MH@H Depression

My Depression’s Relationship with Alcohol

My depression's relationship with alcohol

I was raised in a household where alcohol consumption consisted of one or two beer or glass of wine the occasional evening.  I was offered small sips of both, and didn’t like the taste of either.  

My 20s

In my early university days, I drank, often heavily, on or two nights a week.  It was part of a package of having fun with my friends.  It wasn’t something I used as a coping strategy, I never drank alone, and I never craved alcohol on nights we weren’t going out.  I always planned ahead to make sure I’d be safe, so as far as binge drinking goes I’d say I was fairly responsible.

As I moved a little further into my 20’s, with the odd party night as an exception, I became a social drinker, having a drink or two when out with friends doing non-alcohol-focused things.  As I moved into my 30’s and became more asocial in general, I drank alone more of the time, but the general pattern of consumption stayed the same.

Hello, depression

But then depression got in the way.  When depressed, alcohol became an escape tool.  It would allow me to forget some of what I was feeling and thinking about.  That worked (sort of) until it started making things worse.  Because the temporary escapes meant more and more pain was getting bottled up inside, ready to explode.  That’s where alcohol, instead of lifting me off the ground, dropped me hard on my ass.

The most spectacular alcohol-triggered meltdown happened when I was 33.  Unfortunately, it happened to be at a work team-building retreat.  The team I was working on at the time was pretty laid back, and some alcohol consumption was considered normal at the annual retreats.  I had brought a 4-pack of cider, and I figured that spaced out over the course of the day, accompanied by plenty of food, that would be manageable.  Except it wasn’t.  Somehow, by the end of the afternoon, that 4 cider had got me totally drunk.  I remember standing around with a group of people and I started crying.  I went to the washroom and had a huge sob-fest.  

And then I, someone who has never driven drunk ever, started insisting that I was leaving and I was going to drive myself home.  Unsurprisingly, others intervened, but it got ugly.  I was yelling at people, and they had to physically wrestle me outside and into the passenger seat of my car.  Someone drove me home in my car, and I sobbed the whole way.  Things continued to get worse from there.  A couple of months later, I ended up in hospital, and then a couple of months after that I was back in hospital again after a suicide attempt.

Have I learned?

You would think it would have been lesson learned.  Perhaps I have, in the sense that I recognize that depression-related escapist drinking is destructive.  I still do it, but manage to put the kibosh on it before it gets out of hand.  Yet when the depression is relatively manageable, alcohol and I have an easy non-problematic relationship.

Does mental illness interfere with your relationship with alcohol or other substances?

book cover: Managing the Depression Puzzle, Second Edition, by Ashley L. Peterson

Managing the Depression Puzzle takes a holistic look at the different potential pieces that might fit into your unique depression puzzle.

It’s published by MH@H Books and available on Amazon and Google Play.

40 thoughts on “My Depression’s Relationship with Alcohol”

  1. What a beautifully honest post. Alcohol for me is dangerous. I don’t do moderation but in truth two glasses of wine and I’m in bits (cheap date some night laugh) but it makes me sleepy, but then I wake up agitated in the middle of the night. My skin hates wine, my body hates wine but I always love that soft and mellow feeling of the first half glass … but I can never stop there. I wish I’d never met the wine glass! X

  2. Its funny how that craving evolved into something that it was never meant to. You mind knew what it was like to be drunk, so when you became sad, your mind knew what would be a “good” escape. Thank you for sharing your story. This is what happened to me, but with marijuana.

  3. Thank you for being so honest. I feel your agonizing pain as you describe your alcohol-induced meltdown and then spiraling down into the pit of depression even more.

    I don’t drink, but if I did, I probably wouldn’t be able to keep it in moderation. My parents are both pretty heavy drinkers (not alcoholics but they get close) and my mother can get very emotional when drunk. I don’t ever want to be like that, though I, having BPD traits, can get very emotional without alcohol.

  4. I try not to drink because it really takes a toll on my body but when I’m depressed I can’t resist it. I don’t tend to drink too much each time but once I’ve started I have it everyday and find it hard to stop again.

  5. I was a raging alcoholic for years. Hell, I used that as a way to attempt suicide along with taking several sleeping pills to do the trick. I’m glad I survived that. Yesterday, the 14th…was my 3 year anniversary of sobriety. This past several months nearly pushed me off the rails, but I didn’t drink. Lord knows I was thinking about it from time to time.
    Alcohol and depression do not mix or stir well with me. I don’t think it helps anyone to mix the two together.

  6. being autistic
    and stupid
    behaviours and decisions
    are the norm
    so too not learning my lessons
    from my mistakes
    quick enough
    are frustrating
    as i was leaving
    home in came pall the concrete man
    aka the walrus
    lying sack of shit
    that he is
    you know?

  7. Great post! I try to think of the following equation when deciding whether or not to drink: depression + alcohol (a depressant) = either worse depression or mood swings. If you’re on psychotropic medication, the equation gets even messier as they often don’t recommend mixing the two. I usually go the cautious route and either skip my medication (not recommended) or skip the alcohol but never do the two together and never drink when I’m feeling depressed. But then again, the aforementioned factors impact everyone differently. Take care.

    1. I’ve never noticed any side effects in terms of an immediate interaction between my meds and alcohol, and unfortunately sometimes pretend to forget that alcohol does the opposite of what I’m trying to do with my minds.

  8. Can definitely relate to this post. When trauma symptoms hit me alcohol was an escape. Before I learned how to ground myself, the insomnia and the flashbacks were near constant. I was at the point of literal exhaustion a lot of the time and yet unable to relax, which was agonising. At that point I was so desperate and drinking really seemed like a solution. Except that even if it provides short term relief, it just makes the anxiety and depression and physical tension worse, plus it just got in the way of me applying myself in therapy and building the tools I needed.

    It’s hard when your mental health takes a backslide because then it becomes that much tougher to make the right calls. I’ve cut back significantly and have a lot more healthy coping tools that I can rely on, but it’s definitely something I’m still learning to manage. Thanks for the honesty of your post!

  9. I love alcohol lol … I would still be a happy drunk if it still agreed with me … as destructive as that sounds, alcohol worked for me … sometimes I reckon we need the edge taken off’ve the pain … simple as that xo

      1. 🙂 …. yup, long term is a whole ‘nutha can of worms … we end up blogging till 3am and taking anti-anxiety meds to get to family functions … I won’t go on lol

  10. I can relate to everything you wrote WAY too much! I grew up in a home with 2 alcoholics that were both into drugs as well. I manged to all through high school never drink, but when I was 19 years old I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and went through a divorce. During this time I drank everyday and even on my lunch break from work. I was leaning on alcohol to make the pains I was dealing with easier. It was when I was 23 I forced myself to stop this behavior because I never wanted to be like my mother. Now days, if I actually do drink it is VERY occasional and only 1 glass of wine. I can honestly say that if I ever have anything to drink now it isn’t to escape from any trauma or hard times.

    I had a pretty miserable childhood with LOTS of abuse issues. I know now more than ever that drinking will never solve any issues, but actually caused MANY more. I am glad Beckie shared your post and I am really looking forward to reading more from you and getting to know you better! I hope you have a great day!!

  11. I was fortunate that at least alcohol was not a factor in my abusive childhood, nor were drugs. But when you have narcissistic, mentally ill parents, that in itself can make life a living hell. My sister did become an alcoholic and prescription drug abuser prior to her suicide, and that was horrible to witness.

  12. Great post and also an important one. I thought alcohol was the solution for my anxiety when it clearly isn’t. Alcohol is an antidepressant. I shared this on my blog too. I began to drink a lot during my exchange time in Spain and cried a lot because of alcohol, got emotional, got panic attacks and got even more anxious. Now, I don’t drink alcohol anymore maybe a sip. I also don’t want to mix alcohol with medication. I really understand you. You are brave for sharing your story. I wish you much love, health and happiness. ❤️

  13. What an amazing, honest, wonderful post! I do pretty much the same thing. I try not to when I am angry or depressed bc that could be bad news! In my younger pre-hysterectomy years, not very well – in fact, an utter disaster! I have/had an inherited blood disease that lowers my hemoglobin to dangerous levels. When I was a young woman during that time of month 2 glasses of wine would knock me out cold! It was so embarrassing! My Mother didn’t raise a quitter and I continued to try! Before long people thought I must be pre-gaming it and had an alcohol problem.
    Thank God for Menopause, I can now finally drink if I want to and stay awake. My Doctor is rather old fashioned and said, “I’d rather you have that drink for medicinal purposes, than put you on pain killers”!

    Great article! Knowing your truth, and everything in moderation is OK.

  14. Thanks for the honest post. I’m sure we all have similar stories. I have 62 days sober and finally realized that depression, meds and alcohol don’t mix. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Alcohol is terribly insidious. Most of us don’t realise that alcohol is a depressant and used regularly can enhance our depression. I’m an ex alcoholic here. I’d drink for a release. I’d drink not to feel lonely and depressed only to feel more lonely and depressed afterwards! Stick to coffee or something less toxic 🙂

    12 years here. If I can do it so can you 🙂

  16. As I have suffered from mental ill health for a number of years I truly believe that it does lean me towards drinking. But it is a coping mechanism and I realise now that it is a destructive behaviour and self harming. But in my youth could not see it that way, I am in recovery from alcohol through a charity called CGL i’m only a few months into recovery but can see better things opening up to me. Alcoholism comes in many forms just like taking drugs does my latest crisis was caused by fleeing a bad relationship. But sometimes you need to realise the problems you want to block out will always be there till you deal with them. I stopped taking my anti depressants while i was drinking only to feel worse due to the suppressing factor of the alcohol which causes the depressanteffect on a persons mood after drinking it so in the end was feeling worse, now I drink fruit juice, coffee, squash and smoothies which serve to improve my mood.

    I would like to say thank you for the honest blog on such a terrible issue, and wish you luck in your life. I hope you have a happy christmas and an awesome new year.

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