For people in recovery from addiction, anxiety can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks on the way to true long-term recovery. When alcohol and drugs are your “go to” solution for the feeling of anxiety, it can sometimes feel like it’s impossible to find other ways to make those feelings go away, but there are many ways to curb anxiety without turning to alcohol and drugs.
Of course, there are medical “cures” and treatments for anxiety, but those drugs are often highly addictive, and worsen the problems faced by many people who suffer from addiction. It’s always a good idea to follow the instructions of your doctor, but for a person with addictive tendencies, taking a pill to treat anxiety is probably not a good idea. The pill is a band-aid for the underlying problem, and can lead to further addiction problems.
Luckily for us addicts, there are natural, holistic solutions, action-based solutions, and behavioural approaches that can curb the feelings associated with anxiety. These techniques not only treat the direct effects of anxiety, they also help to change the underlying cause. So in the long term, they’re much healthier and effective than simply taking a pill or using a substance to cover up the feeling of anxiety.
Move a muscle, change a thought
Sometimes the best cure for anxiety is simply doing something. It can be a mundane task like cleaning up around the house or working in the yard, or any simple chore. But “moving a muscle” to change the way you feel can take many forms, all of which will help you deal with anxiety. Exercising, cooking a meal, working on a project, making art, or even just simply changing your environment by getting out of the house, going for a walk in nature, or going across town to run an errand. When it comes to anxiety, sitting still and hoping it goes away is the only thing that doesn’t work.
Mindfulness, wellness, and healthy habits
One of the best long-term cures for anxiety is developing healthy habits and sticking to them. Many people have found that healthy daily routines will systematically decrease the anxiety in your life. Simple rituals like yoga, breathing exercises, healthy eating, stretching routines, or any activity that embodies healthy self-care can have a tremendous effect on curbing anxiety. The key is to find something healthy that makes you feel good, and do it every day. The daily routine of positive, healthy behavior the perfect way to battle anxiety and create positive, healthy habits that will ultimately benefit your sobriety.
Find things that make you happy
Many times, people in recovery stop using alcohol and drugs and realize “hey, I don’t really have any fun hobbies or things that make me truly happy.” This lack of purpose can lead to anxiety which can lead to relapse. One of the most beneficial things to combating anxiety in recovery is finding a hobby or activity that makes you truly feel good. It could be taking long walks or bike rides through a park on a sunny day, getting into an exercise routine like tai chi, crossfit, or yoga, making art like sculpture or painting, learning to play a new instrument, or getting involved in a volunteer or community group. Anything that brings you joy will ultimately reduce your anxiety and increase your chances of long-term sobriety. And best of all, it’ll help you ditch your anxiety and get a little bit of joy in your life.
Healthy eating and self care routines
My grandmother always used to say, “if you eat garbage, you’ll feel like garbage.” It turns out that this old bit of country wisdom was spot on. Eating unhealthy foods like fast food, junk food, sugar, processed foods, or anything too greasy or fatty can create an unhealthy balance of bacteria in your gut. And believe it or not, if your digestive system is out of whack and it’s affecting your health, that can and will increase anxiety.
Recovering addicts and alcoholics not only have to recover from the drugs and alcohol that used to fill their systems, but addiction and substance abuse usually lead to a whole slew of other unhealthy habits like being dehydrated, eating poorly, or sometimes not at all. One of the best and fastest ways to start feeling good after getting sober is to start eating healthy, whole foods that provide much needed nutrients that your body has been craving for a long time. The more of these nutrients you get, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the less likely you are to experience anxiety.
Self help techniques
There are a number of holistic self help techniques that can help people in recovery battle and ultimately triumph over anxiety. Techniques like abdominal breathing or measured breathing, yoga, guided meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, aromatherapy, neurofeedback exercises, positive affirmations, journaling, and more can all have a tremendous benefit to curbing anxiety and creating a mindful, purposeful recovery that is free of anxiety. Keep trying new techniques until you find one that works for you.
Psychotherapy and professional help
Taking medication for anxiety can be very dangerous for recovering addicts. Many anti-anxiety drugs are highly addictive, and can be dangerous or even deadly to quit cold turkey. Instead of seeking out a pill to help with your anxiety, there are a multitude of proven psychological methods for treating anxiety without medication. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Art Therapy, and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy are just a few of the proven guided therapies that can treat and ultimately cure anxiety. If you’re curious about alternative anxiety treatment therapies, ask your doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist if they have any suggestions.
Freedom from anxiety is one of the best ways to ensure long-term, healthy recovery. Of course, not everything mentioned in this article will work for every person. Everyone’s anxiety is different. So if you’re looking for a solution to your anxiety and you try something new, and it doesn’t work for you, try another one! There is always a solution out there that can work for you, you just have to find it. And once you find what works for you, the freedom you’ll feel from anxiety will feel better than any drug ever could.