mental health

Bars, Friends, and Mental Health

My story and opinion may be different from the experiences of others, but it’s my story.

Friendship isn’t tapping your glasses together in a smokey bar. It isn’t a love that revolves around a bottle of booze. Relationships are deeper than a pint glass. It took me most, if not all, of my 20s to figure that out.

I found that when I removed alcohol from the equation, many friendships crumbled. There were no phone calls asking how I have been. No one checked up on me to see what was new in my life. I didn’t see any of those people anymore. Many people whom I considered friends were nothing more than strangers sharing blurry stories that would be forgotten the next morning. The only time spent together outside of drinking was to fill in the gaps while keeping a consistent flow of having reliable drinking buddies.

When the bar scene was ditched, gone were the calls, texts, visits and hangouts. Even after countless times of trying to establish friendship outside of bars, I was consistently stood up. No one wanted to get up early; they were nursing a hangover. No one wanted to go see a movie, there was a party going on somewhere. The “friends” only came out at night. I soon realized who my real friends were, and they weren’t at the bar.

Depression was something I ignored for a very long time. I never acknowledged it. I never considered that I had this huge dark cloud weighing me down, drowning me at times. I was barely hanging on and sometimes I even wondered, “what is the point?” I masked it all behind being social and pretending to be okay. My smile and laugh mimicked a good time, light and love. In reality, I was trying to forget the pain and trauma by floating in an alternate reality of being buzzed and numb with all my fake friends.

As the morning came and I faced myself in the mirror, I felt even more alone. I felt more lost and buried deeper into my state of depression. The wounds grew and I never ever asked for help. I had no intentions on asking for help. No one usually does.

I am fortunate to live to tell the story about how and why I stopped drinking. I hated me. I hated the choices I made and the way my body was starting to look. I hated how I felt the next day. I hated the regret and embarrassment. I hated the emptiness. So that was it: I chose that day to stop creating memories in a bar and to change the environment that I put myself in. I focused on the people who mattered and the ones who cared, even when I couldn’t see it at the time. The people I thought were my friends continue to live the same night every night, in the same bars with the same stories. I was out of sight and out of mind, replaced by another seat-warmer.

If you worry about someone’s mental health, ask them to meet you somewhere else. Check on them outside of social events. Hang out with them before the sun goes down. Misery loves company. Are you just with company or do you really care? Will you still be around if they trade the bar scene for their living room? If your friends are depressed, get them out of the bar.

If you worry about your own mental health, please evaluate your friendships and where you are hanging out. Ask for help because it’s likely that no one can see your pain behind the masks. Change your surroundings and change your scene, because it’s all going to be the same years from now. No one there wants to pour into your soul, they just want to pour you another glass.

At the end of the day, no one can help us. There are no magic words or healing advice that can save another. It’s up to you to spark a change in your own life. It’s up to you to seek help. No one can force you to get help. I still struggle but I make my mental health a priority and cut the toxic elements out of my life.

Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255