Persistent Anxiety in Treatment and Recovery

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Anxiety is an increasingly common mental health issue, but there is still much to be learned about how it affects people. Because symptoms can vary so widely, it leads to a lot of misunderstanding or improper handling of anxiety and anxiety-related issues. Anxiety is especially common among alcoholics and addicts. About 20 percent of people with social anxiety are also dependent on alcohol. Strangely enough, alcohol and substance abuse can actually produce anxiety or anxiety-like reactions in people.

This all muddies the water to true understanding of this mental health issue, but there is more evidence linking alcoholism, addiction, and anxiety then there is separating them. Alcoholism and drug addiction can often aggravate or worsen anxiety or any other mental or emotional health issues that are already present. Our experiences in active alcoholism and addiction can even create mental and emotional health issues through trauma or other causes. The similarities between many of the effects of alcohol and drug abuse and the symptoms of various mental and emotional issues complicate matters even further.

Lessening the Symptoms of Anxiety

In some but by no means all cases, alcohol and drugs are the primary cause of a person’s mental or emotional health issues. Once separated from the drink or drug and actively engaged in recovery for a period of time, the mental and emotional wounds heal and the symptoms vanish. This can and does happen, but it is more the exception than the rule. Instead, active participation in recovery and treatment is more likely to lessen the symptoms and severity of issues like anxiety for many reasons. First, we are by default in less anxiety-inducing circumstances, simply by being in a safe place like Jaywalker Lodge. We are removed from the negative stimuli of drugs and alcohol, which can lessen anxiety in a matter of days. We are also likely to be engaged with the 12-Step program of recovery and different kinds of therapy. These processes heal us and help us to understand our mental and emotional health issues, including anxiety. We learn how to manage and treat them, how to cope, and we receive professional care.

All of this adds up to an experience of being somewhat rapidly relieved of our anxiety and/or other mental or emotional health issues. Of course, this is a genuine lessening of the triggers and symptoms for our anxiety. However, it does not always mean that the anxiety has been cured. Particularly in this modern era, people experience full anxiety or at least some symptoms of anxiety more frequently. It is not uncommon to feel great relief from anxiety early in recovery, only to experience it coming back unexpectedly over time. This does not mean that the 12-Step program or therapy aren’t working. Symptoms of anxiety are triggered by many things, and unfortunately, these things are quite common in life today. Worry, uncertainty, and perceived hostility can trigger anxiety symptoms quite easily. 

What to Do When Anxiety Reappears

When we find that our anxiety or any other mental or emotional health issue is persistent throughout our recovery, we must take care to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is incredibly unlikely that easing up on the 12-Step program or any other therapy will decrease our anxiety if it crops back up — in fact, it will likely do the opposite. Often the best course of action is to actually increase our participation by attending more meetings, more fellowship, and working with our sponsor and others on the 12-Steps more frequently. If we are seeing a regular therapist, we may want to visit them more often when our symptoms become more acute. If we are taking medications for anxiety, we may also want to consult with our psychiatrist and update them on how we are feeling. As always, with any mental, emotional, or spiritual stress we can confidently prescribe meditation. Lengthy and frequent meditation practice can calm the mind and help manage emotions in even the most turbulent times. Meditation is often overlooked because of its simplicity, but this ages-old discipline combats the modern stressors that often trigger anxiety and other issues.

Don’t Give Up on Recovery

Too frequently, alcoholics and addicts allow the initial burst of peace, joy, and freedom in early recovery to hurt them later on. Having never known life to be so good, we mistakenly expect it to stay like that forever. When a persistent mental or emotional issue returns after a period of absence in our recovery, we wrongly assume that the 12-Step program and our other treatments have stopped working — then, of course, we give up on them. If we are lucky, we can find our way back to treatment and recovery.

At Jaywalker Lodge, we combat this potentially fatal misunderstanding through education, individualized therapies, group therapies, and foundation-building 12-Step work. If the alcoholic or addict is educated not only about their disease but their mental and emotional health issues as well, they are less likely to be blindsided by an unexpected return of symptoms or a persistently acute episode. We customize aspects of our treatment to each individual’s needs and make extensive education a part of our curriculum, all to increase the likelihood of remaining in recovery even when anxiety enters a persistent phase.

Alcoholism and addiction often go hand-in-hand with mental and emotional health issues. This is especially true for anxiety and depression, which have symptoms that can be triggered by using drugs or alcohol. At Jaywalker Lodge, we employ a holistic treatment program based heavily in the 12-Steps and with a strong emphasis on education, so you are better equipped to handle any mental and emotional health issues that threaten your recovery. If you earnestly desire to recover but have been unable to do so on your own, Jaywalker Lodge can help you finally achieve the lasting recovery you are longing for.

To find out how, call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
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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