Anxiety: Alcohol. friend or foe? (A clue .. its not friend)

My earliest recollection of social anxiety was about age 4  at nursery school.
The feeling of being frozen in terror whenever in groups of people.
I was fine with when it was one or two friends..but when the size of the group increased, especially when it was people I did not know it would strike.

When it struck, it was hideous. “Shyness is not nice”  as Morrissey once proclaimed.
This social anxiety followed me throughout the rest of school days and for decades into my “adult” life.The feeling was the same whether in school classroom as a kid or in the office as an adult..

Opening the door to the office each morning , deep breath …. Get into character..
Fear of someone speaking to you in the open plan office as you are so tensed up the words come out all jumbled. Tightened chest, palpitations , rock hard shoulders and feeling dizzy when walking through the office.

Booze - The Antidote ?
As many who have crossed this path , I thought I had discovered the antidote to social anxiety booze! It soothed, oh it soothed.  I felt confident , bit of a geezer and somewhat fearless. At the time, I liked that. But alas as the case with many false friends , it had consequences..
Oh boy,  big f*ck off consequences, which impacted are areas of my life

And of course the fickle finger of fate likes to poke you in the eye and I found that the very thing that helps albeit temporarily , ends up making you feel worse… much worse

Depression came into the mix. It was not there all the time, but it would hit me in cycles. Each time it seemed to be more severe.

Meditation and Mindfulness
I first went to an well known recovery group  meeting in 1996 !
So clearly I knew deep down I had a problem with booze , but was not quite ready .
The anxiety played a huge part in this. If I stopped boozing.. How would I deal with the anxiety?


A cycle ensured of binging carried one. I was drinking on any social occasions and drinking to complete excess.  After a binge it would nearly break me mentally. A more generalised anxiety and depression would hit me. Any wellbeing activities went out the window for a couple of weeks and I would give up booze for various periods of time.

I first  encountered  Mindfulness and Meditation in 2005 and knew it was something special and help with my wellbeing. Joined a Buddhist Zen group and really enjoyed the meditation , mindfulness and the talks on the eightfold path.
It helped , but whilst I was still boozing I was not getting the full benefits of mindfulness and meditation. But hey , the good intention was there!

The Last booze up.
Twas December 9th 2016 when I finally gave up the booze.
There was no going back at this stage .. the consequences and risks of continuing were too dire.   
My head was so messed up. I had a severe and a very dark depression.
Anxiety ..was off the scale ; to the point I would get weird hallucinations/visuals.   

I never imagined my life being free from what felt like life long sentence of anxiety or being without the booze.  Of course, anything is possible and it its is unequivocally never too late change!

Change! Route to holistic snazz and freedom for anxiety

When I quit boozing in Dec 2016 , I knew the anxiety would still be with me if all I did was quit the booze and not change other areas of my life .

So I set a vision and goals around embracing a new healthier and holistic  way of living
I took some trial and error. Finding what worked for me .

We need to block out time in our calendar for wellbeing activities.
( As well as work, fun, family friends :-) )

It is not selfish in the slightest to block out time and prioritise time in your day for your wellbeing activities. You are in a better person to be around and able  to help others when you are at your optimal mental and physical wellbeing .

Here is what introduced into my life :

  • Meaning

    • Reading Viktor Frankl's “Man Search for Meaning” was a great help here.

    • Working out what is important in life and setting personal vision and goals around it ,

  • Sleep

    • So important. Getting a routine. Phone of 2 hours before bed. Some relaxation mediation such as Yoga Nidra.

  • Exercise

    • For me it was walking (with dog) , running and martial arts. This gets the feel good chemicals going and vital for energy levels

    • The martial arts helped me build confidence levels up.

  • Nutrition

    • I always knew this was important for wellbeing , but did something about it. I was already a vegan but ate a lot of ‘junk food’ So I researched and now follow “Dr Gregers Daily Dozen” app on a daily basis.

  • Meditation

    • I set times each day to meditate each day helped.  One in the morning and one after work. The after work meditation helps you get out of “work mode”. Work day is over now!

  • Mindfulness

    • This helped with awareness of feeling/ thoughts. Observing them and not getting caught up in them. Also I introduced mindfulness into everyday activities such as driving , listening … well just about everything !

  • Holistic activities

    • Really stumbling across this stuff.  Natural calming and/or euphoric kind of feelings can be generated.  Wonderful! The choices are endless.
      For me it was yoga, chi gung and gong baths.

Facing my nemesis - Public Speaking
All the wellbeing activities l introduced helped immensely. I felt so much more calmer , at ease and my life had purpose meaning. More present with family and friends which is priceless.
However  that pesky  social anxiety was still there on occasions. Sure even when it was there the levels were not as high as before , but that was not enough for me.

I decided to face it head on head, setting goals around my absolute nemesis -  public speaking!
Booked myself on a Life Coach/NLP course and found some really helpful techniques that along with all the other skills I had learned,  gave me that extra kick and confidence to sign up and actually deliver talks at a public speaking group.

Sure , even with all the good stuff it was still a bit nerve wracking at first :-)
As with any change/acquiring a new skill ,  repetition / practice and commitment got me there.

Have since given numerous talks at the public speaking group and  I now do talks on mental wellbeing at yoga/vegan festivals and mental health peer support groups . I really enjoy it!

I can now say , that social anxiety (and depression) is no more and I have not drunk booze for over 2 years.  Hoorah! If I can do it, anyone can. Find what works for you.


PS.
Dear reader, thanks for reading this blog :-)  I hope you found it of some value.
Any questions on subjects  discussed in the blog , or enquiries about coaching feel free to email me at jason@jasonbarlowcoaching.com.