Addiction is a struggle on many levels. Addiction to alcohol or other drugs is hard to control. It can make you feel guilty or ashamed. It can strain your relationships at home and at work.

So why isn’t it easier to quit drinking or using? It helps to understand the connection between addiction and anxiety.

Stress and Substance Use

Some people use alcohol or drugs to relieve stress or anxiety. Drinking may ease the discomfort for a while, but the relief is short-lived. Over time, it takes more and more to feel better. Eventually, it’s hard to stop.

 

Risks of Addiction

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, increase the risk of substance use as an adult. ACEs include:

  • Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Emotional or physical neglect
  • A parent being mistreated by a partner
  • Substance use in the home
  • Mental health issues in the home
  • Divorce 
  • Domestic violence

 

Change Is a Challenge

Many people who struggle with substance use find it hard to accept the idea of never using again. This is especially true when the drug of choice is alcohol.

Trying to limit or stop drinking is hard because alcohol is a part of so many social events, including wine tastings, happy hours, weddings, and other get-togethers. Many people fear what might happen if they say they have a problem with alcohol. They worry and wonder:

 “If I stop drinking, will I lose my friends?”

“What will my friends or family think about me if I decide to stop?”

“What will people think if I admit I have a problem?”

“If I think I have a problem, does that mean I can never drink again?”

“What does it mean if I don’t want to stop?”

 

Sobriety and Anxiety

Anxiety can show up when you decide it’s time to do things differently. It can be hard to know whether the stress and anxiety are caused by mixed feelings about stopping or worries about the unknown future, or whether the anxiety was already there. Many people have anxiety as they begin to make changes. The anxious feelings make them uncomfortable. The discomfort can be emotional and physical. Sometimes, they have the urge to drink to ease the discomfort.

Learning ways to manage anxiety can help reduce the urge to drink or use. Relaxation and grounding skills can help lower the body’s stress levels. Meditation and mindfulness can be helpful, too. Through practice, you can start to see what makes you want to drink. Mindfulness can make you more aware of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that might surface as you try to change.

 

How Integrative Therapy Helps

The word ‘integrative’ in integrative therapies refers to creating a whole, cohesive treatment plan, and bringing together the cognitive, behavioural, and physiological systems within an individual. Integration suggests that the therapeutic elements are part of one combined approach to theory and practice.

Whether you decide to control your drinking or stop, therapy can help you make the change. The therapist’s job isn’t to tell you what to do or make you feel bad about your behaviour. It’s to help you learn to manage your use of alcohol or other substances in ways that feel comfortable to you.