Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Eleven days sober

It feels very odd to say "eleven days sober". This is now the longest I've managed for about three years, the last time I did a sober January. Let's have a look at the pro's and con's.
  • I'm eating like crazy. (That's in the sense I eat American-size portions now for my American friends.)
  • I'm sleeping normally too, so I have energy to actually do things and have been early for work every day for the last fortnight. (That's two weeks for my American friends.)
  • Saved an absolute fortune. A drink habit in the UK is expensive, even on the cheapest stuff. It's very difficult to estimate because by nature an everyday drinker doesn't keep track of how much they are really spending on drinking (denial is an amazingly powerful force), but if I rough it out at £5 in the day and £5 at night during the week, then throw in three nights out a week at £25, that's £100-125 a week on drink and drink-related stuff like lazy food and taxis, so I'm looking at £400-500 a month gone on my drink habit. (That's $600-750USD for my American friends.)
  • I've reminded myself I am capable of living with myself sober, something that while in the middle of a long drinking session ie. the last three years, I began to doubt and fear.
  • I've finally made it to AA meetings to figure out if it's something that may help me in these times when for whatever reason, the drinking has to go on hold for a while. The jury's still out on that one but it's been interesting so far and I'm keeping it up until my trip in May at least.
I guess at the moment, with my trip to the States coming up, the money thing is the best out of those. It's not all rosy, though.
  • It's weird being... me. I guess I always drank because I felt uncomfortable almost 24/7 and drinking takes the edge off that anxiety. Now, I'm a lot older than when I started drinking to self-medicate these feelings and a much different person. I am a lot less anxious while sober now, which I think just comes with age. There are still times though when the old symptoms come back; I stutter and stumble over words, find reasons to escape social situations, retreat into myself. I'm not enjoying dealing with these again when I know just a couple of drinks would make me behave like anyone else, but at least they are not as bad as they used to be.
  • Obviously, temptation is around every corner. In the case of work, literally, the pub is on the corner next door. I miss pubs. I've never been a "home" sort of person and miss being out and about as much.
  • I miss the silly times being drunk with all the Americans (and Canadians). I've been keeping track of things on Reddit but I can't help feeling like the designated driver or a bloody chaperone watching over a kid's party. I last a little while before I feel like I just don't fit in and quit it. I miss that a lot.
Balancing the two out isn't a hard decision. By packing in drinking for a while, I can go and see my girl for a couple of weeks and have a great time over there with her instead of sitting at home drinking on my own. My body is really appreciating the break too - no more side-pains, vomiting or headaches. I'm trying to keep all this in mind when it comes round to 1pm and I have an hours break from work, with a pub right on the doorstep, and temptation comes knocking at the door...

Next step: trying out the AA meeting at Sacred Heart on Sunday night, the church two minutes round the corner from my house. It seems to make more sense than losing all my Monday night travelling to and from the Darwen meeting. I'll see how it goes.

Friday, 1 March 2013

An experience of AA

It's been over a year since the last entry here, my last real attempt to quit for any length of time. I can't remember if I managed it or not, but it's pretty unlikely. This time I'm not trying to quit completely, just pack it in for roughly ten weeks 'til I go to the States to see my fiance. Oh shit, yeah, did I mention? We're engaged. I almost keep forgetting.

I went to an AA meeting with a mate from work on Monday night. That was weird. I'd always been curious what they're like and well, here's an honest account. In the interests of openness, I should state I am atheist and have been drinking daily for around five or six years with breaks of no more than a month one January and the odd few days while ill. Over the last few years it has ruined great relationships, cost me a fortune and damaged my health which has led me to this point where I want to give anything a shot to help me cut out the everyday drinking and become the social drinker I always was.

So, you go in - this one was at a United Reform Church with a dedicated AA room, I guess, as it has the logo attached to the door - and there are rows and rows of chairs. Maybe thirty people milling around getting coffee and biscuits - this is a fairly busy meeting, he tells me. We sit at the back after he introduces me to a few of the people he knows - apparently almost everyone is a regular, and one guy describes AA as his social life, going to six meetings a week.

There's an awkward moment when I'm handed a sheet by the chairperson to "read" - I presumed it meant for me to read, then my mate explains it's what they take turns reading out at the end of the meeting, some kind of vows or something. Fuck this. So I go up to the front and quietly say to the guy that this is my first time and I misunderstood. He's cool with it and hands me a beginner's pack.

It seems the format is that the chairman does some sort of reminder of why everyone is there, because we're all alcoholics, and quickly runs through what will happen. He asks everyone to say hi to the newcomer and I get a lot of greetings. And then it's on to, well, what is the term, the... lead speaker? The accused? The confessor? She is a woman in her mid-30s who gets the rest of the first half of the meeting to tell her story - or "share" as the terminology they use is - in as much detail as she likes. It goes all the way from her youth through to where she is now, 13 years sober and for the first time ready to sit at the front and talk about it. It's really quite an intense experience as she goes into detail about how she ended up feeling she needed AA to help quit for good, and the 20 or 30 minutes fly by.

A short break for another coffee, and then it's on to more of the same, just in a cut down format. People seem to take turns saying, "Hi, I'm Bob and I'm and alcoholic", to which everyone replies, "Hi, Bob", and then Bob launches into a monologue about whatever is on his mind. When I say "his", I should mention that the split of men to women was probably two thirds to one third, so there is not a huge disparity by gender. It being my first time there, quite a few of the six or seven shares were directed towards me, encouraging me to come back and recounting the first time they came and all the fears and doubts over whether they would ever come back. One guy in particular told his story which was essentially a mirror of my own - the functional alcoholic hiding it just enough most of the time until it creeps up eventually and causes chaos. One other share hit me the hardest; a man in his 60s saying how the hardest thing about going sober was dealing with having feelings again; how for the first time in years his grandchild ran up and grabbed his leg and he actually felt something inside other than wondering where the next drink was, and he cried.

They were all a genuinely nice, normal bunch of people. If you met them in the street, you would never know they were struggling every moment of their lives not to pick up a drink and drift into blissful oblivion. They are just the alcoholics among us who for their own reasons have decided they just cannot keep that lifestyle up any longer. I was the youngest in the room by a good 10 years but I have reached that point, too.

The meeting draws to a close with everyone standing in a circle holding hands, reciting something I presume you are supposed to learn eventually, and then you leave at your own pace. I had to shoot off as I had a lift waiting but four people stopped me before I could leave to give me their numbers and tell me to call them any time I felt desperate. I've never seen compassion like that outside of CA.

I do not know if AA will help me, or even what help I am looking for. I know at the very least I want help towards long-term moderation, if not total abstinence. I have no idea who it will or will not work for until you yourself have tried it; this is just to give you an idea of how the meetings go, here in the UK at least. My only advice would be to give one a look out of morbid curiosity if nothing else, as some of the stories you will hear will echo your own experiences down to the bone and it's quite a fascinating feeling.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Sobering up for a month

For the next month or so I'm going to try abstaining completely to hopefully get me out of this sordid little grief-hole I've got myself in to. That last post sums it up - it was written while drunk and my room was dark and I was in one of those moments where you can't ever imagine not drinking.

As usual it took one of those terrifying withdrawals to force me to stop. I didn't even think I'd been drinking a lot but I think my liver is protesting at the moment, and can cope with less than it used to, hence the random blackouts in bed and sickness. Waking up drenched in sweat and so weak through shaking I can barely make it downstairs. I'm now on my second full day dry, and could only manage one drink the day before that because I felt so ill. Having a virus hasn't helped that much but I'm now back on my cocktail of thiamine, milk thistle, folic acid, omeprazole and a week-long course of antibiotics I'd been putting off taking for months.

I came very close to asking my parents if I could stay with them for a couple of weeks to help me avoid drinking. Unfortunately, by the time the opportunity arose the other day, they'd started drinking to celebrate my sister graduating and it being my dad's birthday, so I couldn't talk about anything serious. I'll see how it goes this weekend. I've got a few things planned to keep me busy, but if I start getting tempted I'll go round there. The only problem is my dad at weekends coming home drunk and as I'd have to sleep on the couch he's sure to wake me up ranting. Last time I did that, when I'd just broken my arm, I ended up going home and struggling on my own rather than dealing with him.

Hopefully, in a months time I'll be feeling a lot better and actually have some spare money for a change. I'm allowing myself one cup of tea in town on my breaks because I have to get out of work and do something or I go crazy, but tea is only £1 compared to anywhere between £3 to £7 if I go boozing in my hour. I can stretch one cup of tea out over an hour while reading Reddit, I am sure :)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Definitions of alcoholism

It is somewhere between a cross of loneliness, abandonment, rejection, futility, somewhere you go and you stand on your own and you go home and you cry and you want to die.

I find it quite a shameful life. When I'm drinking on my own, I feel superb. When I have to interact with people while drinking, I find it very troublesome. This seems to be a common theme among drinkers. What starts as social drinking develops into the resentment of other people's perceptions of it and a desire to escape from that judgement, so before you know it you're drinking twice as much at home on your own rather than being with people.

Then the depression kicks in. For many months, years, you don't know if you're depressed because you're drinking or drinking because you're depressed. The problem is that by this point you're physically addicted so stopping to find out is something hardly anyone can do on a whim. The misery of physical withdrawal is not something I would wish on someone who'd gang-raped Barack Obama in a sex dungeon.

Drinking has ruined relationships for me. I'm not even that bothered about being with anyone but I wouldn't say no to it if someone interesting appeared. Yet all year I've pissed away moment after moment with women purely because I either knew I was too drunk to make sense or I was too drunk and destroyed things. A lot of people on r/ca think that sort of thing is funny - I don't. By nature I'm thoughtful about people and this strange nihilism I've developed while constantly drunk is... not me.

Drinking has got me in to shit at work. I don't care about that though: work is a four letter word.

My friends know I'm a drunk, especially since my recent spate of blackouts. Well, who cares. If they like me enough and appreciate all I do for them, then we'll stay friends. If not, who cares, I have another 40 trillion friends who do care.

Reading this back, it's quite clear I'm torn between my natural independence and comfort that my stupid drinking only affects me, and some form of loneliness, a grasp back to the past where I had someone to be normal for and be normal with. I miss her more than I miss cheap beer.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

As low as you can go

This week has been the worst drinking experience of my life. I completely over-did it at the weekend; blacked out at a party on Friday, woke up at 2pm and hit the wine, passed out, woke up at 2am and hit the wine, woke up at 4pm and hit the (new box of) wine. This completely screwed sleep pattern is still with me, and I hate it. After work on Monday I was expecting one of those horrible nights sleep where you get the hot and cold sweats, twitches and may as well not bother trying to sleep at all for all the good it does you. I got that, plus the strongest shakes of my life... I had to drink more to relieve it, then was up 'til nearly 6am.

Tuesday began okay but half way through the day I went home and had another bout of strong shakes, which I honestly thought were turning into a seizure. I was really quite scared, to be honest. So, back to the wine it was, which killed it for a while, but I had to spend all of last night sipping wine just to avoid a repeat. I tried sleeping at 2am, laid there for an hour and then felt another of the bad shakes coming on and dealt with it with deep breathing. The rest of the night was spent waking to nightmares every half hour, specifically people being around me and causing pain in specific parts of the body.

So, now it's Wednesday. Never in the past have I had to deal with this kind of crap for so long after a weekend. I clearly crossed some sort of invisible line and now I'm at its whim. The same whole body shaking hit me at work earlier and I had to run to the supermarket to buy something, anything to drink. I felt disgraced with myself.

I have to survive until Friday morning like this now, when I get to see the doctor and get some benzos. Two more days of trying to perfectly balance the alcohol intake so I avoid the shakes, reducing the intake a bit each time but still having enough that it aggravates my stomach and gives me the worst acid reflux I've felt for years.

I really need to stop with the alcohol, which is where the benzos come in. Earlier this week I had pretty bad pain on my right side, it's fucking my acid reflux up even worse (I've already been on omeprazole for that for a decade) and I have a recurrence of those horrible pressure headaches, like a vice being clamped around your skull. Oh poor body, what have I done to you? Let me make up for this quickly.

So, tonight will be a repeat of the previous two, I'm sure; laid wrapped in a blanket in bed, watching Star Trek: Voyager endlessly, sipping at a little less wine than the day before (tonight's plan is to stretch a small glass to every two episodes, so I should stay under the bottle mark - yesterday I went over a bottle). If I get the benzos (I will kill for them) then I'm going to stay with my family for a week or two to remove the temptations and boredoms that surround me here. When you live with a guy who drinks most nights and you've not much else to do after work, it's so easy to pick something up just for the sake of it. I need to get away from that whole scene.

Physical symptoms aside, I do actually feel shame for ending up in this situation. Most people now expect me to do something absurd at parties. I find it impossible to go shopping without picking up some beer. My health has been battered. Drink-induced apathy has ended my relationships and stopped me forming new ones. Some drinkers are okay with these things and Godspeed to them. But I, well I'd like to get to know again the Richard before all of this took a hold.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

An unused HTC Wildfire-S

I keep on thinking about why I drink. Avi set this off, the bastard. I can see I'm destroying myself slowly. I ruin most of any relationships I form, though friendships persist because I'm easy to get along with in that way. I don't really know why I keep going this way. I remember a time when I didn't drink and felt okay, but now... fuck no. Day to day life scares me to death, such is its triviality. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a drink to liven things up. I'd die of boredom before anything self-inflicted.

If I had to hazard a guess, I think I drink because day to day life doesn't trigger anything pleasurable in my head. Stuff happens that other people are excited by, but it does nothing to me. So, for years, I've drunk to make up for that missing stimulus.

I dread to think what Americans would make of me, morbidly self-obsessed as I evidently am.

Friday, 26 August 2011


The alcholism, then. A strange beast which destroys half of your life and leaves you perfectly fuctional for the rest, at least for me. I can't speak of other people's experience. It seems it's usually people who aren't drinkers who comment on us drinkers. I'm not fond of them. Everyone's different so I've no idea why the rest of the drinkers drink... I'll leave it to them to tell their story.

A friend wishes to know of my experience of drinking, however, so here we go. Why not be more honest with an American drunk you love than a counsellor you don't trust for a second?

I drink mainly because when I'm sober I find life so boring I find myself boring and am then unable to conjure validations to make myself interesting to other people; basically I suppose it's a self-worth thing, but it is not overcomeable simply by having knowledge of this deficiency. Chemically, when my head is tired of being here, it needs something more than a funny TV programme to let me escape it. Drinking has been the best solution.

You should listen to Maximo Park for a bit. "Some things are worth the bruises, some things are worth the hurt." You know what that means.

I think I'll probably die young of some sort of alcohol-based disease but I know for sure I'm okay at the moment after a load of tests. Maybe 50 or 60, I'll be gone. I'm not bothered. I am, really; I love my sisters and the thought of not seeing them makes me cry. Everything they do matters to me more than anything, and always has done. I mean that when I say always - probably because of a strange combination of being 8 years older than the elder one and just being generally fond of them; they've always mattered more to me than anything.

Perhaps the synopsis of what I have just written, upon re-reading, is a journey into the subconscious. I drink to escape the reality I hate and then find the people I love to make things feel better.