Saturday 14 March 2020

Navigating My Tricky Relationship with Alcohol

Annie talks about her difficult relationship with alcohol and how she’s beginning to recover.
- Annie Bocock

Alcohol. Booze. Tipple. Bevvies. It has always been a little bit of a problem for me. Drinking encouraged me to be uncomfortably fearless and boisterous. I’d drink very small amounts, which would lead to me being loud for attention in a desperate plea to have my close friends like me more. I only made them worry and I don’t think that’s ever truly gone away. This became apparent to me when I started university. In Freshers Week I immediately found myself out of my comfort zone, so I drank, especially when I struggled to talk at parties, or on nights out. I did it to calm down, to numb all of the anxiety I was feeling, but it didn’t work. I would have panic attacks and would experience dangerous rushes of negative emotion which only isolated me further. 

After a year of struggling to fit I was extremely relieved to start making friends during my second year. This came with a lot of delayed drinking and nights out. It was fun but my only regret is that I sometimes found myself unable to stop drinking once I had started, which had negative consequences. My change in behaviour came after two specific events: 

  • One night I broke my front tooth after losing control of myself. Luckily my friends were there to swiftly take me home and look after me but when the morning came, I was distraught.  
  • The second, and more frightening experience, was when I woke up at 6am, after blacking out, on a bus with none of my belongings and a severely sprained ankle. I was extremely lucky to retrieve pretty much everything, but it was still the biggest wake-up call to change my behaviour, despite what may have happened that night. 

Ever since those two instances I’ve tried my best to really look after myself when I’m drinking and despite the occasional slip-up it’s gone smoothly! 

For students, or anyone, who thinks they may be in a similar situation, I can only offer my own advice on what has worked for me. Everyone is different so I urge you to access services (your GP, university counsellors, etc.) if you think you need help. But regardless here are some things that helped me in my path to recovery: 

  • Don’t feel like you have to drink to be more social! For me, it became a habit or a dependency when I was particularly nervous about socialising, but it didn’t work.
  • If you want to drink, do it for the right reasons and in moderation. I now drink primarily for the taste and mostly socially.
  • If you do want to get drunk, space it out. I’ll now set a time limit of around half an hour or more before I buy a new drink after finishing my old one, which may be normal for most people, but it really helped me since I was someone who’d rush straight off to get another.
  • Carry a set amount of cash with you. You may be less inclined to drink in excess, and therefore also to spend less.
  • Have set amounts of time where you don’t drink, if you want to! You don’t necessarily have to quit but you can certainly take prolonged breaks. 

I think it can be hard for young people, especially if they’re vulnerable, to have a healthy relationship with alcohol. I’ve never been an alcoholic, but I have had a hard relationship with it and it leaves me in the middle.

For more information on finding support, click here. Find out more about managing alcohol at university on page 32 of Student Minds' Transition guide

Hi! I’m Annie Bocock and I’m an alumni of the University of York. As a Press Ambassador for Student Minds, I enjoy writing and speaking about my own experiences of mental health and the general complexities of mental health. It’s so rewarding seeing how others can gain something from my experiences.

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