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Coping With Anxiety in Sobriety

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answered 08:29 PM EST, Mon May 14, 2012
ginuwineswf ginuwineswf Bisbee, AZ.
Hi, I enjoy the Choose Help Site very much. I suffer from Anxiety, ADD & a long history of drug addiction. I have been clean for 1yr & 4months! I'm very excited about the life ahead! My drug of choice was meth. I still suffer from Anxiety daily. I take Concerta & Chilorpromazine. I have cut caffeine from my diet. I wanna live life to the fullest but the anxiety gets in the way a lot. My tel-a-med Dr. acts like the anxiety should just go away, kinda like Ive stopped using, now I will stop living with anxiety. Not the case & I feel the med. I take does not help! What can I do to help my Dr. understand its very real & how can I help myself in dealing with it. Is there a med. that would help in my case more than the one I take. I hate trying med. after med... it makes me feel like an addict all over again. And because of my past use of meth they feel like I could abuse med. that they prescribe, which is so not the case! I just wanna feel like a monster isn't erupting from my stomach & the consent worrying that creates confusion in my mind! I also wanna ask you about a book that you talk about,
The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns (Paperback - May 1, 1999)
It seems that book is older in date & they would have newer info??? Or is this a book that maybe I should read as well? Any help please!

Dr. Richard Schultz Says...

Hello Ginuwineswf:

First and foremost, a hearty congratulations to you on 16 months of sobriety.  That is outstanding!!

For starters, I am honestly unsure as to what a "tel-a-med" doc is, but it does not exactly sound like the ideal "one stop shop" for the support in recovery from addiction and anxiety that we mental health professionals would consider ideal for you, given your situation.  If that is your source for meds, fine.  But it's probably not enough to handle everything.  Otherwise, you wouldn't be writing to me!

It is quite common, and very understandible, that a newly sober individual will experience a broad rush of somewhat foreign, and perhaps distressing, feelings and experiences to emerge after "self-medication" has ceased.  The removal of meth from the equation simply gives you the opportunity to directly address the difficult feelings that were being masked in the first place.  So, it is not believed that sobriety would be a direct road to freedom from these underlying challenges, contrary to what you may have expected (sorry!).  In fact, as anxiety is a natural part of being human, and is hardwired for evoulutionary purposes; it's emergence is, again, rather normal. 

I do not know how qualified your "tel-a-med" provider is in treating anxiety with tools other than medicine, but psychological treatment (meaning that which is delivered in addition to, or instead of meds) has been shown to be extremely effective and is, in many cases of anxiety, more effective over the longterm than medicine is, on it's own.  And yes, concern about abuse potential with minor tranquilizers would also be a risk and I commend you for being mindful of this.

So, you clearly need some additional tools and techniques for managing your anxiety in addition to the medications you are taking (although you are not taking anything to directly address anxiety, and I am unsure as to what condition the chlorpromazine is addressing).  My best recommendation for you would be to have you to begin working with a psychologist well-trained in the treatment of anxiety.  Ideally, you would want a provider who has advanced training in cognitive-behavioral therapy, aka CBT.  I do not know what your resources are for obtaining such treatment, but this would be the best next step. 

If you cannot obtain face to face consultation/treatment with such a provider, you can certainly make use of written materials, which do, in most cases, prove helpful in recovery.

If anxiety is your primary "monster" (worry, nervousness, worst case scenario thinking), then I would suggest you start reading David Burns' excellent book, "When Panic Attacks."  This is the most up to date of his writings about anxiety.  "The Feeling Good Handbook" is also still quite relevant, and also includes sections on depression, anger, and relationship skills.  Both books will, however, begin to help you learn the theories and applied concepts of CBT, and will most certainly start you off in the right direction.  If your primary struggle is with panic attacks or social anxiety, useful resources for these conditions can be found in the "resources" section of my website, drschultz.org.

I do hope this information is useful, and I am sorry for the distress you are experiencing.  These difficulties ARE, however, quite treatable with or without medication, so I want to encourage you to use the resources I have suggested, in addition to other traditional recovery tools (twelve step meetings, etc.). 

Again, Bravo to you for conquering such a difficult challenge (freedom from meth)!  Surely, each additional step you take toward continued recovery will be easier than that one.  Please keep me posted on your progress and feel free to write back if I can be of any further assistance.


Richard E. Schultz, Ph.D.


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