Alcohol promised me confidence. But my feelings of guilt, shame and paranoia when I was drinking led to a drastic drop in my self-confidence and self-belief. The lack of quality sleep that heavy alcohol consumption led to and the impact on my brain function meant that I was mostly just getting through life, feeling my way through a thick and heavy curtain that weighed me down. I’d stopped being able to stand up straight and look people in the eye because I was so paranoid about them knowing I had a problem.
Alcohol promised me escape from stress. But alcohol just plastered over the stress for an hour or two and then the issues causing the stress were still there. Only they were still there with the added burden of my hungover and anxious state the next day.
Alcohol promised me enjoyment and happiness. But, although it felt a bit like happiness for the first drink or two, it ended up feeling like I was chasing something elusive or non-existent – always looking for the next drink to bring me that feeling and never quite getting it. And, then suddenly, I’d drunk so much that it was the next morning and I couldn’t remember anything and I felt out-of-control and ashamed. About as far from happy as I could get. And, I would have to go through at least two days of “recovering” before I would feel normal, let alone happy. And, this is no surprise when you consider that alcohol is a toxic depressant and, after an initial and brief high, leads to a heavy come-down.
Alcohol promised me relief from anxiety and panic. But, although I felt relieved and more relaxed with the first drink or two, my anxiety and stress levels for days after drinking would be worse. The number of anxiety attacks I experienced gradually went up over the years I was drinking. This makes sense because research shows us that heavy consumption of alcohol leads to higher rates of poorer mental health and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Partly because neither the brain nor the body get the quality sleep they need to refresh and restore themselves and partly because of the effect alcohol has on brain function.
For me, this was also about my shame and paranoia. Feeling like I had a problem made me feel bad about myself, this affected my self-confidence and anxiety kicked in harder and harder. While I had been plastering over the issues that had led to anxiety attacks, I hadn’t given myself a chance to address and heal them.
Alcohol promised me a more uninhibited version of myself. And it used to do this job very well. But over the years and the more I was drinking, the more I curled in on myself and the more inhibited and fearful I became in my everyday life.