I have a mental illness, and I choose to drink alcohol. I know that I am certainly not alone in this boat, and I don’t necessarily think that it is a bad thing. Having a mental illness makes many aspects of life more complicated – including drinking alcohol, but it can certainly be doable if you are informed, safe, and intentional.
Know Why You Drink.
I drink beer because I love the art form of brewing. I drink beer because it smells and tastes good. I drink beer because I enjoy sharing the experience with people. I drink because sometimes I just plain like the way it makes me feel. All of these reasons are fine reasons to occasionally drink beer.
When I find myself wanting to drink because I am stressed, or because I am sad, or because I had a bad day – these are warning signs.
When I find myself wanting to drink to numb my feelings or to checkout of reality or to black out – these are MAJOR red flags.
All people, but especially people struggling with mental health, should take the time to evaluate why they drink.
Know How Your Medication Interacts With Alcohol BEFORE You Drink.
Many people with mental health challenges are prescribed medications, or choose to self-medicate using illegal substances. Mixing both legal or illegal drugs with alcohol can be absolutely lethal. If you are on a new medication, find out how it interacts with alcohol. This can usually be done with a quick Google search. Keep in mind that even if an alcohol/drug interaction isn’t deadly, drinking could still significantly impact the drug’s effectiveness.
Don’t stop taking an antidepressant or other medication just so that you can drink. Most antidepressants require taking a consistent, daily dose to maintain a constant level in your system and work as intended. Stopping and starting your medications can make your mental health worse.1
Know Your Limit.
Everyone’s body reacts to alcohol differently. Keeping this in mind, there are a few standard things to consider:
-Smaller individuals are effected by alcohol faster than larger individuals.
-Food slows down the rate of absorption – that’s why alcohol affects you more quickly on an empty stomach.2
-Alcohol has a more severe effect on a biological female’s liver than on a biological male’s. As well as being unable to ‘break down’ alcohol as quickly, it takes longer to repair itself when damaged.3
-National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that men should not exceed 4 drinks per day or a total of 14 per week and women should not to exceed 3 drinks a day or a total of 7 per week.4
-Alcohol affects you in a way that changes your judgement, depth perception, as well as vital motor skills required to drive safely. It’s easy to think you are driving normally when truly you are not.5
-Give alcohol-free days a-go. If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. This is why many medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking to ensure you don’t become addicted to alcohol.6
Know the Facts.
-Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps regulate your mood.6
-People with bipolar disorder turn to alcohol in an attempt to quiet their symptoms, especially manic symptoms.7
-Extreme levels of drinking can occasionally cause psychosis. Psychotic symptoms can also occur when very heavy drinkers suddenly stop drinking and develop a condition known as ‘delirium tremens’.6
-More than one-third of suicide victims used alcohol just prior to death.8
-Nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.9
-In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).9
This applies to all people, but is especially pertinent to people with a mental illness: You should control your drinking, your drinking should not control you.
If you are starting to feel out of control of your drinking, if the idea of going a day alcohol-free seems impossible, or the symptoms of your mental illness are getting worse – get help. Talk to your doctor, or seek other professional help. Additionally, here are some resources for individuals challenged with a mental illness or who need help controlling their alcohol intake:
Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 from anywhere in the USA.
Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org/
If you are concerned with a drinking problem, wish to learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous or want to find A.A. near you, we can help you.
I want to say that I am writing from a personal perspective. I believe that there is a social stigma surrounding mental health, and I feel the best way to challenge this stigma is to talk about my experience. I am faced with multiple mental health obstacles, perhaps the most challenging being major depressive disorder and hypomanic episodes. I have gone through counseling and therapy, I have tried many types of medicine, I have been through inpatient treatment at a psych hospital, I have participated in multiple wonderful partial hospitalization programs, I have experienced success, I have experienced progress, and I have experienced failure. I know people challenged by mental health, and I have lost people to their mental health. What I’m writing about today is one perspective, my own, and in no way do I mean to offend or step on anyone’s toes – I merely wish to share my thoughts in hope of helping and informing others.
If you’re like me, the holidays can be a stressful and overwhelming time. So much baking, decorating, and snow clearing to do! Not to mention, you want to look your holiday best for that special mistletoe kiss. Never fear – I am here to present 4 Beers To Get You Through The Holidays.
The Perfect Cookie-Pairing Beer:
Moloko Milk Stout from 3 Floyds Brewing Co.
Skip the milk, leave this milk stout out for Santa!
Moloko Milk Stout pours a deep, dark black and is topped with a tan head. It also leaves gorgeous lacing down the glass as you drink. The aroma of this beer is subtle, hinting at sweet chocolate toffee and roasty malts. The taste starts with lightly charred marshmallow, and gives way to a sugary sweet chocolate vanilla swirl of flavor with hints of espresso at the tail. This beer is well balanced, and the alcohol does not over power at all. I love the creamy, present body. Perfect for fresh out of the oven sugar cookies!
The Perfect Decorating Beer:
Deal with the Devil Double Pale Ale from 18th Street Brewery
Because sometimes you wonder if you have to make a deal with the devil just to untangle those Christmas lights.
I was just recently fortunate enough to try this beer over Thanksgiving break, and I’m very glad I did! Deal with the Devil pours a hazy, dark amber color with a solid white head. The aromatics of this beer won me over instantly – strong juicy citrus notes, with a subtle but distinct sweet bready undertone. This beer tastes similarly to how it smells – sweet orange zest and slightly more bitter grapefruit notes, tropical mango, and delivered by a well balanced caramel malt throughout. Hoppy, citrusy, and not too much alcohol – they know the way to my heart. This was one of the best new beer I’ve had in a while!
The Perfect Post-Snow Shoveling Beer:
Dragon’s Milk Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout with Coffee & Chocolate from New Holland Brewing Co.
Some people want coffee or cocoa after being out in the cold. Let the bourbon, coffee, and chocolate of this brew knock off the edge instead!
Did you know that Dragon’s Milk was one of the early bourbon barrel-aged stouts in the US? That was way back in 2001, and now the barrel-aged scene has, obviously, EXPLODED. Not only was Dragon’s Milk one of the early BBA stouts on the scenes, it remains to be one of the most solid. Then New Holland decided to take their already delicious beer, age it with coffee & chocolate, and TA-DA! – you have one of their most sought after Reserves.
The Perfect Mistletoe Beer:
Speedway Stout from AleSmith Brewing Co.
Because in the end it doesn’t matter if you get kissed or not – this beer is so good you’ll want to give it a smooch!
There is a lot of hype surrounding this beer – and it does not disappoint. In the words of AleSmith themselves, “Speedway Stout’s ominous, pitch-black appearance has become a hallmark of this modern-day classic. Chocolate and roasted malts dominate the flavor, supported by notes of dark fruit, toffee, and caramel. A healthy dose of locally-roasted coffee from Ryan Bros. Coffee, Inc. added to each batch brings out the beer’s dark chocolate flavors and enhances its drinkability. Despite its intensity, Speedway Stout’s fine carbonation and creamy mouthfeel make it very smooth and surprisingly easy to drink.” As many people have shared, this beer absolutely improves with age. So why not pull a finely aged bottle out of your beer cellar to set the romantic tone for your special mistletoe smooch?
What beers do YOU sip to get through (or celebrate) the holidays? Which beer makes the best Christmas gift? Have you have any of these? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section!
There are a lot of factors that go into my identity, including my passion for craft beer. Another is the fact that I am Type 1 Diabetic. Join me today, November 14, in wearing blue to spread awareness on World Diabetes Day.
I am often asked if I am even “allowed” to drink beer as a diabetic. The short answer is yes, as long as I do so responsibly. For my fellow diabetics (or friends of diabetics) out there, I thought I would share this great infographic I found about Diabetes & Alcohol:
Thank you for all of your support in spreading awareness and searching for a cure. Living with a chronic illness that is so often misunderstood can be completely infuriating at times, but the love and hope from my support system is what gets me through.
Today I raise my beer to toast all my fellow Diabadasses out there, living everyday with their heads held high.
Join me and JDRF on our journey to create a world without T1D, ending its impact on millions. jdrf.org/T1DLooksLikeMe
‘Tis the season for all things pumpkin! While everyone else is enjoying their Pumpkin Spice Lattes, I’ll be over here enjoying this delicious Whiskey Pumpkin Milkshake.
2 cups vanilla cashew ice cream
1/4 cup cashew milk
1/2 a can of pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 shot of whiskey
Optional: crushed pecans & vegan whipped cream!
Throw it all in a blender, and blend! Top with whipped cream and crushed pecans. Enjoy!
Did you try the recipe? How did it turn out? Do you have any improvements or suggestions? Please comment below!
4 Micro-Reviews of Grapefruit Brews
Labor Day weekend has come and past, and I am slowly saying farewell to summer. I am excited for autumn, but won’t truly be able to embrace fall until the weather cools off. To help with my transition, I decided to finish off the last of my Grapefruit IPAs and share some micro-reviews with you! You’ll notice these are less serious, more train-of-thought reviews than my usual. Enjoy!
from Perrin Brewing Company in Comstock Park, MI
Style: India Pale Ale | ABV: 5% | IBUs: 35
This beer has been a summer staple for me since Perrin first released it in the spring of 2013. Brewed with real grapefruit, this beer is super sessionable, and balances out the traditional grapefruit tartness with a not-so-subtle sweet malty backbone. A refreshing pool, river, or lakeside beer. Perrin’s Grapefruit IPA is not nearly as hoppy as I prefer my IPAs, so if you are also looking for something a bit more IPA-like check out Juicy, the Grapefruit IPA’s big sister. Juicy is an Imperial Grapefruit IPA, brewed with 12 different hops and twice the amount of grapefruit – an untamed yet refined citrus bomb of goodness!
from Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits in San Diego, CA
Style: India Pale Ale | ABV: 7% | IBUs: 70
This was actually my least favorite of the bunch, which really surprised me. Sculpin IPA (the base beer) is a really solid IPA of which I love, and I am also a huge fan of the Pineapple Sculpin. The thing that got to me was the aftertaste – it was just TOO grapefruity. I think the bitterness of grapefruit masked the beer’s complexity throughout the palate, and by the end it just tasted like straight grapefruit juice. Well, boozy grapefruit juice. This beer was not for me, but if you dig grapefruit juice it might be worth giving a try.
from Sun King Brewing Company in Indianapolis, IN
Style: India Pale Ale | ABV: 7.5% | IBUs: 77
Grapefruit Jungle (GFJ) is one of Sun King’s annual one-off specialty beers. I had the pleasure of attending Sun King Brewing’s 7th Anniversary Party and release of this delicious beer earlier this summer. The 2016 GFJ has a super fruity nose – aromatics of grapefruit, tangerine, and apricot. The taste on this bad boy is a well-balanced roller coaster of bitter and citrusy hops, with malt undertones that keep it from getting out of hand. This careful combination of Amarillo (ruby grapefruit), Simcoe (resiny pine), and Cascade (sweet orange zest) hops make this not only a solid Grapefruit IPA, but a solid IPA in general.
Grapefruit Dead is my favorite of the four on this list. As a Double IPA it naturally boasts a higher level of hoppy delight. This beer is brewed with grapefruit juice, grapefruit zest, and – like Sun King – utilizes the Amarillo hop to fully capitalize on the bright bitter yet citrusy flavor. The front of the palate on this beer presents a sweet, almost caramel-like malt combined with grapefruit rind, and quickly slides into a wild garden of resiny grapefruit bitterness. This has a smooth mouth feel despite the occasional bitter pucker and ends with a pleasantly warm, boozy finish. Again, this is not only a solid Grapefruit IIPA, but a solid IIPA in general.
Have you had any of these beers? Do you have a favorite grapefruit beer? Is there a beer you would like to see me review? Let me know!
BOMB! – an Imperial Stout
from Prairie Artisan Ales in Tulsa, OK
I first became a fan of Prairie Artisan Ales when my husband Luke was in Tulsa for a work trip. He brought back a variety of their beer and they instantly won my heart (and taste buds) over. Now whenever I see Prairie at my local bottle shop, I’m inclined to pick up as many bottles as I can carry.
As the end of summer grows near and my husband and I return to work, we knew we couldn’t let things get boring and bland. Backyard sparklers while drinking BOMB! Imperial Stout is one great way to make sure this summer goes out with a bang!
BOMB! is an Imperial Stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chile peppers. It poured the color of dark espresso, topped with a quickly dissipating taupe head. The aroma was immediately led by a strong vanilla presence, which tapered off to distinct chili notes and the subtle underlying presence of coffee. My first sip was incredibly smooth with moderate carbonation. Sweet vanilla and earthy chocolate danced across my palate, the sweetness kept in check by the presence of a bitter espresso backbone. The chili spice didn’t show up until the end, which provided a pleasant, warm finish to the whole ensemble. This is definitely the best use of chili spice in beer I’ve had to date, primarily because the peppers aren’t aggressive, but are instead used to accentuate the other quality flavors. BOMB! clocks in at 13% ABV and 65 IBUs. For such a high alcohol content, this beer was far from boozy. The incredible balance of flavors mask the high-alcohol taste.
For those of you who love a good stout, I highly recommend this beer! I am a big fan of coffee beer, but tend to tread carefully when it comes to spicy beer – I have a fairly low heat tolerance. It takes a well-balanced, flavorful array that doesn’t leave my mouth and throat in pain. BOMB! did not disappoint.
Have you had BOMB! from Prairie Artisan Ales? What did you think of it? Is there a beer you would like to see me review? Let me know!
My first Polka Dots & Pints beer review was written nearly two years ago, after a trip to Toronto and a visit to Bellwoods Brewery. I adored every beer I tasted, but especially fell in love with Donkey Venom, a Brett Barrel-Aged Porter. It is easily among my top 5 favorite beers of all time. This weekend I was fortunate enough to travel back to Toronto and be reunited with this incredible place and their artful product. We had a great evening with old friends, delicious food, and excellently crafted brews. Trust me on this one, Bellwoods Brewery is a beer destination you do not want to miss.
Bonus: This time we were smart enough to snag a couple of bottles to take back to the States with us, so expect to hear more about those brews soon.
You can find my first beer review over on the old site:
Donkey Venom – a Brett Barrel-Aged Porter
Bellwoods Brewery nails it, from their quality beer to their hand crafted food. I also love everything they do in terms of graphics and marketing. Check out the Bellwoods Brewery website here.
Do you have a favorite beer that you don’t get very often? What’s your favorite “destination brewery”? I would love to hear from you – please, feel free to leave a comment below!