I read with interest an article in the Independent today. It was reporting on a warning from a World Health Organisation expert on the consumption of alcohol as a ‘coping strategy‘ during the Coronavirus pandemic.
I have a 20 year history of using alcohol as a ‘coping strategy’, and almost 5 and a half years of sobriety. I have learned a few things about alcohol and emotions over the last few years, so I was very relieved to see this. I wrote this post on my Facebook, and thought I would share it here as well.
As someone who relied heavily on alcohol to ‘manage’ stress for many years, and has spent the last 5 years learning how to do it without, I can absolutely promise you that alcohol REALLY doesn’t help.
Alcohol increases the level of cortisol in your body, while mimicking the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA makes you feel relaxed, so while alcohol makes you *feel* more relaxed, it is actually causing your body and mind to be much more stressed.
It reduces your ability to think logically, so any worries you have don’t actually go away when you’re drunk, but you lose the ability to think clearly about them. I still remember countless times I would drink to try to forget the emotional pain I was in, only to spend half the night in floods of tears, unable to make sense of what I was feeling.
Alcohol impacts on your sleep. While you might ‘fall asleep’ easier after a few drinks, it’s not good sleep. You don’t sleep as deeply, and are more likely to wake up feeling tired and like you need a good sleep. Sleep is vital to maintain resilience to stress, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you aren’t well placed to deal with the stress of your day.
Alcohol is a depressant. So if you are feeling anxious and unhappy about what is going on, alcohol will make that worse. And drunk, scared and depressed is never a good combination.
I used to drink because I thought it was helping to take away my pain, to ease my stress, to make me feel happier, to help me sleep and to forget about my problems.
It did none of those things. It only made them all worse. Alcohol lies. It causes all these problems and so many more.
Sobriety has given me all the things alcohol promised and so much more.
I have never been so glad to be sober as I am right now. I cannot imagine what sort of state I would be in if I was drinking through this. I’d be coping a lot less than I am now, that’s for sure.
Being present with uncomfortable feeling sucks, it really does. I’ve had moments in the last 5 and a half years when I’ve wished I could just get hammered and forget about it all. But allowing the feelings to be, feeling the pain and the discomfort and moving through it actually helps you to process the pain, move forward and grow from it. It’s not fun or pleasant, but it is so much more rewarding and helpful.
I’m not going to lecture anyone, all I can do is share my own experience, and what I have learned, maybe it will help someone. I hope so. I’m happy to chat if you want to know more about other ways to deal with this, drop me a message and let’s chat.
You can read more about my journey from addiction in my book, Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga