I Used Alcohol to Numb My Trauma Symptoms
When I was 18, I was still deep in denial about having trauma.
Though, between the ages of 13ish and 16ish, my parents had regularly mocked me, humiliated me, called me hurtful names, and compared me to my siblings– like many trauma survivors, I believed that this treatment was “normal”. I was told that I “deserved it”, after all.
So, when I started going to college parties at the age of 18, I had no inkling of why I felt terrified among all those new people.
I’d walk into a packed room and feel terror. Not only that– I also felt a looming sense of inferiority. A feeling of “I’m no good compared to these people. They don’t want me here. Why did anyone even invite me? They must have felt bad for me.”
It wasn’t just a quiet, annoying inner critic. It was a bellowing inner bully that made my face flush and my stomach turn.
What I know for sure, looking back, was that this was absolutely a trauma response.
My parents bullied me relentlessly during the very years of my life when I should’ve been learning positive social skills and building a healthy sense of self. Instead, I learned to loathe myself with a fiery slap of shame.
At 18, I had no understanding of trauma; I simply continued my belief from childhood that I was bad and unlikeable. I knew nothing about trauma recovery. I denied that my parents had ever done anything to harm me; I still believed that I’d deserved their abuse.
What’s more is that I believed that there was no possible way to escape what I perceived to be my inherent “badness”… So, I decided to drink it away.
Imbibed with six straight Coronas, I couldn’t feel the terror anymore. Everyone felt like my friend. In that bright, dizzy fog, I could act wild– a full 180 from my usual shy, introverted self– and I could be the center of attention with zero fear.
It felt amazing, until I’d wake up on somebody’s couch in the morning, after puking my guts out the night before. As Sia sings in the song “Chandelier”: “gotta get out now, gotta run from this, here comes the shame, here comes the shame.”
But, as much shame as I felt for my crazy party girl behavior– whether it was crying, kissing boys, or sleeping with someone– the cycle continued until around my 21st birthday. That’s when I started to wake up with the dreaded “depression hangover”.
I’d find myself feeling inexplicably hopeless the morning after a night of binge drinking. My energy would simply evaporate. I recall one Sunday morning, at around 21 years old, when I couldn’t even gather the mental strength to clear the empty Blue Moon bottles from my nightstand. They stayed there until at least the next morning.
It was then that I realized something had to change.
I’m lucky that I found it easy to quit binge drinking. Now, at 27, I have about a drink a month. However, it took me much longer to look my trauma in the eye.
I can finally say, now, that I understand why I felt so inferior– and that those “you’re terrible compared to these people” thoughts were never the truth. I’m working to heal my trauma now, but I’m doing so ever so gently, because gentle is the opposite of the rageful energy with which that trauma was forced upon me.
Bottom line is: if you find yourself masking severe social anxiety with way too many drinks, you’re not alone. What’s more: you are not inferior or “bad” like you believe yourself to be. Someone, somewhere in your past made you feel that way, and that says a lot more about them than it does about you. You never deserved that, and eventually, I believe that you will find healing.
You can find Taylor on Instagram at @taylor.michelle.blanchard where she writes about trauma, toxic shame, disorganized attachment, and healing.