Understanding someone who seeks alcohol or drugs as a relief or solution for their anxiety has to begin with understanding how anxiety and panic manifest in the mind in the first place. On the surface, drugs and alcohol seem to be quite counterproductive. While that notion isn’t wrong, the aspect of why this is the route chosen is quite a bit more complicated. Anxiety is an all-encompassing sense of dread and fear, and going through a day or even a moment can be a window into understanding not just the need for a drink or to use drugs, but rather the need for simply anything that would distract or otherwise take away and subdue the senses in panic.
Anxiety as a whole is a massive force, manifesting as a weight of pure gravity pushing down on the mind. It is directionless, relentless, and merciless, leading to a complete fear and misinterpretation of the reality around a person. One’s mind can go into absolute overload in trying to make sense of the schism between perception riddled with anxiety and panic, and the reality of whatever is around them. Misinterpretations of sound, where the essence of “what if” becomes the gateway to infinite possibility, where rules and logic no longer need apply. It is quintessential dread and fear, leaving a feeling of being lost in a darkness.
Anxiety turns reality into a hostile place, where everything is somehow, in some way, dangerous and malicious, giving way to paranoia in drastic situations. It creates a feeling of being not just watched by everyone, but examined by everything. The person suffering from anxiety begins to feel as if they are under a microscope, both in how small they feel, and how much every action feels as if it is under scrutiny. When and if it eventually subsides, it leaves behind a long-lasting trauma.
Those suffering from this extreme mental assault don’t typically have the time or brainpower to formulate a multi-step plan for bringing themselves out of that aforementioned darkness. Rather, they have only one primal instinct firing: escape. Anxiety is formless, and thus quite difficult to throw a punch at and fight, so the only other natural option is flight. Unfortunately, during panic, the threat is absolutely everything, so it is impossible to get away from it. It is not a concept where an individual thinks, “drinking alcohol and doing drugs will get me out of this.” Rather, it is a feeling of desperation — an undeniable need to simply escape by any means necessary. The suppressive and escapist properties of alcohol and drugs make it an easy, quick fix to attempt to bring one out of anxiety and panic. No part of this is intended to cause an addiction, only to escape from their own minds.
Unfortunately, alcohol and drugs are quite good at providing a quick, albeit false, sense of relief, despite not actually solving any real problem, or helping with any kind of true coping mechanism. When that sense of quick success is then embedded as a viable option to counter anxiety, it becomes seen as a solution. This connection then prompts it to be considered a solution to any kind of anxiety, even before it reaches panic, leading to the continued use of it. As this mentality progresses, eventually these substances are used enough that anxiety is caused by withdrawal from the alcohol or drugs themselves. The problem here has not been solved, just replaced. The sense of pure fear that anxiety can bring with it is still very present, and now a compounded problem.
Understanding this pathway is important in rewiring someone with addiction who originally started as someone suffering from anxiety and panic attacks — it is a multifaceted issue. When the recovery process begins, know that it will involve addressing both problems simultaneously, which will never be a simple undertaking. Professional help, as well as a community of emotional support will be necessary. The individual has not only been experiencing their own reality through a lens of panic, but also a lens of drugs and/or alcohol, each presenting their own challenges throughout the rewiring process of healing. Both the body and mind are screaming in fear, but patience and understanding can serve as a starting point for recovery. Take the time to understand how your loved one got there: through no malicious intent, no intended disappointment or rebelliousness; simply through fear and desperation to make their whole world stop spinning around them for even just a moment.
At The Kimberly Center, professional staff are ready to assist with a customized recovery plan for all drug and alcohol addictions, as well as related issues, like anxiety. Offering a number of evidence-based programs, The Kimberly Center’s goal is to bring each individual to their full potential while living a healthier, more productive life of sobriety. With a holistic and “do no harm” approach to every aspect of care, The Kimberly Center personalizes each treatment plan to best help each unique individual in all aspects of their recovery. To speak to a caring professional today, call (855) 452-3683. We offer sober living, outpatient, intensive outpatient, and continuing care programs. Recovery from addiction is a process that does not need to be undertaken alone at any stage, and The Kimberly Center creates the best possible environment to restore a healthy, happy living free from addiction to alcohol or drugs