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Digital news chief opens up on ‘problematic’ relationship with alcohol

Alex WatsonA regional digital chief has opened up on what she termed her “problematic” relationship with alcohol in a column for a daily newspaper.

JPIMedia digital content editor Alex Watson, pictured, says she is not an alcoholic but is nevertheless concerned about the effect drinking is having on her mental health, at times causing an “extreme level of anxiety and depression”.

Edinburgh-based Alex, whose role sees her work with JPIMedia titles across country, has shared her concerns about the issue, as well as those of others, in a column for The Scotsman.

The column’s publication has prompted others to come forward in support of her on social media.

In the column, Alex wrote: “My name is Alex, and I’m not an alcoholic – but I am trying to cut back. Now that I’m approaching my 30s, my hangovers are getting difficult to bear. It’s not the physical symptoms I can’t stand, but the psychological ones.

“After a heavy night, most of us wake up at least a little anxious about what we may have said or done while our usually sensible prefrontal cortex was impaired. It’s a common mental phenomenon, sometimes known as ‘hanxiety’, or simply ‘The Fear’.

“What I now realise isn’t so common is the extreme level of anxiety and depression I’ve started to experience after ‘a big sesh’. As good as it makes me feel when I’m drinking it, alcohol is a depressant, after all. The rest is just science, really, isn’t it?

“Starved of serotonin and dopamine, I’m plagued by a sense of dread I can’t shake, sometimes for days. I catastrophise and fixate on my drunken behaviour. This is exacerbated when I can’t clearly recall the previous night’s events which – I admit, past a certain number of drinks – I often can’t.”

Alex went on: “Scotland’s attitude towards alcohol is perplexing. We judge those who we think drink too much, but (in the same breath) we criticise others for abstaining, or not drinking ‘enough’.

“Even telling my nearest and dearest that I’m trying to cut back for the sake of my mental health has been surprisingly daunting. Writing it down here is nothing short of nerve wracking.

“The thing is, I can still have a great time at the pub with a non-alcoholic beer in my hand. I don’t need to be drunk to have deep, existential conversations – those are my favourite kind. And, as I always say, I don’t have to be hammered to talk nonsense, either.

“Drinking is Scotland’s national pastime. It’s good fun, but we put far too much emphasis on it. I’m a product of a society that tells me I’m weak for having to drink less, and that makes me ashamed, so sometimes I just shut up and drink up. On the face of it, it’s making life easier. Really, it’s not helping anyone.”

Alex also wrote about fellow Scotsman columnist Kevan Christie, who gave up alcohol 14 months ago after three decades of heavy drinking and recalled “anxiety and crippling panic attacks” that even led to him calling 999.

After the column was published by The Scotsman on Wednesday, Twitter users came forward to thank Alex and share their own similar experiences on the social media website.

Alex told HTFP: “I’m totally blown away by the response to the column. As I said in the piece, I was anxious about filing it because I was worried that I would be seen as weak.

“But I knew on some level that there was no way I could be the only person feeling this way about drinking, and it seems I was right. I’ve welled up so many times reading the replies to my tweet about it.”

She added: “The Scotsman team has been very supportive, giving me a lot of freedom and encouragement when pitching columns.”