Perception of Alcoholism

Relapse is something all alcoholics are threatened by and in my experience my sobriety was fragile enough to break under pressure. Support can be found in Alcoholics Anonymous, Treatment Centres and Rehabilitation Clinics to prevent relapse through peer group discussion, Addictive Voice Recognition Technique, Psychotherapy etc. However, I’m going to discuss the period of time I experienced wanting to be sober but succumbing to the turmoil and intrusive throughts.

I recall being at a works night out and playing along with the socialising element of it all. At the bar I ordered a lemonade and it was presented to me in a large tumbler with a napkin and a straw. Fucking SMH! I drink pints! I thought as I picked up the glass and turned around to try and engage with somebody I knew. My self esteem was none existent at the time, I needed to get in with a clique because God forbid I might actually spark a conversation with somebody I didn’t know.

I found making small chit-chat at public events excruciating, even when it was meant to be a joyous event. My alcoholic disease wanted me clutching a bottle at home with the curtains closed. A colleague asked me what I was drinking and I told her. “You don’t drink?” I was asked surprisingly. Now at this juncture I think it’s important to add that now I would reply with a confirmation of the query and move on to the next natural course of conversation. On this occasion I wasn’t assertive or confident in who I was or what I was doing. I actually replied, “no I’m not…”, and the pause said it all. “So you’ve got a problem with…?” I was asked as she turned away to speak to somebody else. I don’t think I drank that night but I certainly did at some stage afterwards. I knew where drinking took me and it was never a good place. I wanted acceptance and recognition for making the effort and what I felt was rejection, disillusionment and resentment. All the fellas had pints lined up on the table, similarly the ladies had Mojito cocktails, some of them multiple beverages seeing as though it was a free bar. I was judged with strange looks for staying with soft drinks.

Today is a different scenario entirely when I attend social gatherings. An example of other peoples intolerance for individuals not behaving the way they want them to happened to me at a works Christmas party. I hope you can relate and take some strength in dealing with similar situations you may find yourself in as an alcoholic. I was placed at the table that had a Manager sat opposite me along with other colleagues. Everybody is enjoying the entertainment and we’re having the main course when I’m abruptly asked, “what’s that in your glass?!” I was fucking raging at that point because I’d been drinking lemonade in a wine glass and it wasn’t questioned, but there was only orange juice left apart from the copious amounts of bottled beer stood in ice coolers. I told him, despite it being abundantly clear, that it was orange juice. Then I watched as he put his head in his hands shaking his head disapprovingly. I looked him in the eye and shouted across the music, “I don’t drink”. No explanations or excuses. I know that if I drink I wont stop and chaos will ensue.

The difference between the two situations is the availability of choices. The choice to drink was never afforded to me. I drank in ignorance as it was the solution I knew fit best at that precise time to obtain oblivion and fuck the consequences. I chose to text my sponsor and ask for support. I knew I could go to a meeting. I chose to run through the Serenity Prayer in my mind. I humbly accept I can’t change people, places or things and that includes the Manager’s opinion of my sobriety. I was courageous enough not to wither and walk away or worse still take a drink to gain approval. The wisdom came from previous situations like the one I described where I did succumb to drinking. I was able to identify my shortcomings of not feeling worthy, seeking approval, being insecure, lonely, fearful of rejection etc, and make an informed decision to interact socially on life’s terms knowing I’m an alcoholic and being happy with it.

The concept of surrender worked for me; the only battle you win by giving up. By completed a strong Step 1 with a sponsor I was able to stop fighting, white knuckling and hoping for change without action. The temptation and obsession have now left me and can only be described as miraculous. I achieved 3 years of sobriety on 10th March this year and I look forward to a sober life one day at a time.

Home Detox

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.