Sunday, 29 October 2017

Alcohol and Anxiety

Alcohol and anxiety are so closely entwined that it's difficult to know which comes first. Do we drink because we are anxious, or are we anxious because we drink?

In fact, both are true - one leading to another, creating a downward spiral, sucking us in like a spider down a plughole.

Alcohol gives your brain a dopamine hit, but, over time, it reduces the amount of dopamine it produces naturally to compensate, making you feel anxious and edgy whenever you're not drinking.

The good news is that when you quit drinking your brain will, over time, find its natural equilibrium and start producing dopamine again, all by itself. Woo hoo! Hello happy pink cloud.

The bad news is that in the early days of giving up you'll probably feel super anxious as your brain is missing all the dopamine you used to ply it with.

Added to which, you've been so used to self-medicating your anxiety with booze that you have absolutely no idea how to manage without it.

Well, here's an idea....

I was pottering around my kitchen a few days ago, with This Morning playing on the TV in the background.

I was stopped, dead in my tracks, half way through unloading the dishwasher, by Harry Judd - member of McFly and McBusted and winner of Strictly Come Dancing.

Initially, I have to confess, I wasn't even concentrating on what he was saying, I was just thinking OMG, he is just so gorgeous, and so charming, in an embarrassingly hormonal middle-aged mother sort of way.

Then I started paying attention. Harry was talking about how he had been crippled with terrible anxiety, and - as a result - had quit smoking weed and drinking.

He then discovered that the cure for his anxiety and OCD was exercise, leading him to write a book: Get Fit, Get Happy.

I bought the book.

Now I'm even more in love with him.

Harry writes honestly and engagingly about his issues, showing that anyone, however successful, talented and ripped (stop it, SM) can suffer from addiction and mental health issues.

Here's what Harry says about booze:

...I had been using alcohol to allow me to relax at gigs. I'd be hungover the next day, wake up feeling grumpy, have breakfast at midday, stagger to the tour bus and travel to the next venue. I would sometimes be pretty negative to be around and not as welcoming to the fans as I should have been. It wasn't until an hour before the next gig, when I would crack open the first beer of the day, that I would start feeling good about myself again. And so the cycle would continue.

Harry describes how drinking would lead to full on panic attacks and terrible anxiety. So, eventually, he quit. He says:

Kicking the booze was good for me in so many ways: it helped to stem my anxiety and it had a hugely beneficial effect on the way I was able to do my job....I was more positive around the fans and a happier person in general. My routine became healthier.

Hurrah for Harry!

Harry's book goes on to talk about why and how exercise is miracle cure for depression and anxiety, as well as being great for our physical health, obviously.

There are lots of exercises, categorised as 'beginner', 'intermediate' or 'advanced' which you can fit easily into your daily routine.

This certainly fits with my experience. I found running, walking the dog, yoga, swimming - any exercise really - invaluable in the early days of fighting off the wine witch.

I have to confess, I haven't yet done any of the exercises in Harry's book, but just looking at the (utterly gorgeous) pictures of him doing them has made me feel fitter, and happier. So there we go, job done.

If you'd like to see the interview with Harry on This Morning, it's on the SoberMummy Facebook page.

Also new on the Facebook page is a great Irish article about women's relationship with booze, and one of my favourite inspirational memes.

If you'd like to apparate onto my Facebook page, just like Harry Potter appearing in Diagon Alley, click here. If you 'like' the page it'll update you with new posts.

To read more about (and buy) Harry's book click here.

Love to you all,

SM x


  1. HI, SM! Happy to see you're still pumping out the blog even though you are a rich and famous writer now (that's how it works, right??) Anyway, that cycle sounds sooooo familiar and it literally allows you about 45 minutes a day to feel good- between the first glass and the second.

    1. Hello lovely Betty! I've missed you! Sadly not rich, and not even famous, but happy ❤️

    2. Trying to write more, I've been lazy:( I'm inspired by your book, however!

  2. Hi SoberMummy, I stumbled upon your blog at the start of this summer, after my first (proper) attempt at ditching the booze. Your blog really inspired me and helped me wake up to the reality that alcohol was a problem for me. It was such a relief to know i was not alone and that others had similar experiences.

    Cut a long story short but i went on a kid free holiday at the end of August and it all went to pot.

    Amazing how quick old habits can return! On friday night just gone, i decided Saturday was going to be my final day 1 and this time i am going to do it. I don't want alcohol in my life any more. Hence i am back on your blog for more inspiration.

    I have never posted on here but in response to this article, i can totally relate, and i think anxiety is why i drink (or rather, drank). But i know from a brief spell of two months not drinking, that my anxiety seemed to disappear and for the first time in a very long time, i felt relaxed, without needing a substance to relax me. Just naturally relaxed. And this is spurring me on. I want to feel like that again.

    Thank you for your wonderful inspiring blog. I'm off now to devour the rest of the posts, from where i last left them ( July 2015...I have lots to catch up on!)


  3. Hi SM. Its E again. I was so inspired reading your posts tonight that I decided to set up my own blog! I have always penned my thoughts through poetry but have never ever shared online. Eek! I reckon its time to stop hiding and lurking on these blogs and seek support. Hope you don't mind me sharing a link?

  4. Morning SM, your little crush on Harry has made me smile!! He is gorgeous!

    Gosh exercise has helped me 100% with giving up drinking. I made it a focus when I stopped drinking to exercise more, and used "being on a health kick" as my reason for stopping when people asked me.

    I exercise most days, and I suppose it is my new addiction but a healthy one. I've done 3 10k runs and a tough mudder in July, all things I never thought possible in the past. The buzz I get from exercising, getting stronger both physically and mentally certainly beats the buzz from booze. It also means I can eat cake when I want too!!!! Xxxx

  5. Its sad. When I was drinking I would kill myself at the gym to "burn" off the calories in the wine I did or would drink. Now Im too tired to do much other than walk the dog or yoga practice. All things in time and self care is so important. x

  6. Alcohol and anxiety definitely go hand in hand. When I was drinking booze, one of my anxieties was dealing with clients at work (not a good anxiety to have when you deal with the public a lot). My anxiety got so bad that I would have a hot flush. I even got to the stage where I could barely write or sign my name in front of someone... I felt so 'nervous'. I would actively try to avoid clients because of this. I don't know why I felt this way, but I do know that this anxiety disappeared pretty quickly when I stopped drinking booze. I still feel a little 'twinge' of anxiety when I'm about to meet clients but I can deal with it. I would definitely credit this to being sober.