My head is pounding and I crawl out of bed with the room spinning. How did I get home? When did I get home? Straight to my phone I go, surely some of my friends can fill me in on last night. I am filled with dread and anxiety as I wait for replies.
Since I started drinking at the age of 16, I have spent so many mornings trying to piece together the puzzle of the previous night. When I drink, I experience blackouts more often than most people. This doesn’t mean passing out but it does mean that my brain stops storing memories. Sometimes I have fragmented memories – as though the lights are flickering on and off. I can recall parts of conversations and people I bumped into but there are still a lot of gaps.
About three years ago, I was told by a psychiatrist that I needed to seek help for my alcohol problem. I didn’t think I had a problem. As a student at the time, I saw getting wasted as the norm, part of the university experience, all my friends were doing it. But there has always been a difference between my drinking and those around me. I learnt that not everyone has complete memory loss, not everyone does things they regret almost every time they have a drink.
You might be wondering why I haven’t given up alcohol… I’ve wondered the same thing a lot. Partly, it was a big part of my self destruction when I was very unwell. But also, I enjoy the taste of alcohol and it’s a huge part of me being able to socialise. I can socialise without drinking. I can have fun without drinking. It’s just easier with alcohol to be honest – it takes away anxiety and allows me to focus on having fun rather than scared about what I say and do.
A lot of people I know with BPD have a complicated relationship with alcohol and/or drugs. It makes sense because when your emotions are all over the place, alcohol eases those emotions until the next day. It gives you the ability to self destruct completely without giving a shit about the consequences… until the next day. Drinking is a barrier between myself and other people. Drowning my insides in gin sometimes feels like the only way I can cope. It is an escape from the reality which you are struggling with so much.
Some of the symptoms of BPD result in worrying about what other people think of you, not knowing how to behave or what to say, difficulties in knowing who you are. Alcohol stops these thoughts spinning in your head so you can let go for a few hours. It’s like pressing the pause button on my brain for a while, it can’t stay on pause forever but the relief is very welcome.
Therapy has taught me about the feelings that trigger me to self destruct when drinking. It has helped me find a kind of balance with my alcohol consumption. Although it still isn’t completely sorted. I still have nights I can’t remember and hangover days are crammed with difficult emotions but I am definitely drinking less and less often. My relationship with alcohol is going to be one which takes a long time to come to terms with and I am prepared for that.
My drinking has destroyed relationships, friendships and my life yet stopping feels like the hardest thing in the world. It doesn’t make much sense does it – surely I shouldn’t think twice about stopping an act which has ruined my life… unfortunately it isn’t that straight forward when you put BPD in the mix. I question whether I deserve the misery I inflict upon myself and others, I question everything around why I keep doing this.
Why am I sharing all of this? Drinking is a huge part of our culture, it’s an acceptable method of numbing our feelings and having ‘fun’. But it is also extremely dangerous, especially for those of us with mental health issues. Maybe you relate to some of this, maybe you recognise that your friend might have a problem… this post is for reference. I hope that this post, at the very least, makes you feel less alone.
If you have any advice for developing a healthier relationship with drinking then please do share because unfortunately, that is not something I can provide!