An entry from my blog on my fight with alcohol.
Last week, after I wrote my entry for this blog, I suffered a major wobble. I had some intense alcohol cravings for the first time since I stopped drinking. I knew that this was likely to happen, but it still hit me hard. I reacted differently this time though, reaching out to people straight away and letting them know I was struggling. Their support was a big help on the Friday evening, even if it was only a few texts and some chats in social apps. I viewed that as a big step forward.
Friday evening I had a video call with a friend I have stayed in touch with on social media, but not talked to for a long time. She suffered from a brain injury 10 years ago and has had to change her life completely since then. It really helped me as even though we had very different issues to deal with, there was a lot of overlap.
More than just a craving
Saturday was something else though. I woke up feeling terrible with huge cravings and felt physically terrible. I went for a short walk to the post office, but had to turn back before I go there. Firstly, I was not sure I could resist buying alcohol in the local shops. And second, I felt I could not physically walk there. I felt like I was suffering from alcohol withdrawal, even though I had not had a drink in weeks.
I did a bit of research, and found that I could be suffering from Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. I’d not heard of this before and am still convinced it’s a thing, but it did make sense. My brain had kicked back into the state it was in when I stopped drinking, and was creating a physical effect, when there was no reason for there to be one. I’m going to ask the alcohol nurses at the hospital about it when I see them next week, as what I read suggested this could happen for up to 2 years of abstinence. It wasn’t fun, but I got through the day and evening, again chatting to people and getting support. Sunday morning I woke up with zero cravings, zero physical symptoms. Its was all very strange,
How recovery is a journey
I mentioned last week that while I was discussing my time in rehab with them, they commented “fat lot of good that did you”, and how I felt this was not the right way to look at it. I’ve had others say “I wish someone had told you that you were going to die sooner” as that looks from the outside as being the magic bullet that made me stop.
It wasn’t. It was a culmination of a lot of things I have been through.
I have had tons of help through the last 20 years. Group sessions, counselling sessions, rehab, motivational courses, medical interventions and more. They have all added something to my overall understanding of how my brain and body are working while I am drinking. Some have helped a lot more than others, some have led to periods of abstinence, some have been useless. But it has taken all of these things to get me in a position where a final threat that I was killing myself just pushed me over the edge.
I’ve had recovery described to me as like turning around an oil tanker. It takes a lot of time and effort to get it pointed in the opposite direction from where it started. And that’s exactly what’s happened with me.
Rehab was great for getting me in a safe environment for a while, at showing me what a period of time with alcohol could be like. But it was also an environment where I didn’t like a lot of the people I was with. I resented my lack of privacy and time on my own. And it was a very unrealistic, controlled environment. It was also somewhere I shared some of the things I had never shared with other people before.
Groups have a similar effect. They have made me very comfortable with sharing stories, experiences and emotions with other people. If I meet new people and will be interacting with them on a regular basis, I will sometimes bring up my issues if it’s appropriate. This has led to a lot of positive reinforcement recently as people have commented how much more present I am, how much better I am looking and just sharper in general.
One to ones have also been key. I prefer having counsellors who will challenge me. I need someone who tries to push my buttons and will challenge my thoughts and statements. This has helped a lot through the years. At this point now, I’m not sure how much help it will be, but I have a session next week where I will discuss it. But it’s great to have someone who knows you pretty well call you out on something you are saying that they feel you don’t mean.
What else is going on?
I’m now dealing with the fallout of eating too much since I stopped drinking. My weight has ballooned and I need to get control of that. I did see my GP this morning and my blood pressure is great, we switched my medication for that recently, and everything else is fine. I am much more aware now of what is going on with myself physically, and a lot of it is a worry. But it really is not and he reassured me of that today. Aches and pains? Result of weight gain. Bony bit on my finger joints? Early signs of some arthritis, I’m just getting older. Various other bits? Your body is getting used to a new reality. So all good. I’ve had all the tests I need done recently, I’m in remarkably good shape considering what I did to myself. And the GP noted how much better I seemed in myself, which is always good to hear. So on to the next week.
As I write this, it is 50 days since I have had a drink.