Day 39 – The morning after an intense experience

It’s been a few days since I last posted. I’ve been busy working and trying to get enough sleep which is always a challenge for day-sleepers. I’m still not drinking and life is generally ticking along OK.

I haven’t been online for a few days so I’ve been catching up with blogs posts from the blogs I’m following. This post at stopwineingstartliving really resonated with me this morning. I like the concept of there being no ‘decision’ to make about whether to drink or not which effectively removes the internal debate and the tiring, obsessive thought processes that go with the decision. It is something I have thankfully started to experience. I’m into my 6th week of being sober now and yesterday I passed yet another Tuesday morning (Friday night equivalent) without cracking open the red or even wasting one second of my night considering it as a possibility. Tuesday was peaceful and lazy after some long, heavy nights at work. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t…

I was reminded of another one of the reasons I have had in the past for drinking. I’m not sure how to describe it really. The most obvious description would be a ‘manic’ episode but I hate the potential mental health assumptions that that label brings. It’s something I’ve experienced from time to time for as long as I can remember so it doesn’t scare me but what I have usually done is douse it down with a heavy dose of booze.

It’s a high energy state that I feel physically and mentally. It’s certainly not how you’d expect to feel after having been awake for almost 24 hours, including a heavy 10 hour shift at work. I’m struggling with the words here but this music video with the crackling blue flashes, flames and intensity is probably a good way to start – and heck, what an awesome voice.

The physical side of it manifests as an extreme restlessness that makes me want to do something like one of the following;

  • Run extremely fast for a long time
  • Have exhaustingly intense sex
  • Dance and get very sweaty and go into a shamanic trance-dance sort of altered state
  • Drive fast with very loud music playing
  • Do some martial arts
  • Drink heavily, preferably heavy red wine

You get the general idea. As I have injured knees, don’t always have the option of great sex, don’t go clubbing any more, drive a 1 litre eco car and have an issue with fuckwits driving dangerously you can see that the only option has most often been to crack open a bottle. Last night none of the above were an option.

Then there’s the psychological side of the experience. Racing thoughts and ideas with the inability to just ‘switch off’ my head. The thoughts aren’t sinister or dangerous and are often quite useful in the form of creative ideas, but they’re relentless and it can get a bit much after a while. A few glasses of red starts to slow them down usually, but nope, that still wasn’t an option last night.

I considered getting out of bed and pondered what I could do but then had a novel idea – I could just stay with the experience and not try to avoid it. Feel the feelings and think the thoughts and not worry about getting to sleep – I’m not working again until the weekend and I have no appointments or commitments to get to. So there I was, fidgeting around in bed with my eyes wide open but sort of ‘watching’ myself do it as well – if that makes any sense?

Taking on an attitude of mindfulness and acceptance turned an uncomfortable situation into something better. I still wasn’t exactly relaxed but some of the edge had gone from the experience. I thought about so many areas of my life and tried to follow where my thoughts were going with total self-honesty. I thought about my employment, my finances, my growing feeling of having a lack of options in life. I thought about my doubts about my relationship and what this could mean for the future. I thought about mistakes I’d made in the past and pondered why I’d made them. In short, I thought about a hell of a lot of stuff which was quite uncomfortable in parts but way more valuable that drowning out the process with alcohol. At some point I fell asleep, and slept for almost 12 hours.

One thing I learned from last night is that I’ve only just really begun to build a sense of identity in the last few years leading up to my 40s. I think I’ve lived most of my adult life without having any strong sense of who I am and where I’m at – I’ve generally just floated along allowing my surroundings and the people in it to shape me, rather than defining myself. Alcohol has played its part by squashing down the seeking, doubting and questioning side of me. If in doubt, or uncomfortable, or confused, or bored, or restless – then drink.

I believe that there’s a part of us, deep inside that knows what we need from life and has the answers to all our questions. It’s very difficult to hear though, like a tiny voice lost in the cacophony of the noise of our lives. I think that the more extreme psychological events such as depression, panic attacks or manic episodes come from somewhere deep in our subconscious as a wake-up call or a plea to be listened to. Now that alcohol is out of the way for the foreseeable future I’m really ready to listen, I’m really trying.

Today I’ve felt a bit flat and surprisingly tired given how long I slept for. I’ve been for a big walk in the winter sunshine which has made me feel better. I’ve pootled about in some charity shops and managed to find some very new-looking jeans to see me through the interim stage until I lose a few more pounds. I’m now going to curl up and have a snooze for a few hours because that feels like the best thing to be doing right now. My cat agrees with me and is already fast asleep curled up at the end of the bed – bless her!

Day 22 – weird dreams, more self-analysis and one reason why I think I started drinking

I don’t know what is going on with my dreams but it’s all getting seriously weird. I vaguely remember reading somewhere recently that alcohol depletes vitamin B12 and a shortage of B12 leads to poor dream recall. That fits, I’ve rarely remembered my dreams for years. In the last 22 days I’ve remember quite a few – vividly!

Yesterday I was throwing some sort of family party on a houseboat which involved my rampantly anti-drugs 80-something father smoking hash in a bong – the absolute and total horror!!! Today it got even stranger. I was with one of my historically hard-drinking-buddies in some sort of foreign package holiday scenario – lots of sunshine, outdoor bars and people partying. I had a craving for a nice cold pint of lager but resisted. Then I swallowed a pill that a total stranger just popped into my mouth. WTF?! I haven’t taken anything recreational in pill form since my twenties and even then I was always very, very cautious and would absolutely never in a million years just pop an unknown pill from a random stranger. Just what is going on in my head at night? (well, day actually – I’m a day-sleeper because of my job). Unbelieveable! I really don’t know what to make of that.

On a less weird note, I’ve woken up to find I’ve had some traffic to my blog and even some followers. My heart is warmed and I’m far more touched than is probably cool in this situation, but that’s me, about as ‘uncool’ and socially clueless as it gets by ‘normal’ standards 😀 I’ve become aware I’m writing the blog in a sort of diary form, not really reaching out in any way or getting involved in any of the other blogs I read. This is not because I don’t want to I just find it excruciatingly difficult to connect to people. I’m like this in real life and it seems I’m the same online. I’ve even clicked on ‘leave a comment’ a few times and sat starting at the empty comment box like a rabbit in headlights and eventually just given up and left. I’m also highly self-conscious about the fact that for some reason I’m finding it reasonably easy to abstain when others are really struggling. I’m paranoid about coming across as smug because that’s the last thing I want. I can relate to so many of the struggles that I read about – they just happened to me before I started this blog.

I’m pretty sure this is learned behaviour that stems from my childhood experiences. This is a subject I’m utterly and painfully uncomfortable writing about – even on an anonymous blog – which I why I think that I have to. I also think it goes some way to explaining how I fell in love with alcohol. I don’t really know how to start this and it’s probably not going to read that coherently because my thoughts squirm around when I try to pin them down, but here goes…

I’m not a fan of labels. I don’t want to be labelled as I don’t like the assumptions that so frequently go with them. Having said that, I’ve been given a few over the years – sometimes viciously and slyly stuck somewhere up my mid-back where I can’t see them – the ‘kick me’ joke style – and sometimes with the best of intentions. I’ve tried to peel them all off, roll them into a small ball and flick them as far away as possible. The collection I’ve had include:

Freak, weirdo, misfit, loner, loser, geek, boring, clueless, ugly, other, stoner, pisshead, quirky, chicken, brave, beautiful, different, maverick, radical, sensitive, gifted, creative, funny etc.

I’ve included positive labels too even though they’re not the ones that started me drinking. No matter how many people have given me negative labels I’ve never lost my belief in the existence of people that would – and have – given me good ones, they’re out there but there’s just not as many of them. I fear and dislike closed-mindedness, closed-heartedness, meanness of spirit and people (including myself) being judgemental. Even though in my more compassionate moments I try to remember that most mean behaviour is motivated by fear more than anything else I also have slowly, over many years and incidents been conditioned to expect the worst from people.

To cut a very long story short I’d summarise it as follows. I have always been a misfit and an outsider. I was bullied the whole way through school and spent most of my childhood in such a state of anxiety that the adrenaline and nausea would be pumping from a few seconds after waking, the whole day would be torture and I’d be miserable and exhausted by the end of each day. I wasn’t totally alone, there were always 1 or 2 people that would recognise my ‘otherness’ and be drawn to it. There was fortunately always a small lifeline of friendship to keep me sane but in the main I can honestly say I feel like my life started the day I left school.

On top of that there were also other ‘unpredictable shit happens’ life events in my early childhood that took away any sense of financial security and even the security that a parent would stay alive (redundancy and serious parental illness). I remember feeling that no matter where I looked, there was nothing solid to hold on to. When I hear people talk about the joy of carefree and golden childhood days I just can’t connect to that concept. I visualise it as being like a fairground house of horrors with the floor moving around and scary shit jumping out at me from all angles. Even in my 40s my pulse raises and my muscles tense up when I concentrate on memories of being a kid. I remember being so tired of coping that I actually broke my own arm over a concrete step just to get a few days away from school. I still don’t know how I did that – I’m such a pain wuss.

You get the general picture. I was a wreck of a super-high-anxiety, rabbit in headlights teenager on the edge of a nervous breakdown sort of kid. Eww, blimey even just describing this is taking me as close to wanting a drink as I’ve been for 3 weeks. I’m not going to though.

Then, at 14, hidden away in some woodland near my dreaded secondary school I got drunk for the first time. Oh my fucking god, the bliss I felt that day. I was drinking cans of guinness and trying to ignore how foul it tasted. When that first sense of creeping numbness started I could feel my tightly strung-out tension receding. The more I drank, the further away all the shit seemed to go. For the first time ever I was feeling something close to relaxation and it felt like some sort of divine revelation. No wonder I fell in love with drinking from then on.

My drinking partner that day was my best friend at the time – a lass even more way-out-there-on-the-fringes than myself. I think we both had a similar sense of relief that day and both continued to drink heavily from that day onwards. I always remained fairly high-functioning but sadly she went into a slow slide into mental illness (depression and paranoid schizophrenia) and some horrendous self-induced tragedies. That’s a whole other long story 😦

So, I don’t think that was too long or rambling – I have a tendency to stray off the point when I write. I’d say I spent the first 30 years of my life desperately wanting to fit in) or at least be unobtrusive in not doing so) and trying to pretend to be more normal. I’ve spent the last 10 years observing that what is classed as ‘normal’ in our society is actually not all it’s cracked up to be and preferring my take on life – finally growing to like my ‘otherness’. I can even say that now, entering my 40s I’m actually very happy to have my ‘otherness’ and to be me. I’m not perfect and I’ve made plenty of mistakes but I can honestly say that I like and respect myself and my values, strengths and weaknesses.

Now I’ve (mostly) stopped wishing to be anything other than what I am and started embracing who and what I am it’s brought a level of inner peace that’s eluded me for most of my life. I suppose it’s a far healthier version of what I thought I was feeling all those years ago in the woods with the illicit guinness. It’s a tentative peace and I can easily lose contact with it but I know it’s always there within my reach as long as I am able to make the effort to keep an attitude of self-honesty, gratitude and acceptance rather than lose my way worrying about ‘social norms’ or chasing after a false alcohol-induced copy of it.

Bloody hell I’m exhausted now, I think I need a nice cup of tea. If you’ve got as far as this then thanks for reading and I’ll make you a virtual cuppa too 🙂