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5 Reasons Why I'm 21 and Abstaining From Alcohol

Being a somewhat newly minted (as of September) 21-year-old and a college student and as someone who attends parties… things get tricky when you make the choice (yes, technically it’s a choice) to abstain from drinking alcohol.

I’m trying this no drinking thing. How long will it last? I don’t know. How long should it last? I don’t know. Why am I doing it? That much I do know. Also, has it been easy for me so far? No. But I’ll tell you why it’s so important right now as someone living with mental illnesses:

1. I’ve never had a good history with alcohol. Ever. From my first sips at 15 while living in Europe to a negative experience in high school to drinking to numb before medication and then drinking post-medication… yikes. It’s been bumpy.

2. Nine times out of 10, the fun doesn’t last for me. Usually I drink and my mood goes up and I catch an intense high, higher than most (and people tend to think I am drunker than I actually am because of this). Then, after having what feels like an insane amount of fun, I crash harder than most. I cry or feel worthless and empty. I question things. The pain is loud.

3. Bipolar disorder does not always go well with alcoholHence why reason #2 happens for me more than most people. Every single time I drink.

4. On that note, my psychiatric medication, particularly mood stabilizers/antipsychotics, do not go well with alcohol either. The alcohol reduces the effect of my medication quite a lot. I learned last semester, after going a few weeks where I would drink every weekend, that one drink (with or without medication) would set my mood off for the entire week – depression, hypomania or mixed, as well as rapid cycling. It was rough, and I finally realized that maybe it isn’t worth it for me.

5. Addictive and obsessive personality. That’s me. Between having an addictive personality (hence eating disorder history) and having obsessive compulsive disorder, I know drinking is a very, very fine line for me. I always want more and never feel satisfied. I feel like I need to achieve a certain feeling or high, and I have enough self-awareness to realize that for me this could go too far very easily, as it did with food and exercise in the past.

So now that you know why, I’ll tell you how I got there: negative experiences adding up, strong encouragement from a therapist and friends, medical encouragement from a psychiatrist etc. I don’t want to be an addict. And I’m not saying everyone with bipolar or everyone in college or everyone who drinks is going to become an addict. I just know myself, having gone through this mental health journey in the past year. I don’t want to take that risk. I’m going to struggle during certain moments at parties when the temptation is high, but I’m going to do my best to fight it. I figure telling people I am sober is the best way to start – accountability is super important with things like this (my prior experience having been with my eating disorder).

On the positive — I have awesome, supportive friends and family, as well as my mental health team. I just have to tell people so I can hold myself accountable.

Follow this journey on Obsessions, Words and Everything in Between.

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