MY BOOZY BRAIN: HOW ALCOHOL AFFECTS ANXIETY


I've never really been a huge fan of alcohol. There was alway something about the taste, the loss of control and the sore head the next day which added up to me not seeing the massive appeal. Back in my uni days, I, like most other wino students, discovered a bit of a love-hate relationship with alcohol. In first year I was out four nights a week, drowning my student debt sorrows in the bottom of a cheap bottle of white rum from Lidl with no mixer. (I wish I was kidding - sadly my face was all too familiar with the cold linoleum tiles of the bathroom floor in my student halls during this time). I loved going out. I loved drinking and allowing myself to let go, to dance and just feel mind numbingly happy.

A lot of people say that the main reason they enjoy drinking is because it helps them to loosen up and lose control for a little while. But for me, this slowly started to become the worst part. I hate not being fully aware of my surroundings and I can't stand not knowing what's going on in my own mind. I think a large part of that is where my anxiety stems from and is a big reason why me and alcohol really don't seem to get on all that well. Since those wild uni days (I talk about them as if they're in the distant past and not only last year, but in my second and third year of uni I was much more of a granny than a gin drinker), I've learnt my triggers when it comes to anxiety, and I've also learnt that alcohol is a big one of these.

It seems pretty obvious to me now that the feelings I used to get the day after a night of drinking were actually just anxiety, intensified by the alcohol still in my blood stream. I don't think there could ever be a hangover bad enough which I wouldn't take over the way anxiety made my head duck and dive all over the place on those days. I'd wake up with my stomach a pit of nerves. I'd be wracked with guilt for no reason whatsoever, wondering what on earth I could possible have done the night before which was making me feel so worried. I'd think about all of the people I could possibly have encountered last night. Who I might have offended. Who might hate me after something I shouted to them across the crowded dance floor. Whether any texts I said or tweets I posted may have crossed a line. I'd pour over tagged photos from the night before and overanalyse the way I looked, the angles of my body. I'd feel cheap and embarrassed and anxious, my stomach in knots all day for absolutely no reason. And this happened every, single, time.

Eventually, this became too much for me. I decided that personally, no night of fun with that much alcohol involved could ever be worth the mental aches I'd experience the next day. That's the thing with alcohol - it accentuate all of the traits which you already have and know how to hide, and pulls them out of their corners where you have to face them. For me, I have never experienced anxiety quite like hangover anxiety.

So, I gave it up. Went cold turkey. I went through months and months of never touching a drink. I think I almost trained myself to become scared of it. I watched other people drink so casually and wondered why on earth it wasn't affecting them the way it affects me. Why their demons stayed under cover and didn't come out to play. I didn't want to go to clubs or places where alcohol was being served. I became anxious of the act of drinking itself. I became unsociable and even lost a few friends because of my inability to go out. Looking back now, any friend who wasn't understanding of this wasn't someone who I needed to stick around in my life anyway.

Things are a little better now. I still don't really like clubs and I'm just as happy to sip on a mocktails as I would be with a cocktail. I'll drink alcohol every now and then, but never enough to push me back into that place which I felt stuck in for so long. I'm not scared of it anymore, but I know that I don't need it in my life to have a good time. I like being sober. I like knowing where my head is and being in control of my own thoughts. I like waking up the next morning and being able to go for brunch and get stuff done, completely hangover free.

I stopped drinking for anxiety, but I'm okay with that. I turned it into something good. And now neither anxiety or alcohol define me. If you're like me, remember that you don't need alcohol in your life to have a good time. If it doesn't feel worth it to you, simply don't do it. There's so many other things which can give you that buzz. (And I'm not talking hard drugs here, I'm talking Netflix on a Friday night with a cuppa when you're wrapped up under a duvet with the dog in your lap.) Alcohol, as much as it may seem, is not the one way road to fun and excitement. Your mental health is so important. Treat it well.

This post contains affiliate links, but all thoughts are still very much my own.


4 comments :

  1. Lauren, I really relate to this post and I'm sure loads of other people do to. I have anxiety and drinking definitely affects it; I have exactly the same guilty feelings the next day as you described, even when I know I've done nothing wrong. I'm pleased you've found a way to enjoy yourself without alcohol :)

    Hannah x
    www.hannahgetshench.com

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    1. Thanks for reading Hannah! It took me ages to actually relate the guilt to anxiety. I hope you've found a solution for it! x

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  2. A very good read Lauren. I really enjoyed reading it and although I don't drink alcohol it really spoke to me. Well done for sharing and I think it can help many out there. You are a true inspiration and keep doing you! Have a nice birthday the rest of today!

    Marc | www.ohbuggerall.com

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    1. Thanks for reading and for your kind words Marc!x

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