First of all, no need to be sorry Bryan, it doesn't sound sour at all, it's a perfectly reasonable question. And in answer to your question, I'm pretty sure he would Bryan. He certainly often asks me about my drinking. I'm sure if I read the leaflets included in my medicines they would tell me to avoid alcohol. Unfortunately, like most bipolar folk I have a great fondness for mind altering substances. Around 50% of bipolars have some sort of substance abuse or dependence. For a real life experience visit Mrs P's current struggle.
I remember on my first visit to a shrink I was asked about my alcohol consumption. I guessed I was only drinking a bottle of red wine or 5 cans of beer each night and maybe a bit more at weekends... probably about 80 units a week. I was quite taken aback when the shrink said that I was close to the threshold where if I wanted to stop I would need be admitted to a hospital for detox. He had to be joking. I wasn't a down and out. I was a professional person. He also said I shouldn't be drinking at all with the medicines I was on at the time. Did I follow his advice? No. Taking antidepressants wasn't having any effect on me at all. Whereas I could feel the calming and relaxing effects of alcohol within 30 minutes. Over the following six months I was prescribed Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Venlafaxine, Lithium and L-Tryptophan. All with no benefit whatsoever, unlike alcohol which continued to relax me and satisfy some need within me. As I was no longer working I didn't even need to worry about being ill the next day. Were there any side effects from my alcohol therapy? Yes, after drinking excessively I did things I later regretted, tried to harm myself and others and also became known as a nutter to the local police.
Can alcohol be helpful? Well I think my mother actually cured her manic depression with alcohol. After being hospitalised with bipolar disorder in the 1960s, my mother started drinking heavily and then went on to develop full blown alcohol dependence. She spent the next 30 years despising the world and selfishly immersed in alcohol. But she never had another episode of clinical depression or mania. I'm sure I would do the same now if I lived alone. I would love to drink and get drunk every day and live in my own little bubble avoiding the outside world. Fortunately my wife keeps me on a short leash. She only lets me drink on Friday night and Saturday night. I have also devised a way to limit my drinking when I have one of those "lets go for it" nights. I never used to get hangovers but these days I feel hellish the morning after if I've been drinking red wine and subsequently don't like drinking it. So I've now trained myself that if I feel like having a real bender, I drink red wine and thus limit myself.
So to return to Bryan's original question. I think the shrink is happier now that I'm drinking about 30 units weekly instead of 100. It's not abstinence but it's a reasonable compromise.
And finally... I have just been reading about the 4 men arrested and charged with being involved in genocide in Rwanda. Britain has refused to extradite them unless Rwanda assures they will not be given the death penalty. Meanwhile in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was taunted before being hanged by masked men in a scene reminiscent of a lynching. Hanging is viewed as too barbaric for Peter Sutcliffe, Ian Brady and the Ipswich serial killer. We are a civilised country and these people have human rights. We invaded and devastated Iraq to improve their human rights. Unfortunately, even in the 21st century some animals are still more equal than others.
What a way to end 2006. Lets hope 2007 is better.