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David Baxter PhD

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What I Learned about Facing Alcohol Misuse & Bipolar

by Andrea Paquette,
August 15, 2022

I thought drinking was fun, but it fueled manic rage and damaged my relationships. Addressing my alcohol misuse and its effects wasn’t easy but it was worth it.​

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Alcohol & Bipolar Disorder​

Drinking has been a personal struggle in my life at times, especially during my mid-twenties. Over the years, I have learned about the importance of controlling my alcohol intake and recognizing the negative effects that alcohol can bring into my life.

Alcohol is known to intensify bipolar disorder because of its sedating and powerful effects. There is a great risk with drinking alcohol by inducing feelings of depression with each swig of booze. Drinking alcohol can also greatly increase the severity of mania, and many people with bipolar can find this gratifying. Countless individuals are not aware that alcohol can increase the negative effects of bipolar disorder in either direction, which flames the fire with its misuse.

Research has found a strong connection between bipolar disorder and alcoholism. The experience of blurred nights, violent outbursts, and draining hangovers can lead to intensified feelings, but many people with bipolar still choose to drink irresponsibly, with estimates showing that up to 45 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder also misuse alcohol.

My Aggressive Manic Outburst with Alcohol Misuse​

During my twenties, I lived with a boyfriend for over a year, and we cared about each other deeply. He loved to drink copious amounts of alcohol daily and I soon chose to partake in this unhealthy lifestyle alongside him. Despite his drinking problem, he was genuinely a sweet guy.

He hosted a birthday party for me, and, initially, I was thrilled with appreciation. I then noticed that he invited one of my “friends” who I perceived to have a crush on him. I acted friendly and cracked a fake smile as she and I chatted, but my jealously grew as I swiftly swilled excess liquor to drown my suspicions. She and my boyfriend were having a casual conversation at one point during the evening, and uncontrollable anger began to swell in my neck and gulping throat.

Rather than pulling my boyfriend aside and communicating how I was feeling, I discretely locked myself in the bathroom, plunked myself on the floor, and sobbed like a devastated little girl for a solid 20 minutes.

As guests trailed back home throughout the night, my boyfriend invited my tipsy “friend” to sleep in the spare room. Overpowering anger flooded my “bipolar brain” as I questioned both of their intentions. I was ten drinks in at this point, and I fiercely ordered her to leave my house immediately! She gathered her things and swiftly exited with tears welling in her eyes. My boyfriend and I argued relentlessly as he told me how embarrassing my behavior was, and I responded with a barrage of hurtful insults and profanities.

Losing Self-Control​

My manic, alcohol-inundated mind boiled with overwhelming intensity, and something uncontrollable finally snapped. I not only swiftly kicked the lampshade off the living room end table but also yanked the cords of a 30-pound stereo out of the wall and violently hurled it his way. He was stricken with fear and desperate to get help with my outburst, so he called the police.

The cops soon arrived and asked if I had anywhere to spend the night, so I called my “friend” in a drunken haze. Despite my horrific treatment of her, she kindly invited me to sleep over on the couch for the night.

The morning light from her living room window filled my eyes as I woke, and I soon realized that perhaps she was a good friend after all. But, unfortunately, we never spoke again after that day.

Full of regret, I embarked on my “walk of shame” back to my house to face my boyfriend. He accepted my apology and sternly told me to never act this way again. Sadly, our relationship dissolved in a short amount of time. He may have forgiven me, but it took years for me to forgive myself.

What I Learned about Facing Alcohol Misuse​

It took me some time to realize that my alcohol misuse was detrimental to my life and my mental health. I have learned that I can help myself and there are several things that I can do to take action and avoid destroying my life.

#1 Reach Out for Help​

Seeing a doctor can be a sure first step to initiating the conversation around problematic alcohol use. I recall sobbing in front of a doctor with embarrassment, and she reassured me that countless people with bipolar suffer from alcoholism. I was no different.

There are medications to reduce cravings, or you can choose to stop drinking completely and consider attending a rehabilitation facility. Every situation is unique, but an initial step is to be candid and honest about how far alcohol has a grip on you.

#2 Don’t Mix Medication and Alcohol​

Many of us take medication for bipolar disorder, but we are often unaware that alcohol reduces the effectiveness of those meds and that mixing the two can be very dangerous. Be aware that alcohol can be detrimental to our bodily organs, especially when mixed with medications.

#3 Build a Healthy Support Network​

If daily routines tend to revolve around alcohol, then you may want to consider building a support network that does not involve drinking. I have found that spending time with or partaking in activities with others who do not abuse alcohol has helped me better my lifestyle habits. It is important to consider healthier alternatives that we can apply to better manage our lives.

Not a Solution​

Remember, when you have bipolar disorder, consuming alcohol can seem to ease our symptoms, but it actually makes them much worse. Alcohol intake entails trickery, and leaning on it as an excuse for our actions is not only irresponsible but can cause irreparable damage to our lives.

Have you ever suffered from alcohol misuse, too, and do you have any helpful advice for those who may be suffering right now?

Source: Farren, C. K., Hill, K. P., & Weiss, R. D. (2012). Bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder: A review. Current Psychiatry Reports 14(6), 659–66).

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