Originally posted on STIGMAMA.com at Holiday Drinking Triggers Me, by Kitt O’Malley.

Glass of red wine with holiday lights in backgroundHolidays I find unsettling. Not only are the days far too short, but visiting family can destabilize me and trigger bipolar symptoms. I acutely feel a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, drinking minimally, but craving intoxication, more so when triggered. The holidays trigger me for I am surrounded by family members who drink, some who drink to excess daily. In spite of thirty-two years of psychotherapy, it still pains me to see those I love dearly drinking or worse-yet drunk. What pains me the most is seeing my once vibrant father suffering from alcohol-related dementia. His cognitive abilities deteriorate quickly throughout the day and evening as he gets progressively more intoxicated. Both my mother and I become more emotional labile, sensitive, and reactive as we drink. Such is a recipe for repeated family drama.

Still, I desire the intoxicating effect of alcohol. When watching TV, I track alcoholic beverages. In The Big Bang Theory they hold and gulp wine in every episode. In Blue Bloods, Tom Selleck drinks whiskey. When grocery shopping, I am very aware of the aisle with alcohol and try to avoid it. Unfortunately, the wines face those snacks my husband and son enjoy. When I socialize with people who are drinking, that deep craving, that yaw opens, and I, too, drink. I do not drink to excess, but I drink for a biochemical reaction, for my brain to be slowed down and numbed, for that feeling of intoxication, not because I enjoy the flavor. I am no connoisseur. I am, perhaps, an addict who drinks minimally. Likewise, I still remember what marijuana smells like. I still have a visceral reaction when remembering that heady scent, when recounting how I used marijuana decades ago for relief, to slow down and be stupid.