During my active addiction, I used to get panic attacks. After sometimes staying up for days, strung out on whatever substance I was binging at the time, my mental health would start to come apart at the edges. I’ve always been an anxious person, but during these times I would totally lose it. I remember at my worst, being afraid to leave my apartment for days, and turning my phone off because I simply couldn’t deal with the anxiety of the texts and calls I was getting. Those days were my personal rock bottom.
Things are a lot better for me today. Obviously, I found my way to recovery eventually. If you’re curious about how I got there, I’ve told the story in several of my other blogs. Once I was sober, I discovered that anxiety was still a real problem for me. I wasn’t having full-blown panic attacks or afraid to leave the house anymore—those went away with the drugs and alcohol—but I still felt anxious a lot of the time, especially in social situations or when I felt like I was under pressure. I needed to find a way to relax, or I was going to end up using again sooner or later.
In the past, I had always turned to medications, prescribed by a doctor (or sometimes prescribed by me), to treat these issues, but I knew smoking pot and taking benzos wasn’t a valid option for me anymore. My treatment centers and recovery groups always encouraged me to use prayer and meditation, but I found that these techniques didn’t do much for me. So I set out to find my own way.
I discovered early on that environment makes a huge difference when it comes to feeling relaxed. When I get home from a stressful day working, I need a place I can relax and feel comfortable. Keeping a clean place makes a huge difference for me. So I clear up any clutter when I go to bed, and make my bed when I wake up. On the weekends, I dust, and vacuum, and clean the kitchen and bathrooms. It’s so much easier to relax when I feel comfortable in my own home.
I also discovered fitness as an outlet for my anxiety. At first, I worked out because I wanted to look good. After years of addiction, then trying to make myself feel better with food in early recovery, I wasn’t exactly in the greatest shape. I started working out to try and lose weight—and I did. But along the way, I discovered that I truly enjoyed bicycling and running. And I noticed that when I did these things regularly, I was able to relax a lot better. So now, fitness is part of my routine. For a while, I got a little out of control with my exercise—something that happens often to people who are in recovery. But once I learned to have a healthy relationship with fitness and my body, it started to bring me a lot of joy.
Being able to relax has been absolutely essential to staying sober long. If I hadn’t been able to feel good in recovery, I would have gone back to the drugs. Keeping a good home environment and regular exercise are what work for me. How do you relax?