Dependence on alcohol has consequences. These consequences aren’t considered when in the midst of heavy alcohol consumption. My experience of drying out follows.
Following a prolonged period of drinking I would stop because the balance had tipped towards absolute annihilation. I was afraid of dying but equally afraid of coming off the drink. My stifled survival instinct would triumph to the extent of deciding to get sober. To an alcoholic the decision to stop drinking is filled with dread.
The physical, emotional and mental expedition is so daunting it’s the very reason why drinking continues to the point of unbearable suffering.
I describe my alcoholism as being driven by a red and green light. If the red light was active it didn’t matter if I was surrounded by alcohol, albeit alcohol at home, frequenting public establishments or visiting retail outlets. I wasn’t affected by ‘triggers’ that evoked an immediate reaction to drink. My experience was a lot more insidious, and the reason why I firmly believe alcoholism is a disease that progressively worsens.
When the green light emerged from its amber sunrise it comprised of strategic thinking in terms of how the goal could be reached. Very rarely was there any consideration of previous calamities. Also, bear in mind that the drinking episode in question could’ve been intended for the distant future, weeks, sometimes months ahead, especially if I was employed. This is why I consider alcoholism to be a disease, it’s necrotic nature is to progressively worsen.
As I describe in The Binge, alcoholism is seductive and feels indulgent as it consumes everything through skewed cognitive perspective and pseudo spiritual/emotional dexterity. The crimson light of despair signals the onset of withdrawal symptoms, an ominous and terrifying experience abounds. The body is already decimated by undernourishment caused by severely suppressed appetite and the nausea hasn’t erupted into vomiting and dry heaving yet.
As alcohol isn’t being replenished the affect begins to diminish. I never considered the gradual reduction of intake. It’s futile trying to control consumption when the motivating factors are immediate gratification and constant state of inebriation.
Anxiety, a state of heightened vigilance, an ancient throw back to the fight or flight reflex, tortuous, vexing and exhausting. Beginning with mild agitation, irritability and a sense of vacant toil. An incessant urge to purchase alcohol takes hold, should I? shouldn’t I? The shop closes at eleven pm, there’s three cans in the fridge, is so and so going out? Could they get me something so I don’t buy the usual excessive amount? The latest I could go is at ten minutes to eleven, if I ran. No. I’ve decided to stop drinking, the binge death rattle is almost over and I can focus on getting sober. I’ve just got to get to eleven pm and the next hurdle is enduring the night.
Midnight, no alcohol at home apart from what’s in my system and no hope of getting any until the morning. Auditory hallucinations emerge from nowhere sounding like celebratory jubilation’s emanating from a most hospitable establishment. Torment now joins anxiety as I question my sanity. Fidgety and lethargic, shivery and hot, tired and alert as the television illuminates the room in unnatural light, sound muted.
Sleep seems to be a good idea, get comfy on the couch, try to relax or escape this. A huge pang of anxiety strikes, eyes bulging I sit upright like a classic horror figure. My heart is pounding, thoughts racing through my mind, the only solution to what I’m experiencing is another drink. This continues all night before I eventually pass out with exhaustion.
Stood over the basin i regurgitate the sips of water ingested hours earlier. Blood shot eyes, perspiration gathered on my forehead and guts being strangled I gasp a full breath before the next esophageal contraction. Bile eventually emerges, peculiar yellow opaqueness dispersed by saliva bubbles. Appetite is now beginning to come to the fore as my body craves the calories is got from alcohol. A liquid diet of soup varieties, water and tea is all I’m going to be having for the next day or so.
Terror, wretchedness, regret, sorrow, self loathing, resentment swirl around my mind. I wonder if this is the experience that will prevent another drinking episode in the future? I doubt it.
In retrospect I drank to change how I felt and continued drinking to stop feeling anything. The incentive to drink always took precedent over the consequences of drinking. This is why the notion of one day at a time is so effective in my continuing sobriety. If I stay clear of the first drink on any given day I can’t get drunk. One drink is too many and a hundred isn’t enough. Now the futility is in taking the first drink.