Coping with Panic Attacks – A Personal Story

Panic Attacks in early Sobriety

A little nieve to this process I came into sobriety figuring it would be a piece of cake. I get off the drugs and stay sober. Simple concept right? Well, as they say simple, but not easy. Getting clean wasn’t the problem. After enduring a few days of hell I started a little exercise routine mixed in with a few normal sized meals and all of a sudden, boom! I felt like a new man. I came into treatment May 24th feeling like a hollow shell of what was once a compassionate human and by May 30th I was feeling like superman. I was ready to conquer the world and everything in it, or so I thought. When I left treatment I was introduced to the real world and needless to say I was once again feeling like a scared little boy. Not only was I faced with dealing with my problems in the real world without using drugs as my crutch but, on top of that colossal task I was experiencing panic attacks. Just my luck. I had always had anxiety but never full on panic attacks. Well, that might be me exaggerating a little bit.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical practice and medical research group, “A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.” My panic attacks were luckily not as severe. My panic attacks consisted of uncontrollable racing thoughts all centered around irrelevant fears. For example, I would be sitting at my halfway house and all of a sudden I’d just start thinking why am I here? What am I doing with my life? Are these people talking about me? Why are these people talking about me? What are they thinking of me? Mind you, I have always had racing thoughts. But, the difference between my normal racing thoughts and my panic attacks were the symptoms that accompany these thoughts during a panic attack. I would get very nervous, my heart would start pounding absurdly fast, and occasionally I would even start hyperventilating. I always got real sweaty and sometimes I would be so overwhelmed by these symptoms that I would just break down and cry.

Now, of course if your symptoms include heart palpitations, a fixation that you’re going to die, or anything along those lines you should go talk to your doctor. However, if your panic attacks are like mine and a little less severe, feel free to try any of these methods which I have found work for me.

Exercise as a Means to Release Stress

Exercising and getting the blood flowing is something that naturally releases endorphin’s which are the body’s “feel good chemicals”. So, your mood should be automatically be boosted after a little physical activity. In my opinion what actual activity you do to get the blood flowing doesn’t really matter. Personally, I’m not a big fan of cardio due to my extreme laziness; lifting weights is more my speed. Whatever floats your boat! Also, blasting loud music preferably something upbeat and quick such as hiphop or dance helps me drown out those thoughts of impending calamity. After physical activity I always leave feeling much more content and serene.


Prayer is something that never ceases to amaze me. I have faith that anything can be accomplished through prayer. Every time, no matter the severity of my panic attack, when I actually take the time out to pray and ask for the strength to get through my struggle, it’s always given to me. What also helped immensely is a few memorized prayers that I could repeat in succession. The serenity prayer and short version of the 3rd step prayer are the ones I always seem to find my self repeating when I feel a panic attack coming on.

Mediation and Serentiy

Mediating is something I still struggle with on a daily basis because it requires a little effort to slow down my racing thoughts. As I said before I’m an extremely lazy person and sometimes I just don’t feel like putting that minimal effort in. However, each time I focus and exert a little bit of effort into mediating, I’m introduced to a level of serenity which I used to not think was possible for me to achieve. Also, each time I mediate I enter into that true state of bliss quicker than before and stay in that state longer than before. When I meditate at night, the next day goes a lot smoother than it would if I didn’t meditate the previous night. I don’t wake up and get hit immediately with that freight train of thoughts and worries, and if that freight train of thoughts does hit me throughout the day, I can get it out of my head with much less effort required. If I meditate throughout the day its much easier to deal with life’s problems. I go throughout the rest of the day without the bondage of fear and I’m able to be myself, its also much easier to not act out on my character defects. Since I’ve added meditation to my daily routine my panic attacks have been drastically reduced. Panic attacks went from a once a day occurrence to a once a month occurrence and now when they arrive I know how to deal with them.

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