September 29, 2011

On drinking and depression

So this is the blog that might scare away men I’m hoping to help. Not a popular subject. Depression and alcohol.

The bottom line? A lot of one can lead to a lot of the other. Depression can make you want to drink more. And drinking more can lead to more severe depression.

It’s not cool to lecture others or say "here’s what you need to do." Therapists and AA folks call that cross-talk. You’re supposed to say “I can relate to that because….”

So here’s how I’ll start. I can relate to the intractable problem of alcohol and depression. I drank enough beer in college to float a barge. I drank enough beer after college to drown a dragon. Only the alcohol never killed the dragon. It only made him angrier.

I kept on drinking, and drank even more when the first real tests of my life came. The loss of a loved one. The stress of owning a business. The stress of parenthood and trying to be a good husband, good career guy and good father at the same time.

The worse it got, the more I drank. The more pain I suffered, the more I tried to dull it with alcohol. I was quite clearly self-medicating, only this medicine has horrendous side effects. Hangovers. Even more anxiety. The inability to concentrate. The obsession over when the next drink can be consumed.

I once quit cold turkey once with no professional help but lapsed back into the same old patterns nearly a year later. Then my depression got worse than ever, and the abuse of alcohol became as bad as it had been in college.

Even though this is an anonymous blog, allow me a little room for rationalization here. I was never a Bloody Mary in the morning or bottle in the desk guy. But I was a prolific binge drinker. After Katy Perry-like Friday nights, I’d be hung over until Wednesday. And then I’d start again on Thursday with heavy drinking.

And it never, ever made me feel better. Only worse. My first therapist equated it to pouring gasoline on a fire. It’s simple, really. Alcohol is a depressant. Depressed people, umm, I should say people like me that I can relate to, probably don’t need more depressants.

If you want to read a great blog about depression and alcohol, which is the chicken and which is the egg, check this one out. If you want to read some scholarly articles about alcohol and depression, click on this link.

Praise God, alcohol abuse is not a problem for me right now. Not today at least. We’ll see about tomorrow.