Nearly a year ago, I went to Vegas for the first time. It was a fantastic vacation, and I really mean that. There was so much spectacle. We were attending Psycho Las Vegas, a metal music festival. I was stoked to see so many old and new favorites in one place.
Of course, listening to music wasn’t the only thing on our agenda. We visited the Stratosphere and dined in the top of it, we hiked the Red Rock Canyon, we gambled, and of course, we drank every day.
Not that drinking was a problem for me. Normally, I only drank once a week, if that. That meant I wasn’t drinking too often, right?
No matter that when I started drinking, I usually couldn’t stop.
No matter that at least half of the time drinking led me into a deeper depression than when I started.
One afternoon in particular was shaping up to be phenomenal. We saw a band from my home state, friends of ours, and I started drinking double Crown and cokes — my old standby for bars with minimal menus. I felt so good, so buzzed as we watched our friends play their hearts out.
I kept drinking.
We moved into a bigger venue when the band finished. More of a crowd, This time, we kept pressing closer and closer to the stage, which meant a thicker crowd. I have trouble with crowds, but tolerate and occasionally even transmute it for music.
I kept drinking.
How many drinks had I had?
So many that I had a moment of mania where I thought I was a literal goddess of music. Several moments in fact. I won’t lie, they were pretty glorious. There’s nothing like dancing to a good song and feeling it pulse through your frame, until you feel like you and the music are one.
Sometime between when the last song played and dinner, I blacked out.
When I came to, I was belligerent. Somehow, my partner and I had gotten onto the topic of a friend of his that I don’t like. Something to be handled with care in moments of sobriety, and I was far from sober.
To his credit, my partner took it in stride, recognizing that I was very drunk. He laughed at me, and we ordered more drinks. “Are you sure you want to do that?” he asked. I pounded two more down.
As my belligerence faded, a guilty, shamed feeling took its place. This wasn’t the first time I had drank until blacking out. What else had I said during the black-out? Did I embarrass my partner? Had I embarrassed myself?
My thoughts slowly shifted towards panic. I felt like everyone was watching us, me especially, the obnoxiously drunk bitch who wouldn’t quit riding her boyfriend’s ass. I felt humiliated and ashamed for behaving that way, for losing control. Why would I even act like that?
As I spiraled, we went back to our room. My partner fell asleep, but I curled in on myself and felt one of the darkest depressions I’ve ever felt descend upon me. I endured it alone, and thought of the ways I could hurt myself in the room, without waking him up.
It was a long, bleak night — I hardly slept, contemplating my demise at my own hand. No words can describe the struggle I felt. I so badly wanted not to exist anymore.
The next day I was subdued. I decided not to make a big deal of the night before, I didn’t want to ruin vacation. But something had changed.
A Call to Action.
I had come face to face with a problem of mine, and it was finally in such an undeniable way that I couldn’t escape it. How could I go from being so happy to being so desperate? I knew the answer was alcohol, and I knew something had to change.
On August 20th of 2018 I decided I would no longer drink. And I have not had a single sip of alcohol since that day.
In a way, it was easy to go cold turkey because my style was more binging occasionally than drinking daily. But I still deal with cravings. Some nights I dream about drinking whiskey, and I wake up feeling guilty from the sheer pleasure of it.
I loved the way alcohol made me feel — at first. I loved it so much that I drank more and more, until that feeling turned on me.
And I did it frequently enough that I had regular periods of resulting suicidal ideation.
Since I’ve stopped drinking, I have been suicidal less than a handful of times. That might still sound like a lot, but that’s in nearly a year, and before I was suicidal as often as once a week or every few days. No doubt starting a new medication routine for bipolar helped, too, but I started seeing improvements in suicidality as soon as I stopped drinking, and I wouldn’t start a mood stabilizer for a few months.
Even though I used alcohol to self-medicate, now I feel more in control of my moods.
I never want to trigger another night like the one I had in Vegas. I don’t want to be out of control or suicidal, I already have enough to manage without the influence of alcohol. I don’t know if I’ll ever drink again, and even though I miss it, especially at social events, I don’t regret its absence.
Unexpected positive changes.
The thing about alcohol is I definitely used it as a social lubricant. I have anxiety, and crowds trigger it. So does socializing with people.
Since I stopped drinking alcohol, I have had no choice but to use better coping mechanisms in these situations. Instead of inducing a numb kind of euphoria with alcohol, I put thought into what I’m saying and into listening to what the other person says, and I truly connect with people. Sometimes it’s more awkward than it used to be — alcohol gave me so much confidence — but I’ve learned that’s okay, too.
I also used to get really sick from alcohol at times, it happened randomly without me being able to pinpoint a reason. But I don’t have to deal with that anymore.
I still think I have some things to learn about my relationship with alcohol — even though I no longer drink it. I’ve done this with no professional or group assistance, although my family and friends have been wonderfully supportive. I think I’ve done well for myself, but I also think maybe I should seek a group at some point, for the support and the non-alcoholic camaraderie.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know it’s brighter and happier than it would have been because I’ve made this decision, and I’m proud of myself for doing what’s best for me.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273-TALK (8255), or text Crisis Text Line at 741–741.