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  • Writer's pictureJessica Harris

Yup, I'm stressed. But I'm Sober!

Why do people drink? Maybe it is to just have fun, relax and socialize, or maybe it is to deal with pressure, stress, and life responsibilities. Throwing back a couple drinks in moderation is fun, but if drinking is used as a coping mechanism for stress there can be long-term consequences.

Stress drinking

We joke around all the time about our need to slap stress in the face with booze. There are funny tee shirts, social media memes, hilarious GIF's, people dropping witty one-liners at the gym or happy hour. We are surrounded by the message that we can and should use alcohol to help us mask our life stressors.

Here are just a few memes I found with a quick Google search:

  • Work would be way less stressful if we were drunk

  • My stress level is way higher than my alcohol budget

  • Because alcohol tastes better than tears

  • I've learned to use meditation to handle stress...just kidding...I'm on my third glass of wine

  • Dear liver, this month will be rough. Stay strong.

  • If you can't be happy at least you can be drunk

  • Drinking is a way of ending the day

  • Mama needs some wine

  • Another wine bottle emptied with no genie at the bottom. I'll keep trying

  • We do yoga to relieve stress, just kidding, we drink wine in our yoga pants

  • Is it too early for alcohol? It's 5 o'clock somewhere!

  • Just when I think I can't take it anymore I remember that alcohol exists

  • If you combine wine with dinner your new word is winner

According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, stress manifests in several forms; general life stressors such as work, relationships, death and illness, catastrophes, natural disasters, or racial and ethnic minority stress. Stress is anything that challenges the body's ability to function in its usual fashion and causes heightened feelings of anxiety, anger, fear, excitement, or sadness. The whole body is affected by stress and cannot function properly when challenged. Stress can cause increased heart rate, tense muscles, aching pains, imbalanced digestion and hormones, and nervous system that remains in a fight-or-flight response mode. Drinking too much alcohol, whether during one awesome night out or casually over a long period of time, has negative effects on the body similar to stress.

Alcohol and stress aggravate each other and cause a vicious cycle.

The cycle starts with a stressor. Let's just say it was a crazy day at work putting out fires, dealing with unhappy customers, and a micromanaging boss. There is a surge of cortisol released in your body each time the stress happens. It's 5 o'clock somewhere- so you get a group together for happy hour! One drink leads to two because you released a bunch of serotonin and dopamine. You feel really good which leads to a whole evening of throwing back cocktails to keep the feeling of relief going. Unfortunately, your night of so-called stress reduction comes to an end and the feeling of relief becomes temporary. When you crash for the night the serotonin and dopamine wear off. When you wake up you feel unwell because you are dehydrated, tired, foggy, and your stomach is queasy. Now you feel guilty and frustrated with yourself but you pull yourself together and get yourself to work. Your guilt is now causing a new surge of stress releasing cortisol which in turn causes you be slow, unproductive, and struggling to manage the stress of your professional responsibilities. The alcohol-stress cycle starts all over again.

Thank goodness for the booze snooze.

Based on the definition, I am poster child for stress right now. In a very short period of time (around 45 days) I think I went through the whole gamut of emotional and physical life stressors that challenged my body's ability to function in its usual fashion and caused heightened feelings of anxiety, anger, fear, excitement, or sadness.

  • I got diagnosed with eye cancer, started planning for treatment, and began working overtime preparing for time off work

  • My dad spent 2 weeks in the hospital

  • My dad went into hospice

  • My dad passed away

  • We entertained out of town family and I went to work the next morning to do final preparations for my leave of absence

  • I helped clean out my dad's apartment and began planning for his memorial

  • I had surgery to get radiation plaque put in my eye and I was socially isolated and couldn't be around my family for 7 days

  • I had a second surgery to remove the plaque and spent a day recovering before going to my daughters horse show and taking a road trip up north to the cabin

  • I repacked, and traveled to Minnesota to do a military ceremony at a cemetery and host a celebration of life for my dad

I did not drink during any of this.

Before my booze snooze I think I would have spent 45 days powering through a lot of bottles of wine to cope, which would have really took a toll on my body and my bank account. I probably would have looked pretty bad and been extremely dehydrated. The amount of consumption over a long period of time likely would have impacted my ability to heal emotionally and physically.

I am so thankful that my booze snooze has changed my habits so that I could find other ways to power through the stress. In the last 45 days I have done a lot of meditating, self-reflection, journaling/blogging, taken warm hubble baths, listened to books on tape, and played a few games on my phone. I have a few more days of low stress recovery, which I am very grateful for, but I go back to work on Monday. Between now and then I need to learn how to drive with a patched eye, and I need to prepare myself for the stress of getting back into mom life and going back to a job I have been away from for 4 weeks!

I can do this!

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