Using alcohol to escape from stress, anxiety and anger is so common and one of the reasons why many of us slide into unhealthy drinking patterns.
It was certainly a regular pattern for me.
If I was stressed, anxious, angry or experienced any ‘negative feeling’, I would have a drink so I that I didn’t have to feel that way.
But there were downsides to that approach:
- Alcohol numbs the positive feelings as well as the negative ones
- It’s a very short-term fix with long-term repercussions
- Drinking increases anxiety – the body produces stimulants to balance out the effects of alcohol’s suppressants so it ultimately makes things worse
The positive spin on negative emotions
Our feelings actually serve a purpose and when we drink to mask them, we’re not actually resolving the issue that led to those emotions.
For example, drinking because you’ve had an argument with your partner doesn’t resolve the underlying problem and invariably leads to more strain in the relationship if you become more argumentative when you drink.
The same is true of stress.
While I would often drink to take the edge when I was feeling stressed it wasn’t actually doing anything to resolve what was causing stress in my life.
In fact, it was making things worse as my concerns about drinking too much were another worry to add to my list.
For years we’ve been taught to cheer up, smile and be happy so our natural instinct is to run from anything that is perceived as negative.
But that only leads to ignoring important feelings that are acting as guides.
So what do you do instead?
Once you realise that alcohol is a temporary fix, that has some nasty side effects, you may want to consider other ways to deal with any negative emotions:
- Tune into them rather than trying to numb them – pay attention to what you’re thinking and feeling. By doing this you can better manage what you are going through rather than temporarily blocking out how you feel.
- Write about how you’re feeling or talk it through with a friend
- Get out of your head – do something that stops all the constant thoughts – exercise, meditation, breathwork, becoming engrossed in a TV show or book.
One of the things I do with my clients is build up a toolkit of things that they can turn to in situations like this.
What works for some, won’t for others so it’s a matter of trying out different things.
The bottom line is that numbing your feeling with alcohol doesn’t work and is causing more harm than good.
Learning to manage how you are feeling in a constructive way is a real super power!
If you would like to learn more about the support I can provide, you can visit the My Services page on my website.