this is what i have learned over the last few years...
i can change the way i feel in any given situation. i know, this statement doesn't mean much, but realizing that it is true has completely changed my life. it has changed the way i feel.
let me start from the beginning. i grew up as a very nice and respectful individual. i thought that it was what was expected of me, and when people were upset with me, it must have been my fault. when i joined the army i learned something. i had a huge problem with confrontation. any time anyone confronted me, my immediate reaction was to run and hide. why? because i felt helpless. confrontation caused me to feel an incredibly high level of anxiety, which, of course, made it impossible for me to think during the moment of confrontation... and that made me feel even more helpless. it was a vicious cycle.
one day, i was in my platoon sergeants office and he was screaming at me because of what he perceived as weakness. basically, i put off a promotion because i wanted my career to go in a certain direction, and if i had been promoted i wouldn't have been able to turn my career the way i wanted it to go. it wasn't because i was afraid of being promoted, it was because i had my own damn goals and i was gunning for them. but, instead of explaining that to him, i stood there and nearly blacked out from panic. talk about a blow to the ego...
anyway, when i got away from that particular platoon sergeant, i thought about him a lot. he made me feel absolutely helpless. but what was the real problem? i had to accept that the real problem wasn't him. now, in order to regain my pride, i told myself that he was wrong, i was right, and he was just an ass hole. that helped me let go of the pain some, but i still had to deal with the underlying problem... that i had a problem. i felt an extremely high level of anxiety during confrontation. so, i thought about it a lot and came to realize that i had never really done anything about it. i thought about how i could do something about it. then i started drinking...
i have a habit of constantly looking at myself. i'm an introvert by nature, so i think about how i react to things and try to learn from it. i do this constantly without even thinking about it. i realized this and started thinking about situations where i felt no anxiety, where i felt empowered to express whatever feelings i had at the time. when was that? only when i was drinking. drinking destroyed my inhibitions.... so it was a lot easier to say what was on my mind. so, i thought about habits that i wanted to build, and decided that i would use drinking to help me get there. i wanted to make it a habit of not feeling anxiety with confrontation. so, i would drink and purposely come up with confrontation situations and let myself feel the anxiety, and then get in the habit of doing what i needed to do to NOT feel the anxiety. basically, i did the things that put me in power. things that made me feel like i had some form of control.
i thank my wife for helping me out with these exercises. i explained what i was trying to do, which was change the way i feel. she hopped on board and gave me situations where i had to deal with my anxiety. i really cant tell you how much i appreciate her for this. i practiced a whole lot of mental practices to find out what works for me. i'm still finding better ways to find out how to not feel the anxiety, but by this point the anxiety is nearly gone. i can actually express myself in most situations without feeling anxious. why is that? well, i think its a combination of putting myself in situations where i feel the emotion and practicing different things that i can do to get rid of the emotion. when i was successful, i dueled on my success. instead of thinking about the anxiety, i was thinking about how i could eliminate it, and i was focusing on the little victories i had experienced. by focusing on my own progress, i developed a motivation to continue it. it even led to a better relationship with my wife, since i was actually telling her how i felt. being the incredible woman that she is, she looked at it as a way to find out how to support and love me.
now, the drinking did cause a few disputes between me and my wife... and it came down to how much i was drinking. she didn't like me getting drunk. to be honest, i didn't like getting drunk either. so, after i had gotten drunk for the second time, too drunk for her to accept and more drunk than i wanted to be, i decided that i needed to put a plan in place that would allow me to continue my exercises while making sure that i couldn't cross that line. so, i asked her to set out the amount i was allowed to drink in a night. i figured, well, i might not be able to drink as much as i want, but i still get to drink, and my wife still feels like im taking her feelings into consideration. i viewed it as something i could do to come up with a solution. so, that's what we do now. i say i want to drink and work on making myself more manly and she pours as much as she is willing to let me drink that night. its my idea, so i'm still in control of myself, at least. i feel like i'm not losing control of the situation because i came up with the solution. its something that she can accept, so it works for us.
i'm at the point now that i don't need alcohol to speak my mind. i still use it, because i'm honest with myself. i suck at being who i want to be, i need help overcoming my own inhibitions. alcohol works for that, but to be honest any medication would help with that. the one thing i like about alcohol is that it is pretty temporary. by the next day, its effects are gone. this gives me plenty of chances to reinforce what i learned when i was drinking without alcohol as a factor. i don't really like meds too much because they often have much longer affects than alcohol has.
that thought brings me to counselors... i think most of them suck. when i went to counseling for my anxiety issues, all they wanted to do was talk about my family and my past. i get it, they wanted me to understand why i was feeling the way i did, but they really didn't have much in the way of answers when i asked how i could fix myself. they always wanted to focus on making sure i understood why i felt the way i did. but, how does that help me now? i kept asking the question "what can I do about me to fix this problem and feel what i want to feel?"
now, i may have gone to counselors who just didn't know what to tell me, but i learned that the ones i went to didn't have those kinds of answers. to be honest, i don't think they even could have answered me. they are not me, they do not experience what i experience. so, the only person who is really in a position to fix me is... ME!
so, i decided to look at it that way. only i understand me. so only i can come up with the best treatment for me. all i really have to do is be honest with myself on how things make me feel.
anyway, i hope i haven't given the idea that i am advocating alcohol. that is just what happened to work for me. what i want to leave you all with is the thought that YOU can change the way you feel in any given situation. you just have to find out something that works for you.
my own journey has led to my recent motto on life...
"take a shot of whiskey. **** it, well figure it out."
so, i posted this on another forum where i know people have no problem ripping into me if they see something off.
well, they did. its pretty obvious what they took issue with... my use of alcohol. they were absolutely right to call me on it. using alcohol to treat anything is a pretty dangerous way to go about anything!
but, i think the outcome would have been the same if i were using an anti anxiety medication. to that end, i asked my wife if its ok with her if i post up her story. she used an anti-anxiety med, prescribed by a psychiatrist.
my wife suffered from social anxiety. for the longest time, she felt trapped in our house. her running diagnosis was "agoraphobia". so, they prescribed her a medication and told her that she was broken and that the medication will help her. they didn't explain to her that she could actually get to the point where she doesn't need them...
anyway, when i started to realize that i didn't feel the anxiety anymore, i started thinking of ways to help my wife overcome her own anxiety. i realized that the only reason that i wasn't feeling anxious was because i had practiced my mental coping mechanisms(which i came up with myself) to the point that it was second nature. it took a lot of work.
so, i started talking about that to my wife. i started suggesting to her that she might be able to do the same thing i did. take her med, go practice feeling relaxed in a social situation, and focus on the fact that she actually did it. then try it without the med, knowing that if she feels anxious, she can always just go back to the med. so, that's what we did. we set up situations where she could expose herself to the things that make her anxious, first using the medication so that she could see that she CAN do it.
that gave her enough confidence to try it WITHOUT the medication, since she had the safety of knowing that she could go back to it if need be, and that it would work. so, what did she have to lose?
i have to admit, my wife showed a lot of courage back then. she KNEW she was going to be exposed to the horrible feelings that had been crippling her, but she was willing to try it anyway.
after she had established as FACT that she CAN function in social settings, it was a lot easier for her to push herself, so see just how far she could go. there were several times where she was overwhelmed, but i noticed something... it took much more to overwhelm her than it did before. even without medication.
her first reaction was to see it as a failure... she still ended up getting overwhelmed. but, i focused on the success. i pointed out that she did a HELL of a lot more than she had ever been able to do before. she started to realize it herself, and then she just kinda took off.
my wife started putting herself in those situations without my prompting. she had become solution oriented, goal oriented. she actively thought about how she could improve herself. she started seeing every step outside of her comfort zone as a victory.
she did this for a while... going out into social settings where she KNEW she was not comfortable and practiced feeling empowered by the mere fact that she COULD.
looking back, she is a different woman. she is free. i dont have to worry about her, i have seen her go right into social settings and not blink an eye.
in the end, it wasn't the medication that changed the way she felt in social situations. she had been on medications for years and she still had the problems. it was her actions. she found a solution that worked for her, something that she could focus on when she was starting to feel anxious, she ACTIVELY thought about how she could change the way she felt.
now, i did try suggesting things to her, mental coping strategies, but none of them worked. just like i had to come up with my own strategies for me, she had to come up with her own strategies for her. fact is, none of mine COULD work for her. im not her, i dont know what she feels or what goes through her head.
the only thing i really did to help her was open her mind up to the possibility that she could actually do something about the feelings that were ruling her life.