When Liquor and Lupus Meet at a Party / by Shanelle Gabriel

Originally posted on my blog on www.lupusnewstoday.com

“Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots!” The chant is repeated by my squad of friends at the bar. It’s my friend’s birthday and celebrations go hand in hand with alcohol. For many, it’s not a good birthday if you can walk a straight line at the end of the night. The definition of “turning up” is clinking plastic flute glasses around an overpriced bottle of rapper-endorsed liquor, dancing at whatever beat or pace the mixed drinks tell you to, and doing things that you will laugh about the next day over a post-hangover brunch. This was me in my 20s. Not anymore.

Unlike most people, I really started drinking after college. While partygoers sipped amaretto sours, I was usually too busy dancing and sweating profusely on the packed dance floor to think about fighting to get a bartender’s attention. Besides, water was free and I was a broke college student. When I graduated, I became an “adult,” which meant it was adult-like to go for a drink or two with co-workers, pair a glass of merlot with your steak, and pose with a glass of bubbly at your Pinterest-worthy picnic. The message is: “You’re grown; grown people drink.”

However, I learned early that alcohol puts my body in a climate ready and ripe for a lupus flare. It leaves me dehydrated and fatigued, and it makes some of my medications not work as effectively. My liver is already processing prescribed drugs; I’m somewhat paranoid about making it work any harder. So, where does alcohol fit in a Lupie world of medications and the need for ample hydration and rest? Do I have to turn down everything people do to turn up?

Telling someone you don’t drink is usually followed with, “Are you on antibiotics?” “What, you prefer whiskey? I have some here.” Or even a gasp and, “OMG, are you pregnant?” Telling a group of people you want to pass on a glass is equal to telling someone bragging about their amazing wedding that you just got left at the altar; it makes them feel self-conscious or judged for enjoying their day. People bond over liquor, and now it’s like you don’t want to bond with them.

I used to feel like I had to drink to make people feel comfortable, to be a part of my environment. I still feel that way at times. But at the end of the day, I really don’t need to drink to have fun as long as the music is good and my friends are present. My true friends won’t mind if I choose to drink in moderation and will gladly pour me a shot of ginger ale if it means I’ll be OK the next morning. Somehow, people think the drink makes the party, but it’s the people around me who make the celebration happen. I can have a fun time just being high on life knowing it’s a gift to not be in a hospital bed. Still want to sip a little somethin’ somethin’? Red wine has antioxidants, so that might be a healthier alternative (no more than a glass or two). Most studies, like “Alcohol and Arthritis” by the Arthritis Foundation, suggest that drinking in moderation on occasion isn’t terrible and that you ask your doctor if the general health rule of one drink a day for women, two for men, is the right one to follow.

The questions on why you aren’t drinking can be annoying, though. I have a fun trick that I use: I ask the bartender for a glass of pineapple juice mixed with cranberry juice, make sure they include a garnish, and sip it slowly. Most people assume there’s vodka in there and, boom, no questions. Cheers!