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Is It Really Anxiety Or Could You Be An Alcoholic?

Updated on May 19, 2013

Beware and Be Honest With Yourself

My eyes pop open, my whole body is covered in sweat and I am shaking uncontrollably. I look at the large blue numbers on the alarm clock and think to myself, in a panic, “It’s only four AM?” I immediately grab the Xanax and glass of water that I had strategically placed on the nightstand, the night before in anticipation of this exact moment. This had become a nightly routine for me. One that I had attributed to a severe Anxiety-Panic Disorder diagnosis I had received twelve years prior.

I began drinking alcohol as a teenager. While in high school drinking just seemed like the thing to do. All of my friends drank. In fact, beginning every Thursday, the most popular phrase going around the school was “Where’s the keg party this weekend?” The only difference between me and my friends was that they only drank at the keg party…I drank all week long.

I began having problems sleeping at sixteen years old. I recall having feelings of anxiety, but not knowing what they truly were. I also recall drinking alcohol at night because I thought it was calming these scary feelings and helping me to fall asleep. This is something I carried with me into my adult life.

At twenty-two years old, I married my high school sweetheart and we had our first child together. Other than a couple of beers here and there, I did not drink throughout the pregnancy. However, once the baby was born I began to drink again...very heavily. I also did not stop at drinking. It was at this point in my life that I was introduced to cocaine.

I spent quite a few years going all weekend long without sleeping at night. I would return to work on Monday mornings beaten and worn-out, with my insides feeling like they were constantly on high alert for some kind of disaster. I was still not aware that these feelings were anxiety. My first marriage did not last, and I eventually stopped the use of cocaine altogether.

In 1992 I remarried. This time I found myself with a much more stable man who really had his act together. However, I still drank! I began to drink more. I was working for a company that liked to celebrate every merger or acquisition with large booze infested all nighters. I remember thinking “I love this job…this is right up my alley!”

Two years into that job I was beginning to show signs of severe insomnia. I would toss and turn all night long, staring at my alarm clock, and feeling as if there was some impending doom.

I began to have chest pains, which led to several trips to the emergency room. Finally, after my fourth visit to the hospital and no signs of any heart problems, I was referred to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with Depression and Severe Anxiety-Panic Disorder. I was not being completely honest with my doctor about my alcohol consumption.

In 1997 the insomnia and anxiety had completely taken over. I could no longer sleep, go out in public, or do anything other than sit on my couch (in the dark) shaking and crying. After two weeks of not sleeping, I did what I thought was “giving in” and swallowed two bottles of pills with one bottle of red wine.

For some unknown reason I came to my senses before passing out, and  woke my husband to take me to the hospital. I spent the next two weeks in a psychiatric ward.

I scared myself enough not to drink for the next couple of years, but was still taking anti-anxiety medication. Therefore, after a while, I began to think I was cured and started drinking again.

I drank my way through a move from Connecticut to Alaska, then all the way back to New Hampshire. I also drank my way through one more marriage.

During all of this drinking I was still taking medication. I was also taking two Tylenol PM’s every night, along with my pills and alcohol. I could not understand why I woke up shaking every morning.

I then realized that if I split up my doses of Xanax, I would be able to take one of them in the morning to calm the panic that I was feeling when I awoke. I was convinced that what I was experiencing was severe anxiety, mostly because that is what I was being told by my doctor (to whom I was not telling the truth!)

Much like most recovering alcoholics, I finally reached the point where alcohol no longer served any purpose. I could not get drunk, numb, or fall asleep any longer. I was only able to mildly keep my anxiety under control with my medications during the day and with heavy drinking at night.

I surrendered on July 26, 2006. I called my sister who had been an active member in AA for ten years and she brought me to the hospital for my detoxification. That is where I learned that, while I still have a mild case of anxiety, what I had been experiencing for almost thirty years was not Depression or Anxiety-Panic Disorder…it was Alcoholism.  I was waking up every morning with the "DT's!"

I have now gone over four years without a pill, or a glass of water, sitting on the nightstand beside my bed.


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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      What an amazing story Wendi, I had been wondering if my depression and anxiety are being made worse by the fact I drink most days, and at least 10 units a day. I don't take anything other than the prescribed dosage of Fluoxertine (Prozac) though, and I have never done any hard drugs, only Cannabis in my past, (and I haven't touched that for years now). I truly found this a very interesting read. Thumbs up and well done for beating this.

    • resspenser profile image

      Ronnie Sowell 7 years ago from South Carolina

      What a great hub! Thanks for sharing this with the hub world. I am sure that there are those out there who will benefit from such a personal story. It was very well written, also.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Your honesty is legendary, Wendi! I have been down that same road with anti-anxiety drugs as well, and when alcohol no longer 'did the trick,' I got sober.

      No more Xanax-or booze, suffice it to say!

      Thanks so much for this.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you Misty and Resspenser. I'm finding that the more I write about my past struggles, the better I feel. If I could help just 1 person with my words, I would be eternally grateful.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thanks Laurel. Having people like you, Kimberly and Cheri in my life is helping me get all of this stuff out and on paper.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      That is exactly how I feel when I write my hubs on personal stuff Wendi. It seems to be very theraputic to 'talk'/write about it.

    • profile image

      philip carey 61 7 years ago

      I like the honesty in this also. But, more than that, I applaud your courage. These are anxious times. I wake up almost nightly between 2 and 4 a.m. with a complete lack of optimism about this life. While I don't like hearing about anyone's suffering, it's helpful to realize that others were, or are, dealing with similar anxieties and fears. I've found some relief by being able to see myself as an impartial observer--as if it were all a dream. But there are times when I have my head in my hands, alone in a room of my house, while my family sleeps. I have to project confidence and calm in their presence so that they can feel some sense of safety. I must never let them down. It's part of being a man, I guess. Anyway, I liked this hub because it was REAL.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you for your honesty philip. I hope you find a way to deal with your anxieties.

    • RevLady profile image

      RevLady 7 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      These are the times that try men souls and it is incumbent upon us all to help each other the best ways we can. Your sharing of experiences is helpful to many who, like Philip, may feel alone.

      Out there on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples with Jesus thought that their ship was the only one in danger. It was not. Other ships were also out there in the raging tempest. The disciples experience, although frightening, was not unique because others were encountering the same troublesome waves and angry winds. Your hub remind others. that whatever the struggles, they are not alone.

      Thank you and have a blessed Thanksgiving.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you RevLady.

    • profile image

      philip carey 61 7 years ago

      I use a number of different things to cope. Meditation seems to work the best. The morning light is proof that all things pass--even the darkest of nights yields to day.

    • areyoukiddingme profile image

      areyoukiddingme 7 years ago

      Thank you this really helps.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you kidding, and stay safe philip. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

    • profile image

      concerned mother 7 years ago

      Wendi, wow, it sounds like you have won an amazing battle. I came upon your blog as I am sitting here worrying about my son, who is 16 and is currently in a treatment facility. His main drugs have been marijuana and other various prescription drugs like xanax and vicoden from time to time. Anyway, what struck me about your article is that he experiences a lot of anxiety, and now they are trying medications to decide what they should give him to help him with this and I'm feeling that instead they should help him deal with it naturally. It seems to me that his anxiety is a lot worse because he got

      used to doing marijuana or whatever and now he needs to get used to not doing anything. Anyway, I'm really concerned about this. Listening to your story confirms this for me as people are often diagnosed a particular psychological problem that might have been drug-induced, if that makes sense.

      Well, thanks for sharing - you sound like you are doing great now and I applaud you for your hard work!

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you concerned mother. You and your son are exactly the type of people I was hoping to reach out to with my stories.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thanks. Are you an expert on Alcoholism?

    • Madison22 profile image

      Madison 7 years ago from NYC

      wendi, Thanks for sharing your experience,strength and hope.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you Madison.

    • shareitt profile image

      shareitt 7 years ago

      You have shown great strength to be so honest, thanks.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you shareitt!

    • profile image

      AdviceDoctor 7 years ago

      Oh my God, this is an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it. I'm speechless. Amazing. I'm a psychiatrist, so feel free to contact me if you're feeling.. impossible.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you AdviceDoctor. It really means a lot coming from a psychiatrist.

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Good for you! It takes strength and courage to speak the truth about your life, and you have that in spades!

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you Enelle.

    • Artois52 profile image

      Artois52 3 years ago from England

      A really interesting hub and so like my own experiences.

      Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Wendi M profile image
      Author

      Wendi M 3 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you Artois! I haven't shared anything new for quite a while. Perhaps your comment is an indication that I should start writing again (which I was just thinking about earlier tonight).

      I'm sorry that you've had to go through experiences such as mine...they were not fun!

      Wendi

    • Artois52 profile image

      Artois52 3 years ago from England

      It's always helpful when you can read other peoples experiences of these issues.

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