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Depression, Anxiety, and Alcohol Abuse

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I am a 21 year old female college student. Of course everyone in college drinks, but I have been drinking since I was a freshman in high school. I’ve always had a lot of friends and most people refer to me as “The plastic bottle princess”, or something of that nature because I drink cheap vodka, and they know I can out drink almost anyone. I have people come up to me and challenge me to drinking contests to see if they can beat me. I also meet people and they say to me “You’re _______, I heard about that thing you did when you were drunk” People I have never met know me because of my drunken stories being told.

My drinking started when I was younger slowly as in drinking about once a month, then turned to every weekend. When I was 18 I moved out and into an apartment with my friends. I drank on Thursday-Sunday, with the occasionally random night.

From 20 to now, I find someone to go out with me almost every night. I spend more money on booze, then anything else. In my mind I have to be drunk to go to the bar, so I take between 8-12 shots before even going out. I can easily stop drinking but I have more fun while being drunk. I still attend my classes, and get decent grades. I also work full time, and going to work is not a problem. It’s not to the point where I need alcohol, I just like it. Both of my parents are alcoholics and I don’t get along with them because of it. I fight with them all the time, and call them out, so I fear that I will turn into them.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at a very young age. I’ve dealt with that and was fine until recently. Nothing traumatic has happened to make these fears and depression come back, but its back and I find myself drinking more because it makes me feel better. Over this past Christmas I got a stomach ulcer, which I think was because of all the booze and didn’t drink for a month, so it’s not that I can’t stop. I know that in terms of an alcoholic, I may be one, but I know I can stop if I need too. I just don’t know why I feel as if I need to drink so much booze, if I have one beer, or one shot, I won’t stop until I’m drunk. I don’t know if I should seek therapy or what I should do. It’s been a growing concern for me because my roommates (who I have lived with since I was 18, called me out on my drinking last week) Do you have any suggestions on what I should do besides going to AA? Are there therapists that can help me with cutting back?

Thank you.

Alcohol is undoubtedly a problem in your life. It would be a mistake to believe that it is not because you don’t “need” it. Everything you have written suggests otherwise. Psychologically, you need alcohol. You can’t have fun without it. It has become a major focus in your life.

Contrary to popular belief, college is not all about drinking and getting drunk. College is about gaining the knowledge and skills that will be necessary to be successful in the world. Those who do drink heavily throughout their college years can be hurt by it in a variety of ways. For some, their drinking becomes so problematic that they have to drop out of school. Luckily, you are not at that point and you may never be but it could happen without intervention.

An additional concern is your family history of alcoholism. Having two alcoholic parents increases your likelihood of developing an alcohol abuse disorder. Some research has shown that alcoholism is genetic but no direct genetic link has been found. Others believe it is environmental. No one knows for certain.

Alcohol and drugs make people feel good. When you’re high, you don’t have to think about life problems. Being high is an escape from life, from reality.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a great place to start. If you’ve never been to a meeting, then you should try going to at least one. Don’t base your opinion on AA on what others say. Attend a meeting and judge the organization for yourself. AA, in my opinion, is wondrous. We are lucky that such an organization exists. I would like to thank them publicly for the amazing help that they give to everyone who is willing to try. Some say they are a cult. Those naysayers are simply the people who aren’t ready to stop drinking. Denouncing AA is a convenient way to stop themselves from getting the help that is available to them. Thank you Alcoholics Anonymous and thank each and everyone who is a part of that organization.

If AA is not enough, psychotherapy is also an option. Psychotherapy can help you explore the underlying reasons why you feel that it is necessary to drink. Psychotherapy can also teach you alternative ways to experience the joy in life. I would suggest utilizing the mental health services at your university.

Though you are minimizing your alcohol problem, at some level you recognize that you need help. That is very good. Getting help now could save your life. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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