A year or more ago, I was talking with a friend about how I had taken to self medicating my visits to Funkytown with alcohol. I know that sounds bad, but hear me out. After Thomas was born, which was two months after losing Gordy to cancer, I experienced postpartum depression that was severe enough for me to seek help, and I began taking Zoloft.
After a year on this medication I decided to wean off. I never intended for it to be a permanent solution, and it just seemed like a good time. I should mention that my depression brought out the reality of my rage issues, and during the time I was on medication I was getting some awesome therapy, plus participating in a regular group discussion regarding the same issues. In other words, I was having some very real, very vulnerable, very intimate conversations with others on the State of Jen.
When I find myself entering into a rage state of mind, it feels a lot like an anxiety attack. I feel it in my chest – it tightens, my heart is racing, and I’m tense all over. My adrenaline kicks in, and in my attempt to assert my control over the Universe I say and do things that make me feel powerful and others weak.
One day, as I found myself entering into this unhealthy place, it occurred to me there was one thing that would slow the physical aspects of my anger – a shot of vodka. So I chugged one back, and stood in my kitchen breathing deeply. As I felt the warmth wash down through my body, the relief overwhelmed me, and I burst into tears – the kind of tears that come, for instance, after you swerve your car on the freeway express lanes to narrowly avoid a sedan that pulls into your lane from a dead stop, right in front of you.
I came to a screeching halt, just inches from the concrete jersey barrier.
And here began my sporadic self medication. I don’t make a party out of it by mixing it into a cocktail, and I don’t come close to even being tipsy – I simply chug it back like a dose of Nyquil. It takes the edge off, so to speak, so I can get ahead of the physical rage and get to the emotional core of what triggered it.
I know this will cause a low rumble among some, and I’m not saying it’s ideal or even right – though, maybe it’s just fine, and only causes a stir because of America’s unhealthy view of alcohol. I am also not – I repeat, I am NOT – suggesting you do this, or that I think it’s way cool that I can. As a follower of Christ, I know his peace is the answer to all our emotional struggles. As a follower of Christ, I know his blood covers all our sin, and I don’t need anything else to deliver me from anger. As a follower of Christ, I know we are not to place any idols above him.
Yet, at this point in the process it’s the tool I choose to use. I anticipate this will not be the case for much longer – in fact, I can’t really recall the last time I used alcohol in this way.
In a group setting, someone once asked a very wise drug-addict-turned-Christian-therapist what he thought of alcohol consumption. His response was that unless you have a healthy way of working through and getting to the core of your issue, you should really stay away from alcohol.
I think about this often as I drink, both in self-medicating situations as well as social situations. I consider what I may be trying to accomplish, if anything, and whether I am using alcohol to mask or escape. But most of the time it’s just good to enjoy good food and good drink with a friend.
I’m not sure what prompted me to post these long-processed thoughts today, especially since I haven’t once thrown back a shot of vodka during this last episode through Funkytown. I have lost my temper during this time. In fact, I just unleashed an unreasonable verbal tirade on my kids about five minutes ago, and do not feel the need to imbibe.
Perhaps this is precisely the reason: I’ve already outgrown my need to self-medicate, and I want to remember how far I’ve come.