What’s Your Poison

Alcohol is bad for your brain.

If you’re under 25 years of age, this may not ring true to you. Not yet, anyway. The fleshy mecha that you walk around in is still spry and virile. You’re basically living inside of a big ol’ Brita filter that turns bad substances into pleasurable memories overnight. Usually, the worst thing that happens is that you don’t eat nearly as many buffalo wings as maybe would have been responsible, and you end up regurgitating a bucket of bulldog margaritas into the backseat of your Uber carpool. Hopefully there aren’t any videos floating around, but otherwise… It happens. You’re young, fun, and full of rum.

When you’re pushing 30, though, like me (and I imagine even moreso when you shove on by and full-on sprint toward death), it doesn’t quite add up to as much of a funny story anymore. Let’s be honest, no one wants to hang around that person who pukes in their cab every Friday. I just bought these kicks, Darlene! They’re from the Payless ShoeSource, sure, but still. They’re new.

See, just about midway through your third decade, that wrinkle-free skin suit that you’ve been wearing to and from Karaoke night and that creepy Ladies Drink For Free mixer, starts breaking down. Your warranty ran out, too. You were like some party-hungry Dalek out to exterminate all the bad times in the universe, but now an evening of imbibing spirits means a week of exorcising them.

This is doubly true for people who have depression.

I’m going to put on my Brain Scientist hat for this next bit, which really means my Google hat, so standby. Alcohol is both an intoxicant and a depressant, which affects the brain in complex ways. Even one little sip of crisp, refreshing Zima starts building up a surge of euphoria (“Surge of Euphoria” is my band name) and a reduction of your agitation and fear, which is a big mood and why people go absolutely banana daiquiris for the stuff.

When someone drinks to excess habitually, the brain compensates for the alcohol’s calming effects by releasing excitatory neurotransmitters, spiking your anxiety both during and in the days after you got your drink on, which is a microscopic mood for someone who already has that bummer of a condition.

Once we’re sailing on the choppy waters of High Anxiety, the island of Depressive Episode is only a few leagues away, and  nobody wants to get marooned on that floating turd. There’s no coconut radios or chicks in clam-shell bikinis or nothin’. It’s just that one scene in Cast Away where Tom Hanks tries to hang himself with rope he made out of tree bark, played over and over again.

A round of free shots can be difficult to pass on, though, if your deadbeat brain doesn’t ever produce even a drop of its own dopamine and serotonin. You find yourself saying, “Wait, so, if I drink this delicious bread water it’ll make me happy for a whole hour, and all I have to do is be miserable for a week or three afterwards!? Pfft, I’m already miserable!” It sounds almost worth it. Besides, you start telling yourself, if I do feel unwell afterwards, all I have to do is drink even more. [Taps forehead] If I never stop drinking, I’ll never feel sick. Loop hole, baby.

Except that obviously isn’t true, and you start disassociating while you nurse your seventeenth whiskey. Suddenly you’re the person who cries at parties, and if you agree that people don’t wanna chill with the puker, they most definitely don’t wanna hang around the crier. You’re bringing us all down, bruh. Try the dip.

The solution, unfortunately, is to abstain from the seductions of the sauce, like some kinda straight-edge nerd. I’m not going to lie to you and say that it doesn’t royally suck to show up to a function and resign yourself to being the Designated Pedestrian, but it’s better than talking to a bloodstained volleyball for a month, so there’s that.

And, anyway, it’s not like marijuana doesn’t still exist.

 

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