Beyond the Bottle: Nick Elston on Mental Health

alcohol comparison lived experience mental health mental illness nick elston ocd stigma vulnerability May 25, 2024

I was delighted to welcome Nick Elston onto The Big Drink Rethink podcast. Nick is a leading inspirational speaker on mental health, who openly shares his personal experiences with mental illness and breakdown to help others navigate their own challenges. He believes that our adversities can either define us negatively or forge something beautiful and powerful. Here’s a look at Nick’s journey and the key points to take away from our chat.

Overcoming mental health struggles

Nick’s journey includes battling obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalised anxiety disorder, and struggles with alcohol. These challenges, while daunting, have been instrumental in shaping his path and his message. He spoke candidly about these experiences to help others understand that they are not alone in their struggles.

The role of giving up alcohol

For Nick, giving up alcohol was a significant step in his personal growth. Alcohol had been a crutch and a release, but letting go of this dependency was crucial. He had to navigate societal norms and change people's perceptions of not drinking, which was a challenging but necessary part of his transformation.

Navigating societal norms

Society often places pressure on individuals to conform to certain behaviours, such as drinking alcohol in social settings. Nick felt this acutely, because being a big guy physically, he felt that he fitted a stereotype of a male drinker. We chatted about how he managed to change people's perceptions and find his own way. This journey required strength and determination, showing that personal growth often involves challenging societal expectations.

Replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms

Nick explains that initially, he replaced alcohol with food, using it as a substitute coping mechanism. However, he has since shifted his focus towards positive transformation and healthier alternatives. This process of self-discovery and self-improvement is ongoing, emphasising that change is a continuous journey. Our whole conversation served to encourage others to start their own journey and invest the time to really get to know and understand themselves. 

The power of vulnerability

Nick emphasised the liberating and empowering nature of vulnerability. By sharing his open and honest truths, he demonstrates that vulnerability is not a weakness but a source of strength. He wants only that his openness encourages others to embrace their own vulnerabilities.

The importance of self-reflection

We both agreed wholeheartedly, that self-reflection is the most powerful tool for personal growth. Nick advocates for asking why we do what we do and examining our motivations. This introspection helps us understand ourselves better, as unique individuals, so that we can embark on meaningful change if we need to. 

Finding joy and peace of mind

Nick believes that finding joy and peace of mind without relying on external substances is possible. By focusing on internal growth and understanding, we can all achieve a state of well-being that is not dependent on external factors. In fact our propensity and ability to feel more joy is raised significantly, when we stop using alcohol to anaesthetise our emotions. 

The impact of social media on comparison

Our discussion around the negative impact of social media on self-comparison, is crucial.  Social media often fuels dissatisfaction and anxiety by creating unrealistic standards. We  emphasise the importance of 'running our own race', 'staying in our own lane' whilst we do it,  and not measuring our worth against others.

Breaking the stigma around alcohol and mental health

Breaking the stigma surrounding alcohol and mental health is a crucial part of Nick’s message. Open conversations and sharing lived experiences are vital in challenging societal norms and fostering a more compassionate and informed perspective. By discussing these topics candidly, he hopes to encourage a broader acceptance and understanding of mental health issues. And of course that is exactly what The Big Drink Rethink strives for too. 

In summary, Nick Elston’s journey and insights offer valuable lessons on overcoming adversity, the power of vulnerability, and the importance of self-reflection. His message inspires others to find joy and peace of mind through internal growth and to break the stigma around mental health and substance use through open and honest conversations.

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