I have heard the siren song of alcohol and marijuana. Craved the quieting of my thoughts, the slowing down. Prescribed medications do help immensely, but I still understand and am wary of alcohol’s hold on me. I have that Irish gene, that propensity to become an alcoholic. I can sense it in me and fear it.

When my father-in-law was admitted into the ICU recently I went out and bought myself a six-pack of light beer. Told myself that I was just drinking a little, just one bottle of light beer each night, but I craved more. The feeling of intoxication wasn’t strong enough, didn’t last long enough. I metabolized its effects way too quickly and was left unsatisfied wanting more. After finishing the six-pack over the course of six nights, I bought myself a bottle of wine. Red wine is good for me I told myself, all while knowing that I was drinking to numb myself even if briefly and mildly. I realize that one bottle of beer a night may not qualify me as an alcoholic, but its hold on me does put me at risk. I poured out the bottle of wine as I spoke on the phone with a close friend.

Alcohol can damage our livers, our brains, and our relationships. It’s especially not good in combination with medication for mood disorders, intensifying those medications’ negative side effects as well as the effect of alcohol. The mood stabilizer valproic acid, or Depakote, can damage the liver, one reason why our doctors have us get labs done regularly. Antidepressants negatively interact with alcohol, as well. So, I should steer clear of alcohol.

Pot I stopped smoking twenty years ago under doctor orders when I was severely depressed. My doctor chided me, telling me that I know marijuana is a central nervous system depressant and that I should know better than to smoke it. I was a mental health professional at the time, counseling teens, no less, so I did know better. On my doctor’s advice, I quit. Still, even to this day, if I smell it, I crave it. When I was in my twenties and diagnosed depressed but not bipolar, back before I sought medical help for my illness, when I relied on therapy alone, marijuana slowed me down and made me stupid. A huge relief. I could not slow my thoughts down. Pot gave my mind rest. I do support the legalization and regulation of marijuana, and do believe that it has beneficial medical uses when prescribed under the treatment and supervision of a responsible and knowledgeable medical doctor.