I'd like your advice about drinking alcohol - or abstaining from drinking - and dealing with my emotions and seasonal affective disorder.
I've recently stopped drinking alcohol, at least for the time being. I'd like your opinion on two issues related to abstention: the swirl of emotions I'm experiencing, and how/whether abstention or moderate drinking affects someone with seasonal affective disorder.
My drinking pattern in the last 18-24 months has been somewhat like the poster of this
prior question. I never have been a binge drinker, but I didn't like the fact that I was consistently drinking 2-3 servings per night, 5-7 nights per week, whereas I'd previously been a 2-3 nights/week drinker, at most. I attribute the increase to stressful events in my life (illnesses, job changes), and the increase happened fairly incrementally until I recently took stock of just how much alcohol I was consuming. I didn't have that poster's feelings of shame following nights of drinking, but I noticed that my physical health was starting to suffer. I decided to stop drinking altogether in late August, at least for the time being, with a possible resumption date in mid-October after I complete a half-marathon for which I'm training. I believe this to be the longest period of time I haven't been drinking in at least 10-12 years. (I'm 37.)
It's generally been a positive experience, nearly one month in. Better sleep, easier training for the race, a little weight loss. For the most part, I feel better - not by an order of magnitude, but in small yet meaningful ways. This
question has been helpful in giving me a sense of what to expect. It's also been very helpful to recognize the importance of several non-drinkers in my life, and to acknowledge that I admire them and the interesting lives they lead without alcohol.
I like alcoholic drinks and may resume drinking at some point, but I'm contemplating remaining teetotal for some time beyond my self-appointed mid-October possible resumption date, as I like the effects of not drinking. I have two questions that may affect my decision to resume or continue to abstain:
1. The one possible negative effect I've noticed is that my emotions seem like they're much more volatile, and closer to the surface, than they were before. This makes sense, on the theory that alcohol consumption was suppressing my emotions when I was drinking. And it isn't clearly a bad thing - getting more sleep, being more alert, and exercising regularly are helping me deal constructively with the things that anger, frighten or sadden me. That said, for someone who has considered himself fairly mellow, I'm a little unnerved by the experience. Examples: sudden bursts of rage at other drivers' minor infractions; renewed concern about personal finances (a long-time issue for me that was much more muted when I was drinking). For those who've noticed this aftereffect of stopping drinking, can you tell me if, in your experience, this effect moderates over time? If so, do you think it's just getting used to really feeling
things more clearly again, better management techniques for emotional peaks and jags, or some mix of the two?
2. I also suffer from SAD during wintertime. I'd be interested to hear how abstention or limited drinking has affected anyone who also suffers from SAD. It seems pretty obvious that ingesting a depressant would worsen seasonal depression, but I'd love to hear about any first-hand experiences. (I didn't see anything pertinent in the prior SAD AskMe questions.) Perhaps there are some who stop or moderate their drinking in winter, and resume or pick up the frequency in the warmer months? I do up the Vitamin D and sun exposure in winter already, and am contemplating light box therapy.
In all candor, a nice whiskey, beer or glass of wine in winter can be very comforting. If you've seen improvement in your SAD by abstaining or drinking only in limited amounts, though, I'm willing to try it myself.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.