When I first started taking lithium, in the hospital, more than twenty years ago, a nurse told me that the medication would make me thirsty, and that I needed to get used to drinking a lot of water. She would bring me pitcher after pitcher of ice water, and a plastic cup, and encourage me to drink.

Taking lithium means that I constantly have a dry mouth, with a salty, metallic taste, that I have never gotten used to, and that I almost always feel thirsty. I usually drink 4 to 8 quarts of water/liquid a day, depending on the weather and my activity level.

I drink a few glasses of ice water with breakfast, and then drink another glass of water with my morning medications and supplements. Then I brew two strong cups of  Bigelow's Green Tea with Pomegranate and take it to work in a large thermal mug. I also take an insulated bottle full of ice water. I usually drink less when I'm at work, because I'm busy, and prefer not to take as many trips to the restroom.

After work, I alternate between water and unsweet decaffeinated iced teas of different varieties. My current favorites are Bigelow's Decaffeinated Green Tea brewed with their Pomegranate Pizzazz, and Celestial Seasonings' Lemon Zinger.

When I work out, I either take water with me, or drink from the water fountain at the gym. When I go on long bike rides, I drink water for the first two hours, and then, after that, I drink Gatorade. When you take Lithium, you need to be very careful not to become dehydrated, and Gatorade helps with that. I've found though, that drinking Gatorade is not necessary if I'm exercising for less than two hours. 

This summer I read that 100% grape juice, from Concord grapes, has been shown to prevent metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease, so I have happily added a tall glass of grape juice to my daily diet. At times, when I want something a little bit fancy, I enjoy 1/3 of a glass of cranberry juice, the kind made with 100% juice, and no added sugar, topped off with seltzer water and a squeeze of lime juice. I consider this to be really refreshing and kind of festive. And ice water with lemon, lime, or orange, is also delicious and thirst-quenching.

My drinking habits have changed over the years. I used to drink entirely too much Diet Coke and Crystal Light, and when I faced the fact that they weren't really quenching my thirst or enhancing my health, I decided to quit those drinks, along with artificial sweeteners, and I have been feeling better since then.

When I was 19, it was a big deal when my psychiatrist told me not to drink alcohol--especially right after I had been told that I had an incurable mental illness, and that I would have to take medication for the rest of my life. Many people think that it is no big deal not to drink, but many of those same people regularly drink alcohol with their meals, and at most parties. Alcohol is a huge part of our culture. When you are a non-drinker, it is hard not to feel like you're missing something. 

One of my old college friends invited me to her city, and, in the last phone call before I started my drive to visit her, she said, "I hope you can manage to have fun. My entire social life pretty much revolves around drinking." I will never forget that. It made me feel nervous, but, as I observed, she had been completely honest.

I used to avoid going to certain parties, and refuse invitations for cocktails, because, as I explained, "I don't drink." Now, I don't really talk about it much. I go out for drinks, and just drink water, cranberry juice, or Sprite. When I go to parties now, I usually take a non-alcoholic drink that I like, such as the cranberry-seltzer concoction mentioned above. I also like the natural sodas Izze and Cascal. And occasionally, I have slipped and have drunk alcohol. I have found that I can easily handle one drink, and usually two, but I have always regretted having more than two. I guess it's best to take medical advice, but it sure is hard to be perfectly compliant.

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