I remember it pretty clearly (as far as memories go). I was sitting on the bed of my sophomore dorm room one night. It was dark outside by this time of evening, but things were even darker in my mind. I hadn't slept well in weeks. When I tried, I would just get jolts of adrenaline and anxiety chemicals pulsing me back into a dazed state of forced wakefulness. I was miserable, not just from the lack of sleep and the anxiety resulting from (and perpetuating) it, but also from the growing storm clouds of hideously deep depression that were forming over me. There were times when I even daydreamed of dying. I didn't know how to get out of this awful mess of unhappiness my life had turned into. Hanging out with friends couldn't alleviate the burden weighing to heavily on my heart, but being alone was even worse. And how often I did find myself alone.
My roommate was dealing with her own issues, so she went home almost every weekend, leaving me to brood over my sorrows alone in a narrow white cement-walled room. It was one of these nights that I found myself in my customary place, cross-legged on my quilt-covered twin bed thinking the unimaginable for a pretty good-two-shoes Christian girl raised in a fairly conservative home: "If I could go get drunk now, I almost think I would." I was shocked at myself for thinking such a thing; I had already committed to never consume alcohol since I was quite conservative at the time and my family had never been drinkers. I hadn't ever had alcohol or wanted to until that point. But under the overwhelming weight of inexplicable, inescapable sorrow, I saw the appeal of being able to take my mind off of things, if only for a while. Give myself a break.
And it was then that I decided I really should never drink. Any commitment I had made before this was simply a moralistic rule-following made convenient by a cautious nature and lack of desire. This new decision was made with the awareness that if I turned to alcohol or another substance to give me relief from depression or social anxiety or whatever other soul-plaguing maladies I would wrestle with in my future life, I would start on the slippery slope to dependency. And more than that, I would rob myself of the chance to push myself and work through issues in a constructive, healthy way in order to become a stronger, wiser person with better coping skills because of my pain. I would rob myself of the chance to experience the pride of accomplishing in spite of my fears, knowing I had done so without the aid of any dependency, whether on a boyfriend or booze or compromising who I am to succumb to peer pressure or whatever else.
So I some people may consider me lame for not drinking, and I don't usually try to explain my justification for not boozing, but I know it is proof of my strength, not a sign of weakness. And it breaks my heart to see so many people turning to binge drinking and other substance abuse as a way of life or of relief. People pass it off as just a youthful escapade, a way to let loose, but I've come to wonder if much of it is masking or running from pain, anxiety, and issues that people don't know how to face. I know I risk sounding like a prude, and maybe I am one, but I think it's time we stopped perpetuating the drink drink party party culture and started offering hope and help and safe places and real fun through true, meaningful interactions with other people who accept us as we are, scars and bad habits and all.
I don't want to set myself up as a holier-than-thou person through this post; I have made many choices I'm not proud of. I was lucky enough to never be put into positions that would have tempted me to begin consuming alcohol. But I want to share my story to encourage others considering turning to substances to deal with depression and to encourage those who have made a commitment similar to mine and feel uncool or alone or like they're missing out because of it. Stand up for yourself. Keep pushing. There is hope. There is help. And even if you have turned to unhealthy things, there is hope.