I am happy. Why do I want to get drunk?
March 11, 2011 3:48 PM   Subscribe

I have several good reasons to be happy for the first time in a long while. I am happy. Why do I want to get drunk now?

Life has been really tough for a couple of years, with ill family members, sadistic bosses/unemployment, and supporting friends who have also had some hard times. In the last six months I've been working on retooling my life, and my plans are working out beyond my most optimistic imaginings. I got admitted to the grad school program of my choice last week, and am beside myself with happiness. Soon I will also move back to the state where I grew up, which I've wanted to do for years. Also recently I rekindled a relationship with an old friend/boyfriend which is working out incredibly well. (We never split up because we didn't get along--it was all, always, timing circumstances, and we've been friends 20+ years.) We are both so happy. In a couple of months I'll be living near him and going to school.

So I am happy, almost overwhelmingly so. So riddle me this: why do I want to drink NOW? I've abused alcohol off and on in my adult life, generally as a way to self-medicate for stress, anxiety, and ADD. Alcohol has not been a problem for me in a dozen years, though. I rarely drink when I'm in an unhappy mood, as it never helps and always makes things worse. But when I'm happy, Katy bar the door, as we say down south. A couple of nights in the last week I've sat down and pounded 4-5 drinks, and I am not a large person. I started early in the evening, food was involved at some point, I drifted down, I went to bed and slept. I didn't feel too bad the next day, just a bit tired and maybe even vaguely calmer than pre-binge. Which may just be a clue.

Does anybody else react this way to happiness? I really want to be awake and aware and feel everything that is going on, really be reflective, but part of me just wants to get my drink on and NOT think for some reason.

For reference, I'm female, 40s, medicated successfully for anxiety.

Thanks for reading.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: "Timing AND circumstances." Typos R me. Meh.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 3:59 PM on March 11, 2011

Well, I think the best clue comes from So I am happy, almost overwhelmingly so. Your shrink, if you've got one, can (and should) help you understand why you are gravitating towards behavior that's proven destructive in the past. You certainly wouldn't be the first person to screw things up because you feel, somewhere, that you don't "deserve" to be happy. I hope you can hash this out with someone smart -- sounds like life is on the verge of being grand, and when it is, how brilliant (not to mention, the unsolicited bad stuff will rain down on its own, don't help it!). Good luck.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:00 PM on March 11, 2011

Not to mention, for lots of people, drinking = celebrating, so when I'm happy I tend to drink it up a bit. But I don't have a history of issues with alcohol.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:03 PM on March 11, 2011

Changes, even positive ones, can be stressful. Not all stress is negative, but just the sheer volume of changes may trigger that need to check out.

As an alcoholic in recovery, I know I want to drink when I feel shitty but I'm usually surprised that I want to drink when I feel really good. I heard a quote once (attributed to Marie Antionette) "I only drink chamagne when I'm incredible happy or incredibly sad".
It may just be the sheer amount that you're feeling which is causing you to want to numb a little.

I also find that I operate on adrenaline/fight-or-flight when I'm going through a protracted stressful time and it is always when the stress has abated and life has gotten manageable that I have to deal with the emotional aftermath that comes after I've exited survivial mode. Just my experience, hope it helps.

I'm sure you're aware there are a lot of resources available for anyone who needs help with alcohol abuse, please get the help you need since you mention it has been an issue in the past. Feel free to memail me.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 4:18 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

You ask if anyone's ever felt this way before, and this is as close as I've come to figuring out the self-destructive desire in that very happy state. I don't think you actually want to destroy anything, but more like test the rigidity and sturdiness of it.

I'm gonna take a wild stab in the dark and suggest that maybe you want to drink in order to see if these changes are permanent. In other words, if you can drink, fight off a hangover, and still feel happy, then somehow the happiness you feel now is legit and not just some sort of illusion.

Of course, too much of the ol' testing of your happiness might bring legitimate problems back to the fore.
posted by fantasticninety at 4:31 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: I really appreciate the thoughtful answers and the many good points so far. I am overwhelmed, stressed by change but in a good way, and a little fearful that with a certain amount of success and happiness I also now have something to lose. Also I know I have a ways to go to fulfill the promise of these amazing days, because my new studies and new relationship are just beginning, and I sure don't want to f*ck them up. But it seems easier for you all to read what I've written and articulate that for me than for me to articulate it alone. I'm grateful! Please keep the thoughts coming.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 5:02 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Err... when I'm happy is when I like to drink the most, because for me, drinking amplifies pleasure. Drinking is fun. It's supposed to be fun. Drinking is one of life's affirmations. If you are now realising that it can be that way instead of a negative thing then don't feel bad about it.
posted by Decani at 5:05 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you are medicated for benzodiazapines (for anxiety or depression) then you should not be drinking at all.
posted by TheBones at 5:36 PM on March 11, 2011

Happiness destroys the struggle that holds everything in place. There's no control in it. Anything might happen. When you're on the floor, you know you won't be falling down.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:40 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think it's perfectly fine to drink and abuse alcohol when you are happy.
posted by jchaw at 5:51 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Personal data point - Since I began taking an SSRI for anxiety I've noticed an upswing in how much I want to drink. I have never been a drinker, but now tend to crave beer and wine.
posted by Constant Reader at 6:50 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Data point: no benzos. Just SSRIs.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 7:01 PM on March 11, 2011

Now you want to drink because your're happy.
Before, you wanted to drink when you were sad.

I think your brain is currently wired to find special snowflake reasons to drink.

I am hoping you can be creative in finding special reasons not to drink.
This might require meetings, therapy, and/or checking in with the doctor about your medication levels since you mention feeling calmer about things after drinking too much.

As you know, life can throw some really rotten curveballs at you...
Why reduce your ability to weather those bad times by over-drinking?
You DESERVE to be as fit and healthy as possible so you can get over the bad times and relish the good times.

Don't let down YOU.
posted by calgirl at 9:24 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

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