Sunday, 28 December 2014

Where I am with alcohol

Today is my 210th day of sobriety, the end of my 30th week. 

I thought I'd start with where I am (or where I think I am), before looking at where I want to be. 

The big thing is that I'm alcohol free and building up a good long period of abstinence. I've been heading in this direction for a while. In 2009 I did an in-patient detox in a local hospital. After that, I managed about a year completely abstinent. Then there were some ups and downs with alcohol - periods of abstinence, periods of more controlled drinking, periods of caning it. 

I always kept in my mind that I never wanted to end up back in the state that had seen me shaking and sweating away in that hospital ward. I managed that. However, I wasn't able to properly commit to abstinence (as you'll soon gather, that's still a struggle now). That was pretty foolish of me. 

I've had problems with alcohol ever since I met it as a teenager. Like lots of problem drinkers I desperately wanted to land in the Magical Far-Away Land of Moderate Social Drinking. And I tried. There's an outside chance that I may try again. 

The theory goes that we drink for a reason. So after tackling that reason we can drink and it won't be a problem. I did work very hard on finding out what the cause of my love/love relationship with alcohol is. I had counselling. I went to groups. I read a lot. The truth was that if I am ever going to be able to drink in a way that doesn't turn my life into a soggy mess it wasn't then. 

After my detox I had been prescribed Antabuse. That's a deterrent drug - you drink; you get very sick. I take it under supervision (I'm still on it now), going for a breath test before popping my pills every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In my experiments with controlled drinking I tried to use Antabuse. I drank at weekends before going to the clinic on Monday to take the two pills that would keep me sober until the following weekend. That worked, to an extent - I didn't drink during the week, but I overindulged badly at the weekends. However, my supervisors weren't able to back that approach and told me they'd withdraw my Antabuse. I knew that without it I'd be heading back to the detox ward. 

There followed more dances around alcohol and dependence, before I took a community detox. In all honesty I probably didn't need it, I could have cut down and stopped on my own. But I wanted the support and I wanted to go straight on to Antabuse. 

That was on December 19th, 2013. Since then I have drunk alcohol on eight days. That's down to another experiment, and one other problem drinkers will probably recognise, "planned relapses". I took my Antabuse and stayed happily abstinent, but every couple of months (and this only happened twice) I'd have a weekend of drinking. 

Both weekends were chosen to coincide with Mag, my partner, going away. The first also included a gig, which seemed like a good excuse, something noteworthy. Also, I think, a way of making my drinking more "normal" - normal people drink when they go to a concert, so could I. 

I've called these two relapses qualified successes. The qualifications are enormous though. I drank to an extent that I became ill. I'd planned to drink moderately (ha!) every day of my lost weekends, but so overdid it on both first days that I spent the next day in bed. I knew I would stop, but it was hard. The first time I drank on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The second time that became Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. 

That was enough with that experiment. Each drinking session pretty much wiped me out for a week. It wasn't in any way, shape or form moderate, normal or healthy drinking. It wasn't really supposed to be though. It was the aftermath that convinced me to knock the idea on the head. I lost too much time to feeling appalling, sorry for myself, anxious and depressed. 

That's when I swore off alcohol for... for good? For the foreseeable future? I'm not quite sure yet.  In my mind I occasionally say "forever". I haven't said that publicly yet. The best I can say is that I am aiming for a long period of abstinence.

One of the first things I did when I made that commitment (however amorphous a commitment it might be) was sign up at Bright Eye. It's an alcohol counselling service, but attached to that website is a forum. It's the best alcohol forum I've found, and you'll find me posting there. 

That's where I am today then. Tomorrow I'll go to the clinic and take two Antabuse tablets and that'll mean I'll be sober for another five days (I've received differing advice on how long Antabuse is effective for, either five days or a week).