I’m still drunk but I still love AA

Once upon a time, even though I’d not been outside (beyond the nearest off licence) for months, I thought AA was just for “proper” alcoholics. You know the kind. Brown raincoats, bottles hidden in paper bags…probably smelled a bit of wee.

Luckily I  wasn’t one of those kind of drunks. I was the kind who only left the house in darkness, who passed out rather than slept and who would only sometimes smell like a toilet…it depended on how successful my last bathroom  visit had been. You know I could count on the fingers of just 2 hands the number of times I have woken up soaked in my own shit!

So…as you can see, I was a much classier kind of drunk than the kind that goes to AA meetings.

Eventually though, even I had to concede I just might have a bit of a problem.

I was driven to my first meeting and realised instantly, once the meeting had started, that they had all been waiting to hear from me about how I was sick in some new special way that needed extra concern from everyone else. They were all lovely but for some odd reason I wasn’t the centre of attention!

I lasted until the half time coffee break and snook away, not to be seen again for about  5 years.

It would be great if there was a formula you could follow to get people well.

 

James

Day 2 of drinking myself sober

Yesterday I had my first experience of drinking after taking a prescribed opiod antagonist, nalmefene.

It was weird, I had all of the feelings of having had a drink, but none of the satisfaction.

I’m going to repeat the process tonight but instead of the usual excitement I feel when looking forward to having a drink, I’m wondering what the point is. I know what will happen; my coordination will go, my thinking will slow, my speech will perhaps become a bit slurred but I won’t get that feeling of relief that I crave and that keeps me coming back for more.

To me, this seems really hopeful. If I can break that emotional link between “mental” relief and drinking then I can start to make rational choices about when and how much I drink.

My worry is, what do I do with the mental itch that the drink has always been used to scratch. I still need to do something to feel normal (whatever that is), but even if I can’t quite figure out what that should be, I know drink never does anything more than give temporary respite at the expense of piling up a whole lot more shit for me to deal with.

When I learned that there was a pill I could take that could allow me to drink but stay in control, it sounded like nirvana. Now after just one day of trying it, I’m learning that, as with any recovery programme, controlling the drinking is the easy part. Learning how to live with me will be the tricky bit!

An hour and a quarter to wait until I am “allowed” my drink…at the moment I’m not even sure I can be bothered. But there is another thing with this approach; if I don’t drink, I can’t get better.

Because the idea is to break the mental association between drinking and feeling ok with the world, I need to go through several cycles of drinking after having taken the pill in order for my brain to learn that that’s no longer the case. If I don’t drink and have this new experience of drinking, then my brain can’t learn anything new.

At the same time I am waiting info about my job, which I may have lost (because of my drinking) and trying to plan a future that works in spite of having lost my career. So I’ve got a lot of shit on my mind at the moment and could really do with that “aaaahhhhh” feeling I expect from a drink. I wonder if that makes it an even better time than “normal” to re-train my brain in this new way of being.

Bit of a stream of consciousness today…maybe things will seem a bit more ordered later.

Keeping it in the family

For some reason, my family seem to be prone to problems with drink. Maybe it’s nurture, maybe it’s nature but whatever the reason alcoholism crops up over and over again.

I remember my Grandad, a huge bear of a man with a similarly huge appetite for a drink. Sometimes it was scotch, sometimes it was wine, sometimes it was home brew, but it was always something. At the time he seemed like great fun, always playing with us like one of the kids. My dad who chose to leave home at 16 tells me it wasn’t always quite so much fun.

My brother spent many years surviving on more vodka than anyone should have been able to drink. Eventually it cost him his job, relationship, mental health and self-respect.

Then there is me.

For all those people who think “we” should just get a grip and stop, please believe me when I say it doesn’t work like that. We think we should stop too. We hate the ruined relationships, the failed jobs, the missed opportunities and the sheer damn waste of a life. We’d do anything to change it but for some reason we can’t.

I guess some people will put this down to being weak willed but we’re not. Me and other alcoholics I’ve known have shown huge fortitude in achieving great things. Sporting achievements, career achievements, being there for others in the most difficult of circumstances…but always the need to drink comes back.

I am therefore I drink.

Drinking to sobriety

The last few blogs of this episode have been about my difficulties in having to get sober as the only way of not being a drunk.

For many it works…for others it doesn’t. I’m one of the others.

Today I have begun an alternative.

The Sinclair method basically involves taking a drug an hour or so before you drink, that changes the effect drink has on you. I’ve tried it tonight for the first time.

About 2 hours before planning to drink I took a pill of nalmefene which has the effect of blocking the bit of my brain that goes “aaaahhhhh” when I have a drink. I then drink as I normally would.

Now off course, my idea of normal drinking and everyone else’s, differ by quite a margin. My normal drink involves 3 super strength lager…it’s only an ordinary night after all. If I was having a proper drink then there would be much more chaos added to the mix.

So what happened? I took my little pill, waited 2 hours and then began to drink as “normal”. It’s weird. I can tell I’ve had a drink, I feel drunk but I don’t have that feeling of satisfaction that a drink usually gives. The drinking has almost become slightly mechanical.

I clearly don’t need a drink, I’ve had 3 strong beer, but I don’t have that endorphin high I usually get from a splurge.

I have no idea if this is anything but a temporary change, but for now…I’ve got a way of drinking and getting drunk that doesn’t reinforce my harmful drinking.

The theory is that over a number of weeks I break that connection in my brain between drinking and feeling king if the world. One day my brain will associate drinking with feeling “meh”, I’m drunk again and leave it at that.

When that happens I have choice…somethings sadly lacking in my dalliance with drink for a long long time.

Stage 1 , day 1, feels ok. I’ve had a (few) drinks but I still feel like it’s me making the choices  not the hooch.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Anyone feel like commenting if only to call me out on what they see as my bullshit…then please do. This blog is far more interesting if it is more than just the ramblings of a single drunk!

Thanks.

James.

 

 

The first time

I remember waking up, confused, not having a clue where I was. I was on a mattress on the floor and the room was unfamiliar.

After a few minutes a kindly looking stranger came in and started to talk to me.

I was in a detox unit. I was on the floor because I was too drunk to risk being on a bed. My parents had brought me in and I’d soon be getting some medication from the doctor that would help me feel more human.

I’ve had many rock bottoms but that one still stands out in my mind. How did I end up here? What on earth had happened to me to bring me from a successful professional to an incarcerated drunk.

After a while it became more familiar. I was helped to detox and then spent another 3 weeks learning how to live alcohol free, one day at a time.

When my time was up I ceremonially wrote my farewell letter to alcohol, set fire to it and watched its ashes and smoke disappear up the chimney.

I left, reborn, ready to get back to the world of work and relationships and hobbies and life! It lasted about 6 months.

I went to an AA meeting most days, got a sponsor, did service and congratulated myself on how well I was doing. AA is a great institution and it has worked miracles for millions and millions of people. It gave me hope when I had none and I have rarely met a kinder, more genuine, less judgemental people than those I have come across in AA meetings; but for me I just couldn’t get it.

Over the next few years I went through many detoxes and repeatedly recommitted to AA, but each time the result was the same. Pissed again.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve never committed fully enough, but whatever the reason, I kept getting drunk.

The options for an alcoholic like me seem to be simply exhortations to do the same but this time try harder. In what other sphere of life would we watch thousands and thousands of people fail at an approach and offer them nothing other than the advice to try harder.

I tried counselling, another form of trying to talk yourself better but the effects were much the same. I tried SMART recovery…same result.

Whatever I tried I still would eventually get back to a point where I would pick up a drink and the whole disastrous cycle of self destruction would begin all over again.

After more than 10 years of trying to become and stay abstinent I have finally come to the conclusion that this will never work. I need to learn to live with alcohol, not spend a lifetime trying and failing to live without it.

The problem about writing about alcohol –

The main problem with booze when it comes to writing something like this, is that I’ve probable forgotten a lot more than I can remember! I can remember waking up in various detoxes, on the floor at home, in hospital and even in the street but the bits before and for sometime after are a bit of a blur; however I’ll see what I can do.

For as long as I can remember I’ve liked booze a lot. I remember the first ever time getting drunk and feeling like I’d found the magic elixir of life. It didn’t last.

For many years things were ok but I drank more than I should have but mostly with little consequence.

About 10 years ago that all changed.

My marriage ended, my child left and the brakes came off. I drank and I drank and I drank and after not very long at all I was drinking round the clock. That horrible feeling when you wake up in the night and realise you’ve run out or even worse, knowing you’ve got something somewhere but you can’t remember where you’ve hidden in. Why is it that alcoholics hide booze even when there is no one but themselves to hide it from?

Since then I’ve tried counselling, CBT, SMART recovery, anti-depressants, time with a psychiatrist, AA and just white knuckling it at telling myself “never again”.

So far none of them have worked, at least not for long.

They all have their good points and if they work for you then great, but my conundrum is…what do you do if you are an alcoholic that just can’t stop drinking?

I’ve not found a solution, although I’ve coped (as much through luck as anything else) better than some. I’ve still got a job, my daughter still loves and cares for me and I’m writing this from the home of the woman I’ve shared my life with for nearly the last 9 years. But somewhere the whole approach to dealing with alcoholism seems flawed for people like me.

Either you are asked to keep a drink diary, change some patterns in your life and cut down to a safe level. This is fine if you “just” drink too much. If you are like me and can go from having a few drinks on a Friday night to being utterly out of control and prepared to sell your granny for your next drink by Monday morning then this seems a little optimistic.

The other approach is abstinence. Usually either following a home or residential detox (with or without medication) you are encouraged to use some kind of peer support network with the aim of, one day at a time, not picking up a drink again. If you do drink then you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again, and again and again! I can’t begin to remember the number of times I’ve done this. It’s not because I lack the will, I’d have given up and just thrown myself into the nearest bottle years ago if that was the case. Is it possible that there are a group of us who would dearly like to stop having alcohol ruin our lives but who can’t stop. What are we supposed to do.

I refuse to believe that I either have to be a helpless drunk (any believe me I’m very helpless when drunk!) or keep trying and failing at the same old tried and, for me, failed methods.

So my thinking for today is how does a hopeless drunk, drink?

My travels with alcohol…in the begining

A long, long time ago in a country far, far away there lived an ordinary man with an ordinary life who lived in an ordinary house with an ordinary wife. They say the past is a foreign country and looking back on it now nothing could seem seem more true.

Today that same man has been through more humiliation, detoxes, spoiled relationships, damaged work and god knows what else than the old me would ever have believed possible.

As I sit here today writing this I am coming to the end of yet another medical detox and still have no idea what is going to happen next in my life. It feels like I’ve been punched to the floor time and time again but somehow drag myself up and try again. Try what and why I don’t think I’m even sure anymore.

I’m writing this for three reasons.

One, as every true alcoholic will understand is selfish (a hint for any normal people out there, all alcoholics are selfish! We probably don’t mean to be…but we often are). I makes me feel good to write it so I will.

Two, probably selfish as well, I’m really interested in other people’s experiences. Does what I write resonate or am I just living in my own weird bubble of chemical absurdity.

Three, maybe some of what appears on here will hit a chord with someone else and they’ll do something about it rather than just following the same path me (and others?) have trodden so often before.

I’ll try not to make this simply a drunkalogue of every crazy escapade that has happened along the way but rather a true and honest account of what it is like to live with alcoholism…at least if you’re me.

I’ve got no agenda, I’m not here to push this or that route to recovery. Heck we could even have a whole blog on whether recovery even exists. I promise not to ask you to do anything I’d just like the chance to tell my story from my perspective and maybe keep updating it with whatever happens next.

If no one reads this then that is fine, I’ll write it anyway. If people read it and want to tell me how full of shit I am, then that’s fine too…you might be right. If anyone reads it and empathises with even a bit of it then that would at least tell me I’m not going mad on my own.

We’ve all got a story to tell. This is mine.