Sunday, 12 July 2015

Depression and Alcohol

Few would disagree that depression and alcohol are inexorably linked.
Depression leads us to use alcohol as an escape. Alcohol is a depressant drug and compounds our depression. We feel more depressed and self medicate with more alcohol and justify this by repeating  that life is just shit. And so on; the vicious cycle of negativity is reinforced and self-perpetuating. 

This may not have been your theme but it certainly was mine. For many years. During that time I did not want to face up to the reality of my problems: I didn't want to have depression and I most certainly did not want to be an alcoholic. I knew I was using wine as a form of self medication, to blot out the here and now for a few hours. As this means of coping continued, both problems escalated, and the drinking required to offset the misery in my life became so great as to become unmanageable and I had to stop; you know the rest of that story. 

As well as stopping drinking it's important to address the reasons for drinking in the first place because these will be unchanged and will require some form of management in the absence of your usual crutch.

Why did I drink? Why did I need to escape from a life which on paper looked pretty good? I often wondered and could not for the life of me fathom what could be wrong.
Having a good life does not prevent depression and that is one of the reasons it is hard for others to understand. There doesn't need to be a reason you get depression in the same way that others develop high blood pressure or underachieve thyroids. My depression manifests itself as very low mood, being unable to be bothered to do anything and, most notably, physical exhaustion and excessive sleeping. To the uninitiated, I can pass as being merely lazy. The thing is, until I admitted my diagnosis and sought effective treatment, I thought I was just lazy too. It wasn't until a couple of years later when I was better that I looked back and realised just how depressed I had been.

Why mention this now? Two reasons. First it seems a bit misleading not to acknowledge that the turnaround in my life has been helped by having treatment for depression, (although giving up booze was integral to that). Second, my OH suggested during my recent depressive relapse that I shouldn't keep it secret anymore.

I didn't actively decide to keep it a secret. I just chose not to tell anyone. I didn't want the stigma nor the labels. OH wondered if it might help me to share these struggles with friends, some family, and a few colleagues to which I added the blogosphere. So that's what I'm doing. Talking about the thread of depression that runs through my life, that which cannot be cured but must be continually managed. Expect to hear a lot more about this in the coming weeks. And if this affects you too, I'd love your support. x


  1. Dear Rachel,
    I am really sorry you struggle with depression.
    I struggle too.
    Although drinking has helped my depression be better, it still is a thread in my life too.
    People who have not had depression don't understand (IMO) how it really feels.
    My energy levels get low, too.
    I can manage it, but it's not always easy that's for sure.

    1. thanks for your unending support and comments Wendy. I suspect like alcohol, depression has a much higher prevalence than we may anticipate. Take care. x

  2. Me too, I like to keep it private because of the perceived stigma. In my case it's the other side of the coin - anxiety - that I have always struggled with. Until I got treatment I had no idea there was any other way to feel! I definitely used drinking to medicate myself - happier when drinking, and if you feel really rubbish with a hangover there's a limit to what else you can worry about while you're just trying to grind through the day. Look forward to hearing more about your experiences x

    1. Thanks SB. it's so nice to know I am not alone. I often feel as if I have a character flaw that is rectified by a horse load of medication and feel slightly sad that I should need this to be normal. I had an element of anxiety too- I didn't realise thats what it was until it was treated; I thought I was just being perfectionistic and striving to get things just right, becoming upset when they weren't. I would feel stressed if I had left over vegetables in the fridge that I hadn't used before they spoiled!

    2. I also have serious anxiety. I have found the antidepressant I take, cipralex or lexapro, has helped with both.
      I also do therapy, yoga, eat well, etc.

      But my old life long paranoiacs have even improved. This shows me it is a chemical imbalance, not just an oddness of mine.

  3. Hi, I came across your blog and have enjoyed it immensely. I've taken up a journey to not drink for a year, and write about it.
    I wrote about before I stopped drinking; you know, what I drank, what I did; and now I write about my life not being able to have a drink.
    Looking back, it's kind of scary thinking about how I acted; how I couldn't just go for one. I realise now you can still have a good time without a beer in your hand.
    I'm thankful everyday I didn't, don't, have a problem with's just interesting to see how I, and especially how other people, react when I explain what I'm doing!
    I'd love you to have a look at my blog? It's

    All the best


    1. Hi Roisin, Ive finally got around to checking out your blog. It is a massive resource and great to have another's perception of this whole sober business. I've booked marked it to keep up to date. Thats for sharing it here. Rx

  4. I've always been very open about my depression, but not so about my alcoholism. Now that I'm cleaning up I'm curious to find out what level my depression is really at, when I'm not being brought down by alcohol as well.

    I'm hoping for some sort of magic happiness cloud to descend, but realistically I suppose there will be good and bad days - and my challenge now is to work out how to cope with the bad ones without alcohol!

    Well done for 'coming out'. There is a lot of stigma about depression and I agree it's more common than you might think! Once I started talking about it, there were so many 'me too' responses that I almost started to believe I was the norm rather than the exception!

    Be kind to yourself.

    1. Being kind to yourself is such good advice. Generally we are at the bottom of our own priority list. I have also began reducing my expectations of myself and this has increased my contentment. Thanks. x

  5. i read both your books and liked them immensely. I do not suffer from depression but am prone to over excessive behaviour with alcohol that is careless and stupid. I can only imagine that your insights into your emotions and moods with depression will serve to help a lot of people. Certainly your books helped me.
    Kats x

    1. Thanks Kats. Glad they helped. I agree alcohol prevents our usual regulating of the peaks and troughs of life and allows massive overswings in both directions which in general is never usually a good thing!

  6. This really resonated with me Rachel - I too used alcohol to cope with my depression until it became a problem in its own right. And a vicious circle of despair.

    The standard NHS advice is to stop drinking and then tackle the depression. I just couldn't do it that way round. I was only able to stop drinking (after many, many failed attempts) once I had made a sustained effort to get on top of the depression.

    Life is so much better now. Thanks for your blog x

    1. Hi Libby, I have read the Depression Lab regularly yet I never put that and your name here together! Thanks so much, I have found it a wealth of helpful information.


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