This is my first post here, it might get a little lengthy. A little background on myself: I am a mid-twenties male currently in grad school. I have had major depressive disorder and associated anxiety since I was 18 (officially diagnosed when I was 21). I have abused alcohol for almost the same length of time, starting when I began college. Anyways, I started using booze and pot for fun - hanging out with friends and partying. I really did not suffer too many (obvious) consequences until I was 21 and busted my head
open in Vegas after a alcohol-heavy St. Patrick's Day. Over time it has become more and more of a negative influence on my life, most noticeably the morning after when my depression seems to be back with a vengeance.
I do not rush to alcohol every time I feel depressed or anxious, but starting out grad school in a new town and trying to make a whole new set of friends has seemed to cause an uptick in social drinking (I am a moderately shy person, especially with new people - probably some mild social anxiety issues). t I really can't think of the last time I have gone more than a week without at least a few drinks. I do not consider myself an alcoholic (certainly up for debate) but I definitely abuse it more than any medical professional would deem safe or healthy. On occasion I will drink alone, usually in much smaller quantities than I would socially.
I am well aware that depressed people should not be drinking. I began seeing a psychiatrist at 21 and began taking antidepressants for about
the next 1.5 - 2 years. He made it pretty clear that I should strictly limit my drinking, while not judging me too harshly. At this point I was probably consuming the most alcohol, in the summer of my 21st year when going to the bars was new and exciting (3-4 nights of binge drinking per week). It was great fun for the most part, but terrible for my brain chemistry. I cut back a bit after college, but am probably back up to 2-3 nights/week binge drinking. I was feeling a lot better after I began taking antidepressants, noted as well by then girlfriend, who besides a psychiatrist and psychologist has been the only person to whom I have ever really admitted my depression fully (my parents are aware from insurance fees and I am sure quite a few friends have noticed). Since then my depression has ebbed and flowed, and I have come to the conclusion that antidepressants are more a placebo (at least personally) and that I need to address my underlying issues to fully recover from depression.
The other night I went out to a concert and proceeded to get very intoxicated. I will skip over some details but say that I now have a good friend who is very unhappy with me related to a very stupid mistake. I am hopeful that we can resolve the issue, but I am pretty ashamed and concerned for my reputation. Prior to this (the last month or two), I have noticed a significant increase in stress due to school and work becoming demanding. A combination of sleep deprivation, binge drinking, cigarette smoking (never been hooked, but recently I have been flirting with it far too much - currently working on cutting those out completely) has wreaked havoc on my ability to focus, particularly at work. This can't continue much longer.
As I write this out it is even more clear that I should cut back significantly, if not quit, alcohol. However, socializing does seem to revolve around alcohol quite a bit with my friends here and back home. I guess I am looking for advice on how to begin cutting back -- I cannot realistically say that I can quite cold turkey, at least not in the immediate future.
For the record, I sought out psychotherapy immediately upon moving to my current
10 months ago), and stopped seeing him about
2 or 3 months ago after he moved -- we were both in agreement that I was doing well (I was, mostly) and was ready to go it alone and see how things went. Right now I would like to try things on my own due to the costs of therapy and its limitations. I believe that I have the ability to at least make significant improvements on my own after gaining skills in therapy and from my own research. But I could really use some tips and advice from somebody who has been here before ... unfortunately for me I really do enjoy moderate drinking with friends, but I do not know if it is possible for me to consume any level of alcohol and fully recover from my depression. It will be very obvious to my friends if I quit drinking, and I am sure most would be very understanding and supportive if I explained why, but I'd rather it be a gradual cut-back process. Even if I were to successfully quit drinking, I feel like it would negatively impact my social life -- I know there are those who socialize soberly, and I commend them, however even as a completely sober person I would connect better with those who enjoy a little chemical enhancement on the weekends. I know people who drink significantly more than me and maintain much better mental health, but it appears that for me the costs of alcohol are outweighing the benefits.
Thank you to anyone who has made it this far through my long story. I apologize for the lack of flow between thoughts. I am finishing off what is left of my alcohol tonight, and from there who knows? I already have plans to celebrate my friend's birthday next weekend at where else - the bars. Perhaps I could be a designated driver. Alcohol has not really helped me meet a new woman in the past 11 months after a long relationship, so I should probably look at other ways of socializing. Any non-rehab advice is greatly appreciated.
Post Edited By Moderator (getting by) : 6/18/2011 8:24:13 PM (GMT-6)