Thursday, 29 June 2017

Student Drinking Culture

After months of binge drinking at University, and eventually finding out the hard way that alcohol is not good for her mind. Erin made the sensible decision to stop drinking. Despite being keen to “fit in” and not be perceived as boring, she put aside society’s judgements and focused on making her mind as healthy as it could be.
-Erin  Cadden 

I have never had to contemplate my relationship with alcohol. Drinking was always something I did socially, I didn’t abuse the substance so I couldn’t have had an issue with it, or so I thought. What I have come to realise, is that alcohol can be self-destroying and a depressant in itself. Mixing my complicated and frazzled mind with alcohol is not healthy. I would never participate in any activities that I knew would add additional pressure to my mental illness, so, why did I continue to drink? knowing the negative consequences?

I thought I was sensible when it came to alcohol. Yes, sometimes I drank a little too much, but doesn’t everyone at university? I thought this was normal… Everyone just seemed to be in a constant cycle of being drunk then hung-over and then drunk again. Due to this, I never considered stopping drinking. I was a student, for me, this meant I had to drink to fit in. Only now, at 3 months sober, I realise how wrong I was.

People drink to be social, I drank for different reasons. When I drank, it was to numb myself...to numb my mind. It was to stop my thoughts from constantly ticking over. All too often my social anxiety would get the better of me, especially when socialising in big groups. The only way I thought I could overcome this, was to drink. Don’t get me wrong, there were times where I drank to enjoy myself with my friends. However, most of the time I drank, it was to try to rid myself of the pain in my mind. I was so desperate to not be the “odd one out” that I drank to give myself, what I thought was, more confidence. Really, all I wanted to do was stay in bed and never leave.

A few drinks later and I would notice my thoughts hadn’t gone quite, hadn’t slowed down like wanted them to. The reality was quite the opposite. My thoughts would gain momentum, accelerated to a speed that was uncontrollable. I would be socialising, having fun, meanwhile, my mind would be constantly telling me things I did not want to hear. So I continued to drink, it was the only remedy I knew. I’d drink until I no longer heard the racing thoughts. I’d drink until the thoughts had drowned in the vodka I had consumed. At this point, I would be in a state, where I simply could not handle myself.

Frightening, isn’t it? I was putting myself in this a state, to try to save myself, from myself. I was so concerned with being judged by my peers that I thought drinking was the best way to be accepted socially. I would have far rather drank myself silly and endured thoughts that made me hate myself than accept who I am. Until I realised, alcohol isn’t good for me or my mind.

It’s hard sometimes, to refuse a drink when I am out with friends. However, I can feel my mind getting healthier every day and I will not let one drink of alcohol put that in jeopardy. I find the hardest part of being sober is not turning down a drink. It’s admitting to people that I don’t drink. 

The looks, the surprise, the questions, I receive from people when I order my virgin cocktail or non-alcoholic beer is, embarrassing. It makes me feel belittled and awkward. I am confident that I do not need to drink to have fun. So why do others question my ability to be social, without having a drink?

Why do my peers find it so peculiar that I don’t drink alcohol? Ask yourself, would your reaction in a situation like this be much different? It can be so unintentional. To be honest, these responses come mostly from my friends and other people I regularly socialise with. 

So, if there is anything you can take from this post, it’s to be less judgemental. If you come across someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, be it myself, or anyone else, think before you respond. Remember that not everyone drinks alcohol to be fun and drinking alcohol is not a positive experience for everyone.

I am happy and comfortable with myself. I know I don’t need any substances to enjoy a night out. If anything, I’m having more fun without alcohol than I ever had before!

 

Hi, my name is Erin, I am currently in my final year studying Design Management at UAL in London. I shave suffered from my mental health from the age of 10 years old. My diagnoses are still ongoing but suspected off; Depression, Anxiety, Autism, Bipolar and Borderline personality disorder. I began writing for Student Minds in order to share my own experiences of my journey with mental health. The aim is to increase awareness and to decrease the stigma attached to mental illnesses as a whole.


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