Bipolar Disorder and Drinking

Last night I drank.


OK. You probably don’t need to alert the media. But I do need to alert you about the horrible effects alcohol can have on a person with bipolar disorder.

Drinking Alcohol

I’m human. I’ll admit it right now; I am. And one of the things this means is that I’m subject to human cravings and desires and occasionally I like to have a drink. It’s not the biggest deal in the world but it’s something that I shouldn’t do. But then, there are a lot of things in life that I shouldn’t do and I get tired of not doing them all.

And I was feeling weak and weary and tired of my own mind and my own troubles so I drank some gin. This is something that takes place in every restaurant, in every bar, in every pub, every day.

Of course, I’m not like those people. I’m a medicated bipolar. For me, drinking is more meaningful.

CB106470One Drink Equals a Lot

And one of the things about drinking is that one drink tends to do the work of many drinks for a person on bipolar medication. For a female, one drink does not, typically, put someone over the legal limit to drive, but for a medicated person it sure should. One drink on an empty stomach tends to hit me like a whole night of drinking. I go from sober to strawberry fields in minutes. Alcohol is like that.

And drinking also destabilizes bipolar disorder. Alcohol is one of the things doctors tell you to avoid, not just because they’re doctors and they’re like that but because alcohol can induce bipolar mood swings. It’s a drug. And not a very nice one at that.

Alcohol and the Brain

And alcohol is not a simple, clear-cut drug either. It works in your brain and throughout your nervous system on GABA, dopamine and other neurotransmitters critical to mood and well-being.

Alcohol Impairs Thought

Well, duh, you’re saying – that’s why you drink it! But it doesn’t just impair unpleasant thoughts; it impairs useful trains of thought as well. Like all those great cognitive behavioral therapy skills you’ve been practicing don’t work so well after a martini. It tends to leave you both shaken and stirred.

Last Night

And so, I found myself drowning out unpleasantness only to find myself wrapped in a cloak of greater, more salty, unpleasantness. Sure, I had been tired of my usual place in the world but I had failed to take into consideration how carefully constructed that place was. How much work it takes for me to beat back all the bipolar thoughts I have every moment of the day. I take for granted that I’m doing it. Because now, beating back the thoughts that would try to kill me is like breathing.

And alcohol undid my breathing.

Which makes alcohol dangerous. Not dangerous because of what it inherently does to you, but dangerous because of the way it compromises control over your own brain. Your control. The thing that keeps you whole. The thing that reminds you that your kids matter. The thing that remembers that pain is temporary. The thing that prevents you from hurting yourself. The control that keeps you upright and in one piece.

Now I am fine, of course, no reason to panic. I just got slapped upside the head with a reminder. Drinking is bad. Drinking will get my cheeks wet. Drinking will cause me suffering. No matter how seductively it promises to take my pain away. It’s a big liar.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

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63 Responses to Bipolar Disorder and Drinking

  1. sarah says:

    I buried my love of my life two weeks ago due to alcohol and his mental illnesses. He was diagnosed with bipolar along long time ago. He had multiple suicidal episodes that landed him in hospital on a bunch of those occasions. This past year with me he did these threats multiple times. I tried everything from feeding in to going against but he liked the dramatics and I assumed he was doing it for a reaction. And this time he did. He was only like this when drinking. Sober, he was perfect! Short temper but nothing a relationship doesn’t deal with. He was making huge progress last year. Graduating school, getting job right away in field, staying on meds, traveling, working on paying off debt and increasing credit. Yes I helped him a lot to go through it but he made the choices to achieve them. He would go month or months with no drinking because he knew it didn’t mix well with his head but once a relapse happen and something wouldn’t go his way, a switch would flip and he turn into different person. Yelling at me in front of friends. Accusing me of being with other guys . calling me bad names. But he was never like that sober. He was quiet actually and alcohol changed him! I wanted to leave him after each time but I knew the real him as a person and I loved that guy. But I just couldn’t stop it this time. I even put myself in danger and wrestled him twice for the gun. He was black out by then. Just like every time. He went one step further and actually pulled the triggar. Had he been sober, he wouldn’t do this. Alcohol released the demons. I really want to bring awareness to mental illness that it is OK to admit it and to seek help. He was coping with this mental illness just fine. medical Marijuana helped him alot too. But please take these attempts serious. I did ever time but obviously not enough to stop what had happened. I believed he was maybe more borderline personality disorder but he could of had both. He was never sad sober. Sure he had his off days but who doesn’t? Alcohol is not worth it.

  2. sarah says:

    Forgot to add… I am 28. he was 31. I should of gotten rid of guns but I thought he changed up to that night . . . If only we would of thrown him into treatment for good. What ifs will be my life for now on but I know that won’t help me cope. I’m just glad he had an awesome last year and got to feel real love. I hope he believed it. He had his doubt’s and he always needed reassurance but at least we got to say ‘I love you’ every. Single. Day. Rip baby

  3. Mike says:


    So sorry for your loss and what you went through. Yeah alcohol can release demons. I think for bipolar folk those demons are always there though so I would not say alcohol killed him but his demons/illness did. The promise of brief reprieve from torment and alcohol can be strong. The inhibitions come down and all the uncontrolled emotions rush in like a ferocious tide. Each time it rages in and out it causes damage and bipolar people get weary of the rollercoaster, guilt anger etc. .

  4. Charmaine says:

    I’m suicidal guys help I’m iv bin depressed for a wik nw

  5. Hi Charmaine,

    I’m so sorry to hear you are depressed and suicidal. I know how hard that is. You need to reach out. You need to call a helpline or talk to a professional immediately. Please find our helplines and resources page here:

    - Natasha Tracy

  6. hami ham says:

    I am 25 now made 25 on vals day I have the symptoms and all that ranging from hitting walls when am annoyed in a bid to calm ma self wit the pain to hating the world and my self at given times. I have never taken any medication and I still get manic episodes ma biggest worry is that maybe ma parents will not take me seriously if I told them and also the fact that here in uganda we may have very few who have some knowledge about the disorder am planing to go to hospital abt it but I ain’t sure if its the best idea though pliz advice

  7. jess says:


    Please do call a help-line and ck into the resources given. You can get through it, may feel like the end of your world, but it’s just not, keep going sweetheart. I send much love to you. It’s okay, breathe in this next moment and know that there is hope.

  8. jane says:

    My 33 year old daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 16. Very few period of stability in all these years. She has 3 children that I have custody of. She’s made horrible choices, e end leading to a 15 year prison sentence. She still didn’t learn a thing. She is an addict, and has used since a teen. She is facing prison if revoked but still she’s now been drinking heavily for well over a year. She was drinking into the wee hours of the morning, then driving with my grandchildren in the car. We had to take the car away as it was also in my husband’s name. We don’t allow her to have kids anymore unless supervised, so she refuses to come see them. They are 16, 12, and 7. The middle one was physically and sexual abused by her second husband who is in prison on drug charges that also sent her to prison. They had a meth lab in the home with my grandsons living there. She has stopped taking all meds but her lamictal, but the drinking has long since made it stop working. We had to just walk away and let her go. I know things will possibly end up being bad for her but she refuses to listen. Don’t know what else to do. At least the kids are safe and stable here.

  9. Kristine says:

    I married to a man that has a bipolar .when he is sober he is loving ang caring person.but when he is drunk he is abusive verbal and physical and just recently the physical was very traumatic that my memory shut down at that moment.i woke up in hospital asking why i was there thanks god im alive and still normal but i have trauma wich i cant remember what happen on the time of waiting for hospital result.this incident happen 2 weeks ago.we had our 1st court trial and his at the mental hospital for observation…his friend told me to file a divorce but i love my husband and wanted him to family is scared of my husband what if we will be together and he will end up killing me.i do not know what to decide at this time.

  10. christylynn says:

    I have been with a bipolar man on and off for 2 years. We both enjoy drinking but somehow it normally ends badly. If we start off arguing I drinks more to try and ignore the problem and I end up drinking to the point at which I do not remember what happened. This occasionally leaves me with bruises and I even once climbed out his window while he was out of the room because I was so scared. We currently aren’t speaking and I am going to aa meetings and reading how to respond to his bipolar episodes. I know he declines when we are not together and so do I so my only thought right now is getting alcohol totally out of the picture. I pray that this helps.

  11. Mike says:

    My partner of 14yrs, tried to deal with grief by drinking 18mths ago. She found herself doing things, and going places that any person in a relationship would never do. Now I’m no angel, but I found I was on the border of domestic violence coping with the vile abuse. After nearly a year of deceit and infidelity she was done for DUI.
    It was here she was diagnosed with depression and bi-polar. I haven’t dealt with it very well, going on stupid w.sites haven’t helped. But she continues to drink, not everyday(her dr says only on special occasions) a few times a week. I feel that by her still drinking she is not remorseful for her actions over the past year, shes just so argumentative when she drinks. Am I wrong to assume this. I just want my old partner back, medicated or not.. She just thinks everyone is against her..
    I ask her to stop drinking-I’m told I’m just being controlling. I only want an affectionate loving partner I had. Not to mention the damage its doing to our 11yr old son……?

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