Leaving The Past Behind: Dealing with Alcoholism, Anxiety, Paranoia & Depression

I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to write a blog on this topic, I have mentioned it briefly in some of my previous writing but I ultimately decided that it would be therapeutic to type out a lot of my feelings and hopefully it will help some people that are struggling with the same issues. I am going to be as honest and candid as I have ever been, if it helps someone, then it was worth it.

In two weeks, God willing, I am going to be two years clean and sober. For years, I have been struggling with severe anxiety, paranoia and depression. From the ages of nineteen to twenty-five, I self-medicated with alcohol, all kinds, most notably, Jack Daniel’s on the rocks. Towards the height of my alcohol abuse, I was drinking a bottle of Jack Daniel’s every couple of days, I would come home from work and like clockwork, the first thing I would do was grab a drink. I wouldn’t have just one, or two or even three, most nights I was drinking to black out and most nights I was successful. If the Jack Daniel’s was gone, I would drink anything we had available and I would drink every drop of it. I was a bad and obnoxious drunk, the more people that told me that, the more it pissed me off and I would drink even more out of spite. The day that I realized that drinking wasn’t for me and I was going to end up doing damage to myself, relationships and my health is a day that I will cherish. I changed forever that day, I created more of a struggle for myself because I have had to deal with the anxiety, paranoia and depression without the alcohol, but it was worth it, I wouldn’t change it for a second. I know I am better today than I was two years ago and it’s not even close, it’s the growth and projection I wanted to see when I started this journey, but I am nowhere near finished learning, growing and appreciating myself.

When I decided one morning after another black-out and being kicked out of a bar that I was going to stop drinking, I decided to embrace the necessary steps to get better. I went to AA meetings at least once a week and for the first time in my life, I went and saw a psychotherapist. Two years later, I am still on that same path, going through the proper steps to stay sober. We all a vision of what an “alcoholic” looks like and contrary to popular belief, it’s not a homeless guy, laying on a park bench with a brown bag of beer. It can be a twenty-something year old kid, with a steady job, an apartment, a fiancée and a bunch of loving and supportive friends and family, that was me and I was an alcoholic. Alcoholism never really leaves you, so I suppose that I currently am an alcoholic, I don’t throw that title around lightly, it carries a lot of weight and I wear it like a backpack in a sense. What I mean by that is, the backpack can get heavy at time but it is a constant reminder of where you have been and where you should be going.

Ironically enough, I was comfortable admitting that I had a drinking problem, what was more difficult was confronting my anxiety, depression and paranoia. I wrestle with those things every day, the medication helps but it doesn’t take it away or stop you from being your own worst enemy, inside your own head. It is as omnipresent as this week, yesterday, I woke up with a thundering sense of panic, creating worst case scenarios in my head, migraine, jitters, it was too much, I had to call out from work. I hate doing that, I don’t want to have to do that but sometimes you literally feel like the World is caving in on you. I was feeling phenomenal for months and then suddenly, boom, it hits you, the anxiety is back, the pain is back, the paranoia and depression are hand in hand kicking your brain into submission. You might ask what triggered it? Well, I will tell you, I was going to the grocery store and on my way there, I noticed a car behind me, it followed me for about six or seven minutes to the grocery store, he drove by me, looked at me and left the parking lot. Now some of you might say, there’s 1,000 different things that person could have been doing on a Sunday morning and it was all a coincidence. I understand that, but for someone with crippling anxiety and paranoia, that one little occurrence can ruin your entire day, week or month. People tend to look at anxiety, paranoia and depression as a “millennial illness”, like we created this idea in a lab and use it as a crutch. Well, I can tell you that it is one-hundred percent a real thing and I would do anything to have to not deal with it, not take pills, not let it ruin events for me, I would love to be able to not have to go home somedays and cry because of certain thoughts that I have. It’s not made up, if someone says they are anxious, depressed or paranoid, please, take them seriously.

I have been beyond lucky, for the first time in my life, I have everything that I ever wanted. I have a house, a job I enjoy, still in touch with my closest friends, I am blogging as a hobby and side hustle and most importantly, I am married to the girl of my dreams, my wife is the most understanding and beautiful woman I have ever met. I question all the time whether I deserve her or not, the only thing I want in my life is to spend the rest of it with her, take everything else away but I am with her until the end of the road, she is my everything and being sober helped me realize that. The downside to having all this when you have anxiety and paranoid thoughts is that you are afraid of losing it, when things are going well, you expect something bad to happen, not everyone lives like this, most people don’t. I unfortunately do, it can be miserable, there are times when I feel great, happy and ready to take on the day and then there are periods of time where I feel that pessimism take over my life. I ask myself the question, do you deserve all this and why? It’s a question I struggle to find an answer to. It stems from not having much value for yourself, struggling with the person you are, the person you want to be and if you are a good person. People tell me all the time that I am a nice guy, they appreciate me, and I continually find it hard to believe them. The funny thing is, I see people, people close to me, people from a distance who aren’t great people and they are able to enjoy life, not care for others and be happier than I am, isn’t that ironic. It’s common for people with anxiety to have this low self-worth to think they aren’t good enough or something bad will happen, that doesn’t have to be the case, good things are possible and if it does get bad, try and know that it always gets better eventually, advice I wish I could take as easily as I type it out. There have been times where my therapist has asked me to name three things I like about myself and I have stared blankly at her, not being able to name one thing or at the most “the way I build-up other people”, one thing, at most, we need to all value our self-worth, again easier said (typed) than done.

I sat in therapy the other day and we discussed the traumatic events in my childhood that led me to be the person that I have become and for the first time in my life I really bought into the fact that childhood can shape a person and set them on a certain course. Now, I am not saying that I had a horrible childhood, there are children out there who encounter serious horrors and that makes me sick but nonetheless, I was affected. At ten years old, I was diagnosed with a potential life-threatening illness, I still feel some of those pains, soreness and complications from that battle today. A few years later, my parents divorced and that changed me, a few years after that I started drinking heavily. When I drank, I felt good, happy, on top of the World, when I would be sober, I would think about killing myself. The drinking made life bearable, I used it to a point that it was using me, I wasn’t the same person when I was drunk, I began to hate the drunk version of me more than the sober version of me.

It was six months before my wedding day, I had a discussion with myself, I then went and talked to my wife. I told her that for me to be the best husband I could be, I was going to stop drinking, she was thrilled, I could see it in her face. When I realized how happy she was, that hit me like a ton of bricks. The stress I must have been causing her, the way she saw my habit get worse and worse and worse, I felt like she was proud of me for quitting. I wish I could bottle up that feeling and sell it to you. I could give you guys a load of bullshit and various reasons as to why I stopped drinking but the only reason was for my soon to be wife, the woman who changed my life, the woman who I took for granted, embarrassed and at times, didn’t treat the way she deserved to be treated, at least from my assessment. I knew that from the moment I said “I do” she was going to be my top priority and I would use every avenue of my newfound sobriety to give her what she deserves, the very best. Am I perfect? Not even close, but who is? We are all human, what I now try and do is to learn from mistakes quickly, address them and try to become a better person. Being married at a younger age is hard, you must work on it and like they say it takes a village to raise a child, I think it takes a village to strengthen and grow your relationships. Sometimes you just don’t know how to communicate, or you are afraid to tell your partner how you are feeling. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate my friends who I have asked for advice about communicating, being intimate, buying gifts, struggling with expressing myself – so many people have made me realize that these inadequate feelings are normal and the advice they provide has made my relationship with my wife better. It’s a combination of being sober and being open enough to talk about things with people you love and trust. I know I can be better, but it’s a process, of growing as a human being. I know that I need to communicate with my wife more, to continue to grow our relationship but the anxiety and paranoia sometimes harbors your ability to open up to the person you care about the most.

These last two years have gone by so quickly, I have grown more than I ever thought I could. I have helped people who are trying to get sober, like there were people who helped me. I hope to be able to one day combat my anxiety and paranoia like I have been able to kick my drinking habit. Sometimes I feel like I am 75 years old and then I remember, I am 27, I have a lot more to learn, a lot more to deal with and lot more experiences ahead of me. We cannot permanently cement ourselves in our past, beat ourselves up for the person we used to be, the mistakes we have made, I struggle with this everyday but I am telling you to look at the present and plan for the future so that you can be more proud of yourself down the road. It’s a process and a never-ending struggle for people who deal with this type of stuff. There are so many people I could thank for helping me get sober, but there is one guy, my former boss, now my good friend, he will remain nameless, but he knows who he is, him and my wife, they saved my life. They believed in me, they told me to leave the past behind and move on, without them, I really don’t think I would be here today, that’s heavy, but its true. I kept so much of this to myself and I would suggest to find one or two people like my wife and boss who propped me up, helped me and pushed me to get better, they stayed honest with me and helped me change. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, you do now, you can email me or comment on the blog and I will be here to help you if need be. I want to help as many people as I possibly can get better, live their lives and strive for improvement in themselves.

This was a long blog, maybe I rambled, maybe you got bored and stopped reading, but if you did make it this far I appreciate it and I hope that stories, from real people who are struggling with addiction, abuse, anxiety, paranoia, depression etc. will make a positive impact in your life or the life of someone you love. Nobody is perfect, try not to judge to harshly, try to remember to look in the mirror and realize we are all at fault for certain things. Just try to get better, make changes you want to see in yourself and you will positively impact the people you care about the most, it won’t be easy, it never is, but I like to think it is worth it. I was going to wait to post this until I was exactly two years sober (still might post something on that day) but I didn’t want to wait, I needed to express a lot of this, two years is a long time, this month is meaningful and it is a reminder that positive change is possible and to try and not be too hard on yourself, the ones you love and the people around you. Learn from the past, embrace today and plan to keep growing in the future. It’s a never-ending work in progress, don’t give up. Hear, hear to the ProcrastiNation.

5 thoughts

  1. I am an alcoholic four years sober. I am, now, a well adjusted human being with a mental illness of Bipolar One. I am writer. Student and many things. I used to drink a bottle of Jameson, and like you it would last me two days. I would drink until I was black out drunk. Yet I am stronger now. Thank you for sharing your story because alcoholism and addiction is a major part of the mental illness community. We must share our stories so that people see that we can seem normal on the outside, but there is a war at times going on in our mind. Stay strong and always keep fighting.

    James

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot James! I appreciate your kind words and you are 100% right, stay strong and keep fighting!

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