As you may have gathered from my twitter feed, it was the Eurovision Song Contest at the weekend. The songs are awful, the costumes kitsch bordering on suggestive bordering on downright dirty, and for anyone watching at home, the alcohol flows. I had a blast, one of the funniest nights I’ve had in years.
I will hold my hands up to some unintentional misleading though. I referred on one tweet to “wine, friends and Eurovision.” The wine and other drinks were being consumed by the friends. Thanks to yet another medical condition, I haven’t touched a drop in 18 years!
Now, while all the fun was going on at home when the contest ran, adding to my joy was, of all things, a football message board. They have a non-football forum and were chatting about Eurovision too. As the evening proceeded, the drink was clearly going down well elsewhere, and the comments were ranging between funnier, cruder, and more cringeworthy the later it went. My own included, despite the teetotalism.
It clearly caused some reflection, mind, as this morning a thread was started about alcoholism. As I read on, it struck a chord with me. In my youth and early adulthood, I clearly had a problem, though whether it was to the point of dependency is open to debate. I tend to think it was, looking back. It certainly masked what my mind was going through and that can’t be healthy.
Here is my contribution to that discussion:
“In my younger day, without realising it at the time, I went through a period of about three years where I was clearly suffering from it [depression] and low self esteem. I never sought any medical help because I didn’t realise I was mentally ill. I just thought thinking of, and making plans for, suicide was something most people felt and did, that it was part of everyday life.
My work kept me occupied during the week – the people there were the catalyst for what I went through, too, but that’s another story. At the weekend, though, I had time and an overdraft on my hands. These days it’s called binge drinking. Back then, though, it was just called a session and the media never reported on it. Occasionally someone called it heavy drinking but in a complimentary manner.
I found that my self confidence grew with the drink, that I was more sociable, funnier, more attractive to women. At least my mind thought I was all those things. Alcohol filtered and blocked out all the negativity that made everyday life unbearable at times.
It also skewed my perceptions of what was really going on. My ‘friends’ were laughing at me, not with me as I thought. As I woke up the next afternoon in an empty bed, a sore head, a feeling of embarrassment and shame, and sometimes surrounded by vomit, alcohol was still deluding me.
My mind would wander back to something I did or said that I thought was funny and I would cling to it like a comfort blanket. Masking my depression and feeling of worthlessness again.
How did I turn my life around? I slowly separated from the friends the drink had drawn me to, ignored everyone at work who had made life so uncomfortable and did my own thing there quietly. Ate healthier and exercised more. Most importantly of all, from 1st January one year I gave up alcohol.
Within six months I’d lost weight, had a new circle of friends where drink wasn’t the main focus, and found that holiest of grails for any young person, that I became attractive to one or two people. It was just one or two, as well, but it sent my self esteem sky rocketing.
And my depression dissipated. It did and does return still but I know I can either deal with it or get help with it, either way without alcohol to muddy the waters or give me that mask of self delusion.”
Now, the thing that I’m left wondering is that was the alcohol the tipping point for depression to take a grip of me, or did depression lead me to drink? It’s so often intertwined that it becomes a blur, much like the morning after hangover.
Scotland’s celebrated awful poet, William McGonagall, wrote about “the demon drink.” In spite of his lack of awareness, and the mirth surrounding the quality of his prose, he may well have had a point. Certainly my spells of depression have been less long lasting than when I was imbibing. They last for months rather than years now.
If you can, just try having one or two less drinks this week and see how you feel. There’s nothing to lose, and if you find it does change your mood for the better, a lot to gain.
And I promise you’ll still find Eurovision a blast!