“I am drinking too much.”
This is something I hear often from stress management clients at the beginning of our work together.
Some specifically identify addiction recovery as a goal, while others are worried that substance misuse will “become” an addiction.
Either way, we begin with the realization that using substances comes from a place of good intention. The desire to soothe the self is a strong motivation. However, for some, using alcohol to manage stress eventually manifests disastrous cow-paths.
We know that misusing alcohol can provide a short-term euphoria, an escape, but it usually ends with a depressive impact and a disturbed sleep. Numbing the mind does not magically bring forth the creativity, problem-solving, endurance or strategies needed to manage the situations or mindsets that create stress.
It can be easy to ignore the potential damage of developing a habitual reliance on substances as a means to gain a temporary state of escape and relaxation. We live in a society that allows for, even encourages the use of substances as a means to alter our state. A glass of wine or a couple of beers after a stressful day is commonplace. For some this an occasional short-term fix that temporarily decreases arousal. For others, it is a slippery slope and gradually becomes a path of least resistance that is difficult to escape.
Stress comes from the belief that what we must do or face is beyond our present capacity. The time and energy spent on numbing the pain, and later spent on recuperation would obviously be better spent on developing new mindsets and skills. This is best done when the original intention of soothing the self remains. When this motivation is lost, the loss of hope is often not far behind.
Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW