at first I was blaming outside causes but had to get open and brutally honest with myself. I had a dependency I refused to seek help for and it was making my life chaotic, inauthentic and full of anxiety. I needed to learn organic ways to deal with anxiety, not just a pill my doctor gives me. I also had to get honest about my alcohol intake. Did I drink more when I was anxious? Was it adding ANYTHING positive to my life or just perpetuating a cycle?
When I chose sobriety I chose to be honest with myself, to highlight my good points and better myself. I chose to seek help despite feeling ashamed at first. I decided I deserved better. I didn’t want this cycle to destroy me, to leave me a shell of who I really was. I wanted better and I had to do better. I also decided to be vulnerable and also powerful and to share at least the outside of my story. I dove right into following more sober blogs, joining sober groups and starting a social media platform and blog, Mocktails and Glam. Everyone is different, but I needed that pressure and accountability to keep me going.
This month I feel I’ve flourished and it’s amazing hearing compliments on how strong and calm I’ve been. I immediately took to my new counselor and doctor and we all worked on a program to help me. I cut out drinking and tapered very gently off of ativan. There are days when I have panic attacks, but I finally listen to the advice around me instead of taking medication. I picture my anxiety as a wave, the crest over my head and then finally crashing to a soft lull and then fading away.
My life isn’t a fairy tale now, but it’s so much calmer, more fun, authentic and overall I feel lighter. I didn’t realize the weight of what my dependency and anxiety was doing to me mentally and physically until I became sober. I thought alcohol would be harder since it’s so socially acceptable but I was so uplifted by the amazing support my family and friends gave me. Knowing other people my age who went through similar situations helped me not feel so alone. I felt I was powerful for choosing better, for choosing recovery and no stigma can take that feeling away from me.
It’s been a month but it’s been the most powerful, thought provoking, challenging (both good and bad) and awe-inspiring month I’ve had. I’m truly in awe of what I’m capable of doing, how strong I am and anyone who relates to this story and is still in that cycle, I urge you with all my heart to seek help and learn you are not weak. You can live in all the color and electricity of life and not only survive, but thrive. You can bloom so bright and free you wonder why you kept yourself in a dark, mental cage when the pure light was there the whole time. Set yourself free. I’m so glad I did.