When I quit drinking, it had nothing to do with Donald Trump. It was five weeks before the election, when everyone (including me) assumed Hillary Clinton would win, and I was in the midst of a personal mental health crisis that was exacerbated by my routine binge-drinking. I had picked up the habit as a young teenager and it decimated me through my college days and beyond. I drank when I was stressed out, tired, hungry, or bored; when I was celebrating, socializing, partying, and having fun. Drinking was entwined into almost everything I did, something that had become so routine I forgot who I was without it.
I used to ascribe to a "you need a drink" sort of mentality. Whether I had a long day at school or work or undergoing a personal crisis or feeling extra depressed, I would always tell myself I deserved a drink, treating alcohol as both a remedy and a reward for dealing with this very difficult world. It was a way of thinking about alcohol that I picked up from various pieces of pop culture: Drinking was a cure for stress and hardship, it loosened you up, it made not fun things fun again.
As it turned out, for me, alcohol was no fun. Drinking intensified my suicidal ideation, and rendered me constantly tired, ill, and forgetful. So I quit. But I'm terrified of what my life would have been like if I still drank with Trump in the White House.
I stayed in on election night, and as Trump's victory went from impossible to unlikely to guaranteed, I grew increasingly fearful of what would soon become reality. As I videochatted my soon-to-be boyfriend, a stream of drunk texts from my friends lit up my phone—sad dispatches from election night parties gone awry.
The version of me that drank would have been at those parties, messy and trashed. I remembered a note I drunkenly wrote in my phone months before the election: "if trump wins i'm gonna kill myself because i need an excuse."
On November 9, I woke up depressed and afraid for what the future would hold, but also with an underlying tinge of gratitude—as bad as everything was, at least I wasn't hungover.
As it turns out, abstaining from alcohol in the age of Trump is one of the best decisions I've ever made. His presidency has been chaotic and contradictory—on any given day, you never know who he's going to reveal classified information to, or who he'll abruptly fire. And since my job is writing about politics every day, just tuning out isn't an option. Remaining clear-headed, in control of my own body, is essential for staying sane.
Drinking always made me more inclined to give up. Dire political times can have a similar effect. The two combined would be a nightmare.
I don't think I'm alone in feeling like there's a thin film of anxiety clinging to everything, a sense that at any point our child president will break something that can't be put back together again. I dread the next New York Times notification informing me what fresh hell will unravel in today's news cycle. And in these distinctly turbulent times, not drinking stabilizes me, makes me feel more connected to the world. Drinking made me hasty, more self-absorbed, forgetful, and nonsensical. In the "post-truth" era Trump has spawned, I want things to make more sense. I want to feel alive and real in my own body. A good first step, for me at least, was giving up alcohol.
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