Lifestyle & Anxiety

I couldn't think of an image, so here is a cat drinking beer.

I couldn’t think of an image, so here is a cat drinking beer.

As I write this, I’m really supposed to be packing for a trip to see my old friends in London. I’m really looking forward to it, and it’ll probably be a bit of a wild time!

I often feel as though there are two sides to my life – the church side of me, and the side that likes to go out to the pub. I don’t generally see people from church in the pub, and I worry that they would think I am a terrible drunk/shouldn’t be doing what I am doing. You see, I go out to the pub most nights, and I am a fairly heavy drinker. I enjoy chatting away to all sorts of people and I really don’t care about swearing and dirty jokes – for one thing I have quite an extensive library of dodgy anecdotes of a sexual nature myself! When I’m in London I’m generally to be found in gay bars – because all of my close friends are gay or bisexual. Most people assume I must be gay, too.

A major flaw in my character is my anxiety about how others perceive me. I worry, all the time, that other people don’t like me, think I am stupid, think I am a bad person, a bad Christian, and so on. I find myself constantly wondering whether I should become teetotal, not go out in the evening, avoid all the sort of dodgy conversation that would not be appropriate for church, and that sort of thing. And yet…I don’t, in my heart, see what I do as being sinful. What is the harm in a conversation, a joke? What is the harm in having a drink, if drinking does not become an obsession and does not cause you to fight or hurt others?

Perhaps it is because I come from a protestant background: many of the churches and religious movements in this country were heavily influenced by the abstinence movement, which in turn came about through the damage caused by cheap and readily available gin in the first half of the 18th century. With that history in mind many churches are either teetotal or nearly so, drinking is not really approved of, and, for instance, communion wine is grape juice rather than alcoholic wine. I read, early on in my Christian journey, many books decrying alcohol and stating that a proper Christian would never drink, and even some books stating that Jesus never drank alcoholic wine, and that the Bible refers to grape juice when it states “wine.” I find that a peculiar view, and it is certainly a minority one, and while I didn’t go so far as to believe it, I did take on board the “true Christians don’t drink” message.

When it comes to alcohol I don’t think that it is a problem unless it causes you to hurt yourself or others. I have known alcoholics in my life who have irretrievably damaged their own health, and two of them because violent (physically or emotionally) to their partners. For those people, I would say that drinking alcohol is a sin. Likewise if a drink made me sleep with everyone in sight, I would say that I should stop. All things can be used for evil, all things can become sin, I would say, all things can become unhealthy to us if we become bound by them. That goes for this computer, that goes for alcohol, that goes for absolutely everything. I don’t seriously think that Christ disapproves or condemns my use of alcohol.

As for the conversation – I don’t know. I enjoy that sort of dodgy conversation with the jokes about sex (just because I have no real experience of the act itself, does not mean I cannot find it funny!) I grew up with comedians using innuendo and double entendre in their acts, and have always enjoyed it. I admit to finding some Christians a little po-faced about that sort of comedy, but I recognise it is not to everyone’s tastes. I would not, for instance, make even a faintly dirty joke or innuendo in church – but that is in case I inadvertently offend someone else. I suppose I am like a lot of people I meet – I have different types of conversation and humour depending on where I am. I don’t think there is anything wrong with either – but I do think that we suit our talk to the place we are and the people we are with.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that I need to stop worrying. As if that were easy! I need to, I want to walk out in confidence, to be the sort of people who truly doesn’t care what every Tom, Dick and Harry think about them, someone who cares about the opinions of those they are close to but has enough confidence in themselves to do what they believe to be right, to be good, to be perfectly OK with Christ. I want to care what Jesus thinks – but not everyone who claims to know what he thinks.

Lack of confidence has done unpleasant things to my life – I was almost silent through shyness as a teenager, and while I am now very chatty (most of the time) a lot of that chattiness is brought on by alcohol, that was the reason I first started drinking, and I can still agonise over things I have said that I should not have said for days after. I run conversations through my mind imagining what I might say to people I know, and how they might react, in an effort to placate that anxiety. When I am not well those conversations become a torrent in my mind and I cannot switch it off – which I have learned is called rumination. I am not sure what I should do about it, but I do know that I will need to do something. The trouble is that, as I am classed as well at the moment, I am receiving very little input from psychiatric services – but I worry (again) that if I get another job, if I do more in the church, then I will become unwell again.

Just things that are on my mind at the moment – I’m sorry for the lack of structure in this post.

Lord, be with all who are anxious, with all who worry, that we may know your peace, and have confidence in Christ. Amen.

I found a thing called breathing prayer which is supposed to help anxiety, too. See you when I get back!

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Comments

  1. I was also brought up a protestant with all the social expectations and values. Being a Christian seemed to equate to being incredibly middle class. Now I’m a Catholic it is very different. There seems to be much more tolerance of ‘bad’ language, drinking and just being normal. I feel that I no longer have to hide who I am – there is no church me and life me and the endless dichotomy that that presents. I can just be me. Anyway as far as I can see, in strict proddie land the only real sin is getting caught, you can do what you want as long as no one sees you.

    Or maybe I’m just a cynical old cow. Enjoy your time in London, be you and remember God loves the authentic you not the you who tried to live to irrelevant norms.

    1 Peter 5:7 is a helpful one for me when I’m really anxious – ‘Cast all your anxieties on Him because he cares for you.’

  2. Hi Emma, on the anxiety front I have found another factor that I think causes anxiety that you could maybe control.

    Basically I have found that I tend to want certainty about things. Somewhere along the line major events in my life made me very vulnerable and my response was to crave certainty.

    This causes me to hold on to things too tightly, and this reduces my ability to be flexible, especially with other people.

    What I have found is that by not focussing on what I suspect is the solution to every question but just accepting that I don’t know the answer, I find my self much more open to the ebb and flow with other people.

    Focussing on not knowing seems to bring about an emotional release that feels very freeing.

    I dont know if this is of any help, but as your experience appears similar to mine, it just might.

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