One of the most difficult lifestyle changes I had to wrap my head around was avoiding alcohol.
Now, I don’t want to sound like an alcoholic. I was, however, a 17 year teenager about to enter the years with the most partying and drinking of my life. Telling just about anyone of that age that they can’t engage in the dominant event of most social functions… It wasn’t something I was looking forward to. But last night I went out to a club for the first time. And although I was the most sober person there by far, it was actually sort of great. I had a blast.
Of course, I haven’t completely abandoned alcohol as of yet. I’m young, and as I’ve said before, I won’t let my illness stop me from living. I am, however, much safer with alcohol than most people my age. I’ll have a couple of drinks every now and then but nowhere near enough to feel it the morning after.
Last night I was invited out by H for drinking games with friends at hers and then out to hit a night club.
My first thought: How do I do this?
I, quite honestly, have been desperate to find friends for a long time, and this not only sounded like a fun night but an amazing opportunity to do just that. So even though the night centred around alcohol, I agreed.
And with about 5 drinks spread over 6 hours, I had a freaking fantastic time. I danced, got complimented, made friends and looked after all the other girls getting too drunk to walk.
All without getting tipsy.
I thought the hardest part of
avoiding limiting alcohol would be having to be separate from the fun, separate from the people. I didn’t know how I could make friends if I couldn’t share the experiences.
The reality was that I was just as much a part of the group as everyone else. I participated in the drinking games with soft drink with minimal vodka in it, I danced with everyone at the club, and am now meeting up with one of the girls when I get back from holiday. And the next morning I woke up bright and early, ready to go away with family.
Life without alcohol is not only manageable, it’s easy and fun.
And the hardest part of it all was simply getting others to understand that alcohol does not mix well with those with Bipolar.
Alcohol not only interacts badly with Lithium, the primary medication prescribed to people with this illness, it can also trigger people into episodes. It is dangerous. Telling me to have a drink is like tempting my diabetic nana with a piece of cake.
Yet my experience was that people struggle to understand this. They didn’t comprehend it was any more dangerous for me than it was for them, and tried to get me to drink more as a result. And as rates of alcohol and drug abuse are so high among those with Bipolar, this is an extremely dangerous attitude to have.
If you’re ever out with someone who has Bipolar, remember it isn’t just a personal choice but a health concern. Be as respectful of them as you would anyone else who has dietary requirements.
Here are some ways I managed to still have a blast with minimal drinking:
– Have “shots” with a 1:3 alcohol:non-alcohol ratio
– Drinks can be the same – have less alcohol and more mixer
– Have glasses of water or soft drink between alcoholic beverages
– Focus on dancing/socialising instead of sitting at the bar
– Be with someone else who isn’t drinking
– Be proud of how little you drink, and feel good about being responsible, instead of making it a chore
– Basically just participate as you always would, but with mixed drinks with little to no alcohol in them
In the end, I had a lot of fun last night. I may have to educate those I drink with in the future, but at least now I feel far more confident that I can have a great time out like anyone else.
That is, so long as I don’t mind being the designated driver.