April 1, 2020

Maybe it’s Not your Anxiety. Maybe it’s your Alcoholism.

Toward the end of my drinking career, I would wake up almost every single night at 3 a.m.

My head would be throbbing, my mouth would be sticky and dry, and then it would begin—my early morning beat down.

I could feel my chest tighten, my heart would start to race, and my breath would become shallow and fast.

You did it again. How many glasses of wine did you have? It was a Monday night. You said you weren’t going to drink. Normal people don’t drink that much. Why did you have to do that? Now you’re going to feel like crap today. Way to go! You have no self-control, you just don’t.

My mind would start flipping through an index file of past failures, regrets, and disappointments. I would then settle on a juicy one (could be the same one for many nights in a row), and crucify myself for the next couple of hours over the same content.

Over and over in the dark hours of the early morning, I would lie there and mentally rip and shred myself apart, self-loathing myself to pieces, before falling back to sleep emotionally bruised and battered.

I thought I suffered from anxiety. I thought my anxiety was causing this to be a sick nightly ritual.

I would Google “anxiety induced insomnia.” I would tell my doctor that he had to give me something to sleep better because my anxiety was keeping me up all night. I would try to explain that I had panic attacks at night.

You know what woke me up every night?

The stress hormone, Cortisol.

The toxic dump of alcohol I ingested every night lowered my blood sugar so much that, in response, my body would start to pump adrenaline and cortisol in an effort to raise it back up to normal in the middle of the night. These stress hormones increased my heart rate, woke me up, and made me believe that my mother didn’t love me anymore, or my boss was going to fire me.

It went on for an entire year before I quit drinking.

My drinking addiction interfered with my sleep, which in turn interfered with everything else in my life. My drinking two, three, or sometimes four glasses of wine every night was like pouring gasoline onto normal anxiety.

I am sober now, and I have no anxiety that I cannot manage. My 3 a.m. beat downs no longer exist and I awake rested and at peace. This alone has been life-changing for me. I didn’t have to hit rock bottom to realize alcohol wasn’t serving me anymore, I just had to wake up.

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