There is a high level of co-morbidity among those with mental health and substance use…
Recovering From Addiction, Recovering From Anxiety
As we become sober and start working the steps, our lives are cleaning up and we’re feeling better. We are starting to feel hopeful about the future and the fog is beginning to lift. But we may also come upon some less pleasant discoveries. Once we are sober, we start to get some very clear insight into why we drank or used drugs.
One of the things we may notice is anxiety—a sense of persistent nervousness, impending doom, jitters and even panic. We may never have experienced these emotions or responses before. But once the alcohol and/or drugs are removed, we find that we are easily agitated. We want something to take the edge off before we crawl out of our skin.
This is a normal response. Many will experience anxiety when they become sober, or they will experience it in new and more potent ways. As addicts, we never wanted to feel our feelings—or at least not the negative ones. Whether it was anger, resentment, fear or just boredom, we preempted the feeling with a stiff drink or a hit. Sobriety, then, is a new education into ourselves and what really makes us tick.
The good news is that God is not leaving you to experience the world raw and trembling in fear. A Christian perspective on anxiety acknowledges that we will feel fear, nervousness and anxiety, but the feelings don’t have to determine reality. Bad feelings don’t warrant relapse. As Christians, we have the power to stand up to our fears and conquer them.
A Christian approach to anxiety provides a way out of the fear without a return to addictive substances and behaviors. God knows that this world can be a scary place to live. More than any other command or instruction, we read “fear not.” God made us and He knew we would be prone to fear, distrust, disbelief and general anxiety. In many ways, fear is the human condition.
But that doesn’t mean we have to suffer through it. God wants us to be happy, joyous and free. He wants us to live in comfortable faith — like small children relying on a gracious and trustworthy parent. But when our hearts are starting to beat faster and our stomachs are tightening up, it can be hard to imagine this.
Part of sobriety is awareness. Now that we are no longer drinking to cover our emotions and responses, we can see what they are. Many times we may not know why we are afraid; we simply feel it. But by becoming patient and quiet with our feelings, we can begin to dissect them. We can pray that God would bring clarity.
The fourth step inventory can also be an important part of understanding our fears and anxieties. As the fear inventory can show us, our anxieties are often the result of relying on ourselves and not on God. We can begin to change this pattern by intentionally looking to God in the midst of our fears.
We might also look at our lives. Have we set up our lives to welcome peace and calm or to perpetuate busyness, distraction and anxiety? Are we getting proper sleep and exercise, moderating coffee and sugar and implementing other healthy life practices? Are we spending time with people who are healthy?
Anxiety is normal, but God does not require that we stay in it. He has given us the tools to live lives of calm, peaceful sobriety—we find these tools in the Bible and the 12 steps. Recovery from alcoholism is emotional recovery as well.