newsnaked and afraid my daily struggle to break my pandemic drinking habit

Naked and afraid: My daily struggle to break my pandemic drinking habit

anxiety mental health
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Drinking is a bad habit that a lot of us, me included, picked up to get through the pandemic.

A study from the RAND Corporation found a 14 percent increase in alcohol consumption among adults over 30 in the first year of the pandemic, and another study, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, pins the reason for the increase in consumption where you’d assume it would be – increased stress and anxiety.

I’ve been open about my issues with anxiety, which is fairly common – according to the CDC, 35.6 percent of the American adult population reports at least a low level of anxiety.

I am among the 4.1 percent in the high anxiety category, though I didn’t own this inconvenient truth about myself until a health scare – a March 2021 pulmonary embolism, basically a blood clot that ends up in the lungs – forced me to address a lot about who I am and what makes me tick.

And now I’m efforting to get myself to a new step in my process.

I’m de-emphasizing the booze, not quite declaring that I’ll never have a drink again, but making it a point not to drink at home at night, as had been a nightly occurrence for me dating back to the early days of the pandemic.

This is what has me feeling naked and afraid right now.

Drinking had become a coping mechanism for me, to try to forget everything that we’d lost to the pandemic – being able to connect with friends, getting out to ballgames and concerts, having more to look forward to than sitting around the house every day, for months on end.

As the world started getting back to normal, the nightly drinking habit that I’d developed stayed on, and I’ve only been able to break the cycle by tricking myself, honestly.

I schemed a plot to use my annual physical and related blood work done in conjunction with that to try to scare myself into needing to get back to my previous pre-pandemic normal.

It’s not that anything from the medical exam or the blood work came back that I’d need to be worried about, but I can tell from looking at the blood work numbers, in particular, that things are starting to trend in a direction that wouldn’t be good for me long term.

The changes I’m instituting have not been easy here at the outset, admittedly.

Most importantly, I didn’t realize how much my good night’s sleep, a nice side effect of the couple of drinks at night, was a function of the daily influx of chemicals.

And I still have an issue, that I assume to be inherited, to need to be doing something, so instead of having a couple of drinks at night, I have a couple of waters, a couple of diet sodas, something to keep me moving, literally, to keep myself and my idle hands occupied.

More important than my idle hands, it’s an idle mind that gets me, the issue at the root of my lifelong issue with anxiety.

Like many with high anxiety, I can tend to overthink things to the nth degree, which is good for what I do as my day job as a news journalist and writer, but is not good when it comes to being able to slow down after the work day is done.

All of this, the overthinking, the need to always be doing something, to have something in my hands, to slow myself the eff down, it’s a daily struggle.

The drinks were part of my pandemic cloak, and now I’m casting them off, going bare bones, me against the world.

The good news is, I’m not just doing it, I’m owning it, and I’m writing about this to let people who deal with these issues like I do know, you can own it, too.

The talk therapy was the most helpful thing to me, and from that, I’ve made myself what I call my “daily guide” with coping strategies, talking points and points to ponder that I read each morning, and refer to several times a day, just to reset myself.

That kind of thing might work for you, the talk therapy might work for you, prescription meds might work for you.

The biggest thing to me is taking back control of who I am, and how I do each day.

I’m making progress in baby steps, but there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as I keep things moving forward.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, Want to reach me? Try [email protected].