Two weeks ago, a medical professional told me to stop drinking to avoid liver damage.
Yes, that really happened. And no, it’s not what you think. Well… it is a bit. It turns out that sulfasalazine can affect your liver, especially if you’re drinking quite heavily. Now, I don’t drink heavily all the time, or even regularly. But let’s get real here – I’m 22 years old, I’m a Yorkshire lass descended from a long line of Guinness-drinking Irishmen, and I’ve spent three years at university putting my liver through an intensive training regime. I can handle my ale.
Unfortunately I can’t be quite as carefree as all that would suggest, because of my drug problem. To clear up any misconceptions before they arise, my drug problem is literally just my hilarious way of referring to the meds I have to take for my JIA. That’s all, promise.
When I don’t behave like a sensible human being my body punishes me the same as everyone else’s does. In fact, a few weekends ago I went on a minor pub crawl with my friend, who shall remain nameless for the sake of her future career. Before we go on with this story, you should know the following things about her:
- She loves wine. She loves wine so much that she puts it in other drinks, such as cream soda (cream wine-da) and coffee (woffee);
- She also loves gin. She loves gin so much that I think her mantra for life should be “Live by the gin, die by the gin”;
- Her mantra for life is in fact, in the immortal words of will.i.am and Mick Jagger, “Go hard or go home”.
This particular weekend she told me to go hard or go home, and I went so hard that I couldn’t go home until 4pm the next day because I couldn’t stop being sick. Four days later, I had a blood test that showed my liver function was triple what it should be, and then I got told to stop drinking and to stop taking sulfasalazine until they’d gone back to normal, which mercifully they now have.
I’m no stranger to the occasional over-indulgence on a night out, but even I was quite surprised by my body’s reaction to what I felt was not-quite-a-skin-full. When my arthritis is bad I always remember to be careful and not to drink too much on nights out, but once it’s good and settled down I always seem to think that normal drinking service can be resumed.
What I didn’t take into account on this fateful night was the fact that my new medicines would probably change the way I can handle (or not, as the case may be) my drink. And I paid the price for it.
It is quite hard, as a 22-year-old, to accept that you can’t pace yourself in the same way that your friends might on a night-out. In fact, the night-out administration stretches beyond the actual drinking of alcohol. It’s only recently that I have been able to wear high heels to go out dancing in, and just a few weeks ago – at the peak of my most recent flare up – me and my mother had to create a black bandage out of one of my brother’s socks so that I could wear a heat pack under my tights on my work’s leaving do. I was quite popular that night actually, as it was really cold out and my smoker friends kept coming in and heating their hands up on my knee.
It’s hard to explain to doctors and nurses that not being able to drink and dance all night is something you might feel you’re missing out on without sounding like an alcoholic or an idiot. I don’t feel like I have to drink alcohol because all my friends do; I like drinking and I like feeling like a normal girl in her twenties. I just wish it was possible to get this point across without feeling like you were being judged. Maybe one day I will feel able to answer the question “How many units of alcohol do you drink a week?” honestly. But that day is not today *drains glass of wine*.