I Have Anxiety, Can Recovery Help Me?

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Many, if not most people who struggle with alcoholism and addiction in recovery experience at least one co-occurring mental or emotional issue. It’s incredibly common amongst those of us in recovery. Depression and anxiety have both long been known to be exacerbated by alcoholism and addiction, as well as themselves amping up the symptoms of alcoholism and addiction. This phenomenon is known as comorbidity, wherein two conditions intertwine in their causes and effects. It is incredibly common amongst those who suffer from alcoholism or addiction both in and out of recovery.

If you are affected by alcoholism or addiction, no matter what other mental or emotional health issues you face, recovery can be of help. We must be careful and clear here, though — recovery alone is not always the sole solution to mental and emotional health issues. There are other methods of care and treatment which must and should be utilized simultaneously with a 12-Step program of recovery.

A 12-Step program can help anyone dealing with alcoholism or addiction find recovery, no matter what other issues they suffer from. Many thousands of people in recovery also experience things like depression and anxiety but find lasting recovery all the same. This is in part due to treating the mental and emotional health issue with its own appropriate care, as well as a pleasant side effect of working the Twelve Steps and finding lasting recovery.

We must be careful here again to not get caught up in the “chicken and egg” question of which comes first. The very nature of the comorbidity between alcoholism, addiction, and anxiety makes the question all but impossible to answer. We can suffer from both anxiety and alcoholism (or addiction). However, we must treat our anxiety in addition to our alcoholism or addiction. The good news is, treating each condition will often create a positive feedback loop of holistic improvement and healing.

This is a complicated issue, with opinions and facts galore. The message of hope must remain clear; we can have anxiety and still find recovery. Recovery may have a positive effect on our anxiety, but there are many effective treatments for anxiety that should be taken up simultaneously. A mental and emotional health professional should be consulted regularly whenever we find ourselves dealing with emotional or mental health issues. Likewise, if we have admitted to our innermost selves that we are affected by alcoholism or addiction, we should participate in a 12-Step program of recovery. Neither is mutually exclusive, and both avenues will help create a freer, healthier version of ourselves. 

Again, it must be clear that whenever we have a mental or emotional health issue like anxiety, we should seek the regular help of a professional. There are still some recovery-based ideas that we feel may be helpful and encouraging to consider.

You Can Recover

First things first: even if you have anxiety, you can recover. Working a 12-Step program and living the recovery lifestyle may very well have positive effects on your mental and emotional health. Recovery alone, however, is not the only necessary solution for good mental and emotional health.

We must remember, a 12-Step program of recovery is designed to produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience which can bring about freedom and recovery from alcoholism and addiction. Working the Twelve Steps often does great things for our mental and emotional health, but these are positive side effects. The program of recovery was designed to address our spiritual malady and help free us from our disease of alcoholism and addiction. 

We must do our best to keep things in the right place. Working the Twelve Steps can create a better, healthier version of us, but there are many things for which it cannot substitute. Think of it this way; if we need to get in shape, we cannot simply work the Twelve Steps and grow new muscles. We need to work on the 12-Steps to get the energy and discipline required to exercise regularly. The same goes for our mental and emotional health. Working the Twelve Steps keeps us in a place where we are able to pursue and attend to our mental and emotional health needs. 

Recovery Helps Us Holistically

We have already discussed how recovery can create positive feedback loops of holistic healing and improvement in our lives, all across the board. Solid recovery is essentially the baseline for our new lives. We must regularly engage with a 12-Step program of recovery in order to see improvement across the entire spectrum of our lives. There are, however, many built-in benefits that come from working the Twelve Steps. One example of this is the eleventh step, which encourages daily prayer and meditation. This practice, when done every day, can have a positive impact on things like anxiety, and over time, can raise the bar for our mental and emotional health. There are many, many more positive side effects from working the Twelve Steps, as well.

Professional Help Goes Hand In Hand With Recovery

The Twelve Steps are the solution to alcoholism and addiction. That being said, recovery literature often encourages us to pursue other means of professional help, as we may need them. Just as the Twelve Steps cannot be a substitute for exercise, we may very well need to enlist the regular assistance of a psychologist or psychiatric professional. The Twelve Steps encourage us to do such things, so long as we understand that professional help outside of a 12-Step program is not a substitute for working the Twelve Steps, just as working the Twelve Steps is not a substitute for regularly visiting a therapist. Recovery goes hand in hand with all other methods of pursuing health and healing. 

The majority of people in recovery for alcoholism or addiction also experience some form of mental or emotional health issue throughout their lives. While recovery can often aid in treating some of the symptoms of such issues, it is not a sole substitute for professional help, nor is professional help a substitute for a 12-Step program. Recovery, however, does go hand in hand with all other avenues of healing and self-improvement. Many of us find that recovery makes the perfect foundation for pursuing health and healing across the entire spectrum of our lives. At Jaywalker Lodge, we specialize in treating men with alcoholism and addiction who have struggled to achieve or maintain recovery in the past. That being said, our multidisciplinary staff is also well-versed in treating mental and emotional health conditions which co-occur alongside alcoholism and addiction. If you are ready to begin your recovery journey, Jaywalker Lodge is here to help you. Call us today at (866) 529-9255.

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Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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