Oh the joys of living with a drinker. The more I’ve learnt I realise how utterly tragic this is for all concerned. One of the biggest issues is coping with anxiety when someone drinks too much.
When you are lacking support and aren’t following a 12 step program, I believe that managing and living with a drinker is harder. We all need support and this is a complex situation, so to try and deal with it alone is tough. There are solutions and options, if you want them.
Being open is something I’ve grown to believe is a big contributing factor to change. If you’re open to new concepts, ideas, perspectives then you can be more understanding, compassionate and empathetic. Not only to you but others, when you’re closed in terms of your thinking, you stay stuck and it the main it affects you more than others.
In hindsight I know which route I’d take, now I know what I know.
Drinking and logical thinking
When a person drinks too much it’s hard to even get your head around why they do what they do. Your logical mind questions it and usually comes up blank with answers. You’re trying to make logical sense of a non-logical situation. The drinker isn’t thinking logically so they’re action won’t make sense to you.
All the while, after a period of time, you begin to feel to feel anxious about your loved one’s drinking. It starts to get more regular, you start to notice changes in their behaviour. They start to isolate themselves, lie, cheat, manipulate, sometimes get aggressive and all sorts of other things which I’m sure you’re already aware of.
Physical and mental impact of someone’s drinking on you
Whilst this is all happening, whether you physically live with them or not, you start to feel anxious, you feel on edge, anticipating their anxious, thinking and worrying about them and what they will or won’t do. Scenarios go round and round in your head, you have a plan A, B, C and D.
Physically you may feel sick, knots in your stomach, have panic attacks, sweat, your breathing may get quicker or you forget to breathe. All of these physical and mental symptoms take their toll. It can become normal to you after a while, you expect to feel that way, it’s what you’re used to.
When the alcoholic refuses help
This is probably one of the most frustrating aspects for the families, if only the drinker would listen. You know best right? They’re drinking for a reason remember, they need this alcohol because it’s likely in the beginning it served a purpose, e.g. it numbed their pain. The longer it goes on, the drinking stops being fun for them and they’re physically dependant and can’t stop.
This is a great visual from Vesta Approach which is explained in more detail here.
It depends on where the drinker is in this cycle of change as to whether their open to doing something about their drinking, they are things you can do in order to support them rather than halt them in that process.
How your anxiety impacts you
It’s obvious, your anxiety is a result of your loved ones drinking. If they didn’t drink and act the way they do, you wouldn’t feel anxious, right?
However annoying it may sound, we’re responsible for our own reactions to life. I’m not saying that certain situations aren’t a trigger for that anxiety, but we are the only ones that can change how it impacts us. Much like the drinker really, they are the only ones that can change how they use and need alcohol.
You can spend a lot of energy and time focusing your hatred, annoyance and frustration on the drinker for “making you feel this way”, but honestly it won’t make you feel better.
It’s not pleasant feeling anxious, but it is a normal experience in life. Not all anxiety is bad. You can feel anxious before doing something new, it’s apprehension that you don’t know what to expect and that’s normal.
Anxiety gets more serious when it starts to impact your life. Some examples are below:
- You experience panic attacks
- A lot of your time is spent worrying and overthinking
- Distracting yourself from your overthinking and worrying is hard if not impossible
- You have plan a, b, c, d… lots of if this happens, then I’ll do this. Lots of “what if’s”
- Relaxing is something you struggle to do
- Anticipating the actions of the drinker is normal to you
- Walking on eggshells is your every day life
Coping with anxiety when someone drinks too much
Anxiety is a huge topic but I’d like to share some practical ways for you to begin to coping with anxiety when someone drinks too much.
- Journal – it’s a great way of getting your worries out of your head and on paper (it’s an oldie but a goodie)
- Get support – Al-Anon, my Change Your Mind Facebook group
- Understand about how anxiety shows up in your life
- Learn about boundaries – click here to read my blog post to help you get started
- Think about using “Insight Timer” app or similar, it’s a guided meditation which I find helpful for the overthinking mind (check out the learning to surrender meditation)
- Check out my Emotional Freedom Technique breathing exercise, it will help you feel really calm when anxiety hits. Breathing is amazing for helping you feel calm when things get too much.
I hope you have found this blog post helpful and I’d love to hear from you in the Change Your Mind Facebook group so please pop along and join other families of alcoholics, that get where you’re at.