Alcohol and Autism

18th August 2020

So, it was another long weekend and I’m taking some extra time than normal to recover. I had two occasions over the weekend and both of them I chose to drink. Admittedly, I sometimes use alcohol in order to bring out my more social side, even when I am around friends who I feel completely comfortable with. It doesn’t take me much to get drunk and I tend to lose my filter more quickly when I’m drunk. Sometimes this happens without the need of alcohol. If I’m having a big gathering like I did with my friends on the weekend, for some reason I get like this nervous excitement. I end up going a bit hyper and I become loud (I say loud, but I mean louder than normal) and I think that sometimes it can be a bit annoying for people. At the gathering with my friends, alcohol just enhanced this behaviour and I just became so hyper, I wouldn’t sit down for long. The problem I have with using alcohol is the hangover and embarrassment the next morning. When I say hangover, I don’t necessarily mean hangover from alcohol, but also in terms of a social hangover. Most times after a gathering, the next day I spend just lounging around in bed feeling anxious and so exhausted. This weekend it was even worse and I’m taking a couple days to recover due to the amount we had going on at the weekend. I’m now just doubly anxious about the two nights I have probably managed to embarrass myself.

I have done a bit of research into alcohol in relation to autism and it does appear common for those with autism to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Matt Tinsley shares his experience of this:

‘”The chief aspect of my autism which resulted in extremely heavy use of alcohol to cope was a near constant sense of anxiety. I also was socially awkward and discovered alcohol turned me into a much more relaxed person. Of course, I was unaware of my autism at the time and it’s only in retrospect that I can understand why it worked so well.” Alcohol for Matt enabled him to function in the workplace and develop and maintain relationships. Alcohol actually helped him to be less affected by sensory stressors and it helped manage his anxiety’

(https://network.autism.org.uk/good-practice/case-studies/autism-and-alcohol)

I definitely find that alcohol does eliminate the anxiety of social situations, yet it removes my ability to filter my language. In the end I end up talking too much. For some people this means they are able to function ‘better’, and there has been suggestions of a correlation between alcoholism and autism as it acts as a coping mechanism. For me, although I use it as a coping mechanism in social situations, I make sure to not end up drinking all the time. I only ever really drink when I’m in a social gathering or situation. Besides, I’ve learnt that while drinking is fun and allows me to be sociable, I still wake up the next morning regretting things I’ve said. I also found that at Uni, once I started drinking and becoming social, the people I lived with expected me to be like that all the time, and when I eventually needed a break, they couldn’t understand why. So, it ultimately put more pressure on me to be sociable. So, I’ve kind of learnt that while alcohol is good every now and then, for me if I’m going to drink, I still needed that time afterwards to recover. I never coped with the constant drinking at Uni.

So, as with everything, alcohol is good in its limits. Right now, I’m going to go finish mulling over every single thing I said or did that I think was embarrassing on the weekend, because I’m the best at overthinking. I still had fun which is the main thing, but I have come to terms with having to cope with the day after. I just need a little more time to process everything than the average person would and that’s okay. For anyone who feels the same, all I can say is, you can drink and have fun, as long as its making you happy, but don’t feel bad if you need a couple days rest after. Not everyone can keep up with long periods of socialising and that’s okay.

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