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Giving up alcohol boosted my mental health

Friday, 04 June 2021

Pippa blogs about how stopping drinking has helped ease her depression and anxiety.

Pippa's Insta handle: @thewellbeingplatform

For as long as I can remember I have experienced mental health problems. Throughout my teenage years particularly I experienced 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 complete stranger’s five-bedroom Surrey mansion. I repeated this pattern every weekend until I left for university. I used alcohol to help with confidence and self-esteem.

Suicidal thoughts

During the latter part of my teenage years I had suicidal thoughts, where I just 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.

When I left for university I was a wreck. My mental health was at an all-time low, and I was struggling. I had thought of deferring my place at university in order 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. I felt so isolated.

I was painfully homesick at university. I continued drinking to excess, becoming the butt of everyone’s jokes

In my early 20s I experienced a series of life-changing events. My parents divorced unexpectedly 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 really needed them both. The following year my best friend died suddenly from a brain aneurism. I drank alcohol excessively to cope with my pain.

Social drinking

My teaching career went from strength to strength. I love my job! However, it is not a walk in the park. There is a big social culture in schools. After a long week of teaching, we all used to flock to the “library”, to enjoy a glass of wine, or in my case a few bottles. Soon Friday drinks turned into every-night-of-the-week drinks. I felt anxious and stressed all the time.

I just wanted to give up on life. But instead, I gave up on booze.

By the end of 2019 my mental health was at rock bottom. I was depressed and felt overwhelmed with anxiety and crippling stress. These feelings were particularly pronounced after drinking, but they were becoming routine. I was drinking three bottles of wine a night to deal with my feelings of isolation, depression, stress and anxiety.

I felt completely broken, and I couldn’t see a way out. I told myself I wasn’t good enough or that I was failing in my professional life, and 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 things like “Just have one” or “Why can’t you just moderate?” People often describe alcoholism as a lonely disease, but, 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 could see the benefits clearly. My boss and colleagues have told me I am like a “different girl”. I’ve paid off all debts, 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 do usually. I have had a clear mind to tackle all these challenges head on.

Sobriety isn’t a magic wand designed to solve all your mental health problems, and I appreciate lots of people can drink moderately. However, sobriety has allowed me to tackle a lot of deep-rooted issues, I was burying 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.

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