Alcohol and Depression

When we drink alcohol the party gets going and it all seems great but the ending is not always so. When we begin to drink we get an instant celebratory high but if we keep drinking, drinking and drinking the night can become weird.

We can end up having: forgettable sex, shameful behaviours, feelings of emotional anger plus experiencing a horror day afterwards with feelings of guilt, depression and loneliness. What a bummer when the night started off so well.

Depression brought on by alcohol use is a medical fact but the great thing is if we stop drinking the depression will lift in no time at all. There is a cycle that goes like this: love a drink, love another, and another, then drunk, then depressed, then loneliness. This is especially the case if we drink alone at home.

When we drink our pre-frontal cortex, which controls the regulation of our emotions is disabled, making us less able to manage our free-floating thoughts. Emotions and feelings come and go in our minds throughout the day and our pre-frontal cortex deals with them rationally. But if we drink a lot – bingo – we experience little control of these same negative emotions. That is why alcohol violence is so prevalent. When the person becomes sober again they find it hard to understand who that other person was – who behaved so badly. I have had clients who have ruined weddings, thrown wine in peoples faces, smashed up houses, attempted to drown them selves, hit their best friends, blah, blah, and blah.

Then there is the home drinker who drinks excessively every night (with a bottle of wine or more) and feels constantly depressed (because that amount of alcohol does that chemically) and then feels isolated, lost and lonely. That is a horrible habit to get into and experience.

But as I said before a lot of depression can be chemically eradicated instantly by giving up alcohol. To test this research, have a go yourself. If you drink every day stop for 2 days a week and see how much better you feel the following days. You will sleep better for a start, have more energy and your brain will function clearer. If you feel you are really out of control with drinking give it up for a month. You will lose weight, feel great, greatly reduce depression and be so much richer. You will love yourself so much more as well.

Most of all my clients prefer to manage alcohol better rather than give up completely. This means them coming up with a program of better management like: 2 days off a week, half filling wine glasses, drinking water between drinks, not having alcohol at home, etc. Everyone’s program is different.

I also ask my clients to give the person who gets drunk and out of control (them) another name. They then write stories about what this other person did under the influence of excessive alcohol. This really helps as the brain easily forgets these bad shameful memories.

What advice can you give to others about controlling alcohol consumption to relieve the symptoms of depression and loneliness? Or what are your experiences or thoughts about managing drinking?

If Only I Was the Person My Dog Thinks I Am

A cute saying but maybe we are already the person our dog thinks we are. Maybe deep down however we fail to congratulate ourselves, for not only surviving as a gay person in a straight world, but also failing to appreciate our personal life successes. I am convinced we don’t love ourselves enough and in doing so we negatively affect our self-esteem.

We made it through childhood feeling a bit of an outsider, struggled when we found out we were gay, finally accepted it and then marched on into the world seeking validation from family and others. For many of us growing up was a much harder journey than that of our straight friends, who already had an easy blue print to follow for societal acceptance. So let’s congratulate ourselves for this personal resilience and courage.

Then off we went to find: a career in the world, somewhere to live, flat mates, further study, lovers, ways to tackle the gay scene, new friends and also stay connected to our family along the way. So we are hugely successful.

Because human brains have a negative bias we often however allow negative self-talk that says we are not sexy enough, successful enough, rich enough, social enough, creative enough, or overall just not good enough.

Our minds are full of noise and crap thinking about our selves and others. We face a constant barrage of thoughts and feelings relevant to past events and nothing whatsoever to do with here and now living reality. Some of the noise is often not true and merely is a collection of distorted recollections and personal positions.

Do you know what I am talking about? Those feelings you have about work colleagues or the boss, the friend you don’t see any more or the lover you have issues with. Try this, think of nothing when next interacting. Feel the freedom of not judging. Hear what they have to say without any perception filters.

Maybe there is room for improving how we interact with the world? Maybe we could challenge ourselves more to be healthier? Maybe we could engage in more worthy activities and maybe we could try to be a better partner, friend or work colleague? We can decide to do this and still love ourselves at the same time for being our authentic self.

The one thing dogs always do, that humans don’t, is offer unconditional positive regard. They give us a big welcome and every meeting is a new invitation for positive interaction. Maybe we have a lot to learn from our doggy friends.

To get in touch with the authentic you, that your dog sees, try meditation for a few minutes at the beginning of each day. See the free phone ap, “Take a Break”. Also I highly recommend every gay man reads the book, “Velvet Rage” by Alan Downs, who discusses how you can better get in touch with your authentic self.

Gerry North is a gay couple and general counsellor treating depression, anxiety, sexual issues and addictions. Email: gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com