I can’t scroll through my newsfeed without seeing posts, ads, or articles on the fun people are having from getting drunk. Despite all the fun and benefits some people claim alcohol has, it is a depressant and can have some very negative impacts on people with any sort of mental illness. Yet using alcohol as a coping mechanism is common among this group of people. I know I’m guilty of this as a woman who has anxiety and is diagnosed as Bipolar.
You can list all of the negative side-effects of drinking but they don’t seem to deter consumption. Sure, it’ll wreck your liver and maybe you’ll suffer from the occasional black out, puking, or hangover. But those negatives didn’t stop me from having “fun”. All my friends were drinking and I wanted to be just like everyone else.
I started drinking at age 18 the summer before heading off to college. I knew there would be parties on campus and I wanted to know what drunk felt like before I embarrassed myself in front of drinking “pros”. I hated the taste of the beer I was drinking, but everyone else was doing it so I continued. Enter college: land of around the world parties and collecting empty bottles as trophies of a night well spent. This is where I had my social life become revolved around alcohol and we kept telling ourselves, “we’re not alcoholics as long as we are in college!”.
Around 24 years old I started to realize I had a “problem” with alcohol. This is about the same time my psychiatrist thinks I was beginning to show symptoms of being Bipolar. It felt like my mind was attacking me every single day and I needed to escape so I began drinking to do just that. But now drunken nights would now end in tears, and as time went on these nights ended in severe panic attacks, and eventually turned into me becoming violent and aggressive.
Doctors urged me to give up booze when I was diagnosed as Bipolar but as a woman in my late 20’s living in NYC that wasn’t an option in my mind. Every social event revolves around drinking and I didn’t think I could have fun without alcohol. Truth be told I had no idea who I was without alcohol.
I’ve tossed around the concept of being sober for 2 years and focused on trying to limit my intake. But even with reduced consumption the drunken panic attacks continued and my Bipolar medication was not able to fully work as long as alcohol was in my system. The night I smashed a mirror on the ground after a night of “light” drinking was the day I decided to give sobriety a chance.
I have now been sober for a couple months, and while I’m still Bipolar I already feel more in control of my mind. The benefits to my mind of going sober were pretty quick to go into effect.
Here are 5 benefits that someone with mental health issues could experience after cutting out the booze:
Better sleep/More energy
After only the first week of sobriety I started sleeping all the way through the night. In the ten years I’ve been drinking I have consistently woken up around five times and I thought this was normal until now. With less interrupted sleep my energy levels throughout the day are significantly better.
Medication works better
For the past two years I was warned that alcohol interferes with my mind medication’s ability to work. I brushed it off but after a short two weeks of sobriety I was able to feel what my doctors were trying to tell me. The depressive episodes, negative thought loops, and generally feeling down about myself all got quieter.
Less general anxiety
I would spend days after a booze binge feeling anxious and like my skin was crawling. Two weeks into being sober I noticed the anxiety and obsessive behaviors reduce. Triggers that would normally make me freak out were now able to be countered with logical thinking and let go of.
More control of moods and reactions
I didn’t stop attending social events where people were drinking when I got sober. Instead I would order a mocktail or drink water. With these drink substitutes I was no longer afraid of what I may say or do, or that someone may see me in a panic attack. Now that my nights are no longer ending in tears and I feel so much more in control of my mind and body. I also learned I can still have fun with my friends while sober.
Smaller waistline and fatter wallet
I’m a very active person and one of the healthiest eaters I know, but I was consuming so much sugar from all of those cocktails. After only 2 weeks of sobriety I lost 5 pounds without changing any other part of my life. I also consider myself pretty frugal but for some reason my wallet would open up freely when it came to drinking. My credit card statements have now slimmed down along with my waist.