Recovery was, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I remember the very first day of my treatment very well. I was scared out of my senses. My parents drove me to the rehabilitation center, and my hands were shaking when I took my suitcase out of the trunk. I was scared of it hurting, I was scared of getting lonely, but mostly I was scared it wouldn’t work.
Well, it worked. I’m 9 years sober now, and, as hard as rehab was, it was worth it. One of the most difficult things about my recovery process was dealing with anxiety. I became an alcohol and drug addict when I was a teenager, a couple of years after being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Drugs and alcohol were my shelters whenever I was feeling anxious. They calmed me for a moment, and when the moment passed I drank or used more, and so on and so on. So, when I didn’t have drugs and alcohol to “help” me anymore, it was a real challenge.
Luckily, I had a great team of professionals who helped me through it. I learned a lot about anxiety and how to deal with it while I was in rehab, and today I would like to share 5 tips that helped me manage my anxiety through recovery.
Naturally, the first weeks of rehab were the hardest. I was stressed all the time, I couldn’t sleep, I barely ate. I told my therapist about this, and he said we would try something new that might help me. He then turned down the lights and put on a track with the sound of waves. He told me to close my eyes and focus on my breath. When we finished, about ten minutes later, he told me that what we just did was meditating and that it could help me reduce my anxiety.
To be honest, that first time I didn’t feel any different. It wasn’t a big revelation, in fact, at some point I felt uncomfortable just sitting there doing nothing. But I started doing it every day before going to bed, and little by little I was able to fall asleep easier and sleep better.
2. Do Something You Love
During my teenage years I never really developed any passions or hobbies, given that my life revolved around drugs and alcohol. But I remember I enjoyed reading occasionally. When my therapist told me that taking on a hobby could help me reduce my anxiety by keeping my mind busy, the only thing I could think of was reading. I asked my parents to bring me some books on their next visit, and soon enough reading became my favorite thing to do.
You can choose any activity you like. Handcrafting, writing, practicing a sport or playing an instrument is a few examples of hobbies you can take on that might help you reduce your stress by helping you think about something else.
3. Make Changes to Your Diet
Eating a balanced diet is essential to stay physically and mentally healthy. Studies show that having a healthy diet can be key to reducing anxiety, and there are several specific foods you can add to your diet that can help you lower your anxiety levels. These include foods rich in magnesium such as leafy greens and nuts, foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks, fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon which contains omega-3 fatty acids, foods rich in B vitamins such as avocado and almonds, and antioxidant-filled foods like berries, kale and spinach.
The writing was also a suggestion my therapist made. At first, I wasn’t very fond of the idea of writing my thoughts: it was bad enough to feel them, and I imagined it would only feel worse to put them on paper. But I tried it, and it was liberating.
I started writing almost every day, and it became an essential instrument in my recovery since it helped me not only to express myself without reservations but also to track my symptoms and patterns, which helped me recognize what triggered my anxiety and learn how to control it.
5. Find Someone to Lean On
Ultimately, I think what helped me the most during my recovery process was having people who gave me their unconditional support. I was lucky, I could count on my parents, my siblings and my therapists. They gave me courage when I was scared when I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it when I wanted to give up. Finding someone you can tell your worries and fears to is essential in recovery.
There are many places where you can find this kind of support, for example; after rehab, I joined AA and ADAA groups where I was able to connect with people who knew what I was going through. And having them understand exactly what I felt like contributed greatly to my recovery process and staying sober.
Addiction isn’t really something you can cure with rehab or with medicine. Even after finishing your treatment, addiction stays with you, like a ghost hiding in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to come back to life. Sobriety is hard on its own, and dealing with anxiety at the same time can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Use these 5 tips in your daily life, and you will see how managing your anxiety during recovery doesn’t have to be that difficult. They worked for me, and today I am healthy and happy. I’m sure they can help you too.
Do you have any questions about how to manage anxiety during recovery? If you’d like to share or suggest something, please leave a comment below.
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