On Self Medicating

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.

As I continued to work through my issues with rage and what triggers my anger, exercise became a vital element to prevention. So did deep breathing.

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.

5 thoughts on “On Self Medicating”

  1. I couldn’t help but thinking that this could be submitted for the WFMW posts on Rocks in My Dryer 😉

    I think, before we pick up that stone to throw, that we need to decide which is more harmful……ONE shot of vodka? Or verbally shrinking our kids to the size of a rollypolly bug? (at least that’s how my kids look in my eyes at the end of a verbal lashout) It is those times, in my own shame and guilt, that I wish I had taken that one moment to steal myself against my inner rage…..even if it is packaged in a shot glass.

    Keep rockin’ on!

  2. I feel ya. Sometimes it’s a clove cigarette for me and a drive alone in the car. Other times, it’s that shot that you spoke of.

  3. You’ve got balls, Jen (and I mean that in the best possible way). 🙂

    Way to open up the conversation on something that, I believe, many people deal with. Whether we self-medicate with alcohol, food, the internet, novels or sleep, the point remains the same. We are searching for something to take the edge off and help us deal with the circumstances of life. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    I think you are right, you are able to write this now because you have gained some perspective. The journey is by no means over, for any of us, and it is so encouraging to see how far you have come. Every time you write of these milestone posts, I am reminded of how proud I am of you and how thankful I am to be your friend.

  4. […I wish I had taken that one moment to steal myself against my inner rage…]
    I love that image.

    […Whether we self-medicate with alcohol, food, the internet, novels or sleep, the point remains the same. We are searching for something to take the edge off and help us deal with the circumstances of life…]
    Won’t it be nice when we have no more vices? I believe this CAN happen. I believe we can be set free from those external things we use to take the edge off.

    […I read it with the hope that someday our edge will be soothed by our Savior, and the alcohol will be just a smaller part of it all…]
    The above was sent to me by email from a reader, and I share her same hope.

  5. Funny, I thought I was the only one who’d discovered that little trick. And I’m generally a teetotaler! *laugh* I appreciate your candor so much! Moving to Seattle has been sooooo hard, but I suddenly feel so understood….

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