In college, I prided myself on being able to drink a lot. I could keep up with anyone, which was pretty impressive for my size. This seemed normal at the time since a big part of the culture of my school (or at least my friends) was to drink. We day drank, we pre-gamed like it was 1999, we drank all night, and played all kinds of games with the end goal of getting drunk.
I was a mess but made jokes and laughed about it. Really though, I hated myself. I was depressed and insecure and didn’t know how to deal with it.
When I graduated, almost instantly my body was like, “Alright, I gave you a good 4 years and now it’s time to cut that shit out.” Naturally, I wasn’t ready to accept that. I continued to drink on the same level despite the hangovers that would leave me sleeping in the bathroom the entire next day.
When I started to change my lifestyle, it felt natural to cut back on drinking as well. When I slowed my drinking habits I did not do it with the intention of self-discovery or wanting to be happier; it was really a desire to not physically feel like crap and be dysfunctional for entire weekends. There were, however, a few unintended learning points that came from it.
There are other ways to deal with depression
Many of my behaviors were manifestations of depression and some social anxiety that I was not ready to work through. Things like hiding under tables and running away from your friends may sound funny but look a little deeper and it’s really not. Those, among other behaviors, were side effects of self-medicating.
You don’t have to drink to have fun
What? That’s a crazy thought…
It’s nice to remember the whole night
I’m missing large chunks of my college career. That’s kind of sad. I like to remember what I did the day before. It’s kind of nice. Though it does get tricky because now I remember if I do or say something stupid. And I can’t blame alcohol. Damnit!
Both my mind and body actually don’t like excessive amounts of alcohol
Not sure why it took me so long to figure this out. Mentally and emotionally I’d feel less than stellar the day after drinking. Instead of making my depression better it actually made me feel worse and to not want to come out of my room.
Physically I wasn’t feeling too hot either, though like I said my physical body didn’t start showing signs of hangover until after college. And now they are extreme. During college though, it seemed fine to “puke and rally” and binge on Chinese food the next day (while I hid in my room from the world and “laughed” about the things I didn’t remember from the night before).
Who my friends are
I learned this really from two directions. One, looking back on when I was drinking heavy and two, peoples reactions now to me not drinking heavy.
Looking back, my close friends loved me no matter what, accepted me, and watched out for me (maybe a nice way of saying babysat). They also gently expressed concern for me. I remember it being one of my friend’s birthdays my senior year and I ran away from her party (standard). The next day I apologized and her response caught me off guard. She asked me if I was okay. At the time, I remember being mad at her for asking me this. I wasn’t ready to have this conversation with myself let alone someone else. I’ve thought back to that moment many times and in a way it was the beginning of a wake up call for me. Kind of like, oh, I’m not fooling anyone anymore. Shit.
Now, some of my friends who I used to drink with and some of my new friends even feel confused when I don’t drink excessively. It makes people uncomfortable. Something that I value in my friendships is not having people try to pressure me into drinking more when I say I’m good and not passing judgment or telling me I’m lame because I don’t want to drink anymore.
The moral of the story?
If you’re happy where you are at, keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re not happy or if any of this resonates with you and you think you may be drinking to conceal other issues, it may be time for a change. It’s not easy. Change is scary, but it is worth it.