Trigger warning: This article discusses self-harm and suicidal thoughts
For as long as I can remember, I have experienced unstable mental health: periods of manic happiness, including excessive socialising, and spending, followed by periods of intense depression, including staying in bed all day and cancelling plans with friends. As a teenager, my dramatic mood swings manifested in hysterical tears, aggression and violence.
I started drinking alcohol at 13 years old. Imagine suburban house parties with no parental supervision and too much alcohol. Girls in very little clothing, stumbling around the ground floor of a strangers Surrey mansion. I repeated this pattern every weekend until I left for University.
During the latter part of my teenage year, I had suicidal thoughts, where I didn't want to be here anymore. I have self-harmed in the past to deal with emotions when I’ve been unable to articulate them to friends and family.
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Alcohol can be a crutch that is masking unresolved issues
When I left for University, I was a wreck. I had thought of deferring my place at University to ‘sort myself out’. However, in my mind, I thought running away to University, and a fresh start would be the answer to my heavy drinking, self-harm, depression and anxiety. I was wrong; I was painfully homesick at University. I continued drinking to excess, becoming the butt of everyone’s jokes. I didn’t stay in touch with friends or family. I shut myself off, placing myself in an emotionally vulnerable position.
In my early 20s, I experienced a series of life-changing events. My parents unexpectedly divorced, which shook me to my core. That year I started my career as a teacher. During this time, I was extremely depressed. The relationship I had with my parents was strained at a time when I needed them both. The following year my best friend died suddenly from a brain aneurism. I drank alcohol excessively to cope with my pain.
My teaching career went from strength to strength. I love my job! However, it is not a walk in the park. After a long week of teaching, we all used to flock to the ‘library’, to enjoy a glass of wine, or in myself a few bottles. Soon Friday drinks turned into every night of the week drinks.
By the end of 2019, my mental health was at rock bottom. I regularly experienced what I would describe as depression and felt overwhelmed with anxiety and crippling stress. These feelings were particularly pronounced after drinking, but they were becoming routine. I drank three bottles of wine a night to deal with my feelings of isolation, depression, stress, and anxiety.
A clear mind can help you deal with you problems
I felt utterly broken, and I couldn't see a way out. I was often telling myself I wasn’t good enough or that I was failing in my professional life. I was telling myself that I’d never move out of my family home. I felt like my life had zero direction, and I just wanted to give up on life. But instead, I gave up on booze.
The first six months were challenging. I was very lonely at times. I was frustrated by how much people’s lives seemed to revolve around alcohol. People didn’t necessarily understand why I had given up drinking saying ‘just have one’ or ‘why can’t you just moderate?’ People often describe alcoholism as a lonely disease; however, sobriety made me feel more alone than ever. No one could relate to what I was going through.
I persevered – and after about nine months, I began to see the benefits. I had more money, which meant I was less stressed. I slept better, which meant I was more efficient at work. I've paid off all debts and credit cards, and have finally bought my first property. My mental health has vastly improved.
Since giving up drinking, I have dealt with death, cancer and like everyone, the global pandemic. I didn't turn to wine, as I would usually do. I have had a clear mind to tackle these raw emotions head-on.
Sobriety isn't a magic wand designed to solve all your mental health problems. However, sobriety has allowed me to tackle a lot of deep-rooted issues; I buried with alcohol. Sobriety, in conjunction with weekly counselling, has restored my faith in myself. I trust myself now, which I never thought I would be able to say. Sobriety saved my mental health, and it could do the same for you.