Monday, 15 May 2017

Alcohol and Mental Health

Mental health is The Topic in the media right now, thanks to the young royals - William, Kate and Harry, who have launched the Heads Together campaign to combine the weight of  mental health charities and bring mental health issues out of the shadows.

Hurrah for that, and about time too.

Something that still isn't talked about, however, is the undeniable link between alcohol (ab)use and mental health.

Which is why I'm hugely grateful to one of my readers, K, for sending me an article in The Guardian titled: I know how alcohol can ruin your mental health. So why is it so rarely discussed? by a chap called Matthew Todd.

(For the full article, click here).

Todd's story is very much like mine and, I'm sure, yours. He says, for example: I never drank in the morning or in parks, just in a British way, bingeing along with, well, everybody else. I didn’t question it because no one else seemed concerned.

However, Todd found that he was becoming increasingly anxious and self-destructive. Then he uses these words, which describe my situation, back in the day, better than I could myself:

(I was) swinging between thinking I was the most important and the most worthless person on the planet.

The more I drank to medicate my low self-esteem, the worse my anxiety got and the more I drank to dull it. Years passed and I couldn’t see I was stuck right in the classic “cycle of addiction”.

Does that ring bells with you too?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Matthew's main discovery once he quit totally echoed my experience too. he says:

Since finally giving up alcohol, I’ve learned many things. First, that addiction is everywhere. That it is not about the drinking (or whatever the substance is), but the feelings underneath.

And ain't that the truth?

Matthew's article ends with the words: The British drink too much. Alcohol must be next on the mental health agenda. Hear, hear, and so say all of us.

So thank you K, and thank you Matthew.

Another e-mail I received this week was much less helpful.

Dear Sir,

An inauspicious start, and displaying total lack of research, given that my pseudonym is SoberMummy.

But it gets worse...

Our company is interested in the wine you produced.

If you have intention to cooperate, please contact us ASAP to have a better discussion of our cooperation.

Funnily enough, for many years one of my secret ambitions was to buy a vineyard. Needless to say, I spent too much time (and money) drinking to actually get around to doing so.

Just as well, hey?

Love to you all,

SoberMummy (also known as Sir) x


  1. I agree completely. I have thought a lot about what came metal Heath issues or my drinking.
    While it may have helped at one time, In the end drinking only made my anxiety worse.
    I don't miss the post drinking paranoid one bit!

    And I agree. Our society is so consumed by advertising constantly putting us down and making us feel unworthy. Pain is everywhere.


  2. That's an interesting read SM. I have noticed this in people a lot since being sober. That important/worthless person thing. Have a couple of friends like this. It is often (not always)a female thing I think. I remember feeling very full of myself after a few drinks then really rubbish when the booze wore off. Now I am sober I just feel quietly confident. Sort of on an even keel mentally Its a much nicer way to be. Thanks SM, as always a thought provoking post.

  3. Thanks for sharing another great article. My mental health has improved greatly since I stopped drinking. There's so much less overthinking going on in my head.

  4. Yes. Read this article and agree that there is a huge issue regarding alcohol and mental health. Since quitting drinking I just cope so much better and know I can deal with whatever life throws at me.

  5. For me it's the biggest benefit of giving up booze is the realisation that it's all connected, when I gave up drinking I slept better, not feeling exhausted all the time led to getting more exercise, which led to having more energy, which led to doing more, making better choices etc. It started with not drinking

    I also had an interesting chat with a neurologist I was sitting next to at a dinner party. She saw I wasn't drinking and we got chatting about it. Drinking changes our brain chemistry. Our brains make dopamine, GABA and something else I can't remember in response to alcohol ingestion. If one is an occasional imbiber then this is all very pleasant and it's back to normal again the next day. Alcohol abusers brains change and our brains alter the amount of the good stuff they produce when not drinking as we have become reliant on alcohol to trigger production, so we stop drinking to feel good, we drink to avoid feeling bad. Anxiety, irritability, general low mood? Have a drink our brain tells us. Our brains do return to normal again but it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, typically around 3 months. It was an enlightening conversation.

    Sorry for being long winded!

  6. I drank to self medicate my bipolar. This obviously made it way worse. I think a lot of people use alcohol as medicine to soothe psychological discomfort and pain. The more I read about this the more I despair about the total ignorance of mainstream society re booze. Really good article, thank you for sharing!

  7. A really interesting read. Over the years I have had a couple encounters with counselling/therapy - I had expected to be invited to talk about my drinking (I secretly knew it was a problem and I think i wanted them to ask) - but they never did!?

  8. A really interesting read. Over the years I have had a couple encounters with counselling/therapy - I had expected to be invited to talk about my drinking (I secretly knew it was a problem and I think i wanted them to ask) - but they never did!?

  9. I've been a loyal lurker since my first attempt at sobriety in late 2015. I had a second, great go of it in early 2016. I made it 6 months to the day before I quit. Not because I thought I could moderate. Oh no, I knew I couldn't moderate, but because I didn't want to deal with the emotional fallout of my life at that time...I just wanted to hide. So, I hid for a while. Now I'm back and trying a few new things this time. First, I'm reading more than just Jason Vale, you and Mrs. D. I've picked up some new blogs and some new books. I'm also committed to kicking my shy little tush into commenting on some blogs so that I'm not completely alone. I might even try an AA meeting. I don't have a supportive spouse (lame but true), and none of my friends seem to agree that I have a drinking problem. Well, I do. Quite a big one, so I'm going to try to make some friends who WILL agree that I'm addicted to alcohol. Because having someone to lean on when the next round of you know what hits the fan will be very important if I want to make it to month 7 this time.
    So, hello, SM! Thank you for writing such a great blog. I can't wait for your book (do you have publishing details yet??). In direct response to your post, I've been drinking to medicate my anxiety and depression for years, all while knowing that drinking makes my anxiety and depression worse. One of the best things about quitting for 6 months was the peace in my head. I NEED to find that again.

    1. Yay! Huge congrats Right Effort! The best thing about being sober is that, after the first few months, life stops being a Right Effort and you can change your name to Peace and Serenity! Hugs xxx

  10. Hi SM - I agree exactly - I wrote this back in April :

    I also firmly believe in the link between our addiction issues and mental health. It seems very obvious but it sure isn't when you are drinking!

    Did you watch the brave interview with Lady Gaga and P William? So great what they are doing right now :)
    Michelle xx