Staying Sober Can Drive you Drink-if it does not Bore you to Death
Posted Oct 10 2008 2:07pm
The Conclusion from my last Post....
Within a month or so from leaving the hospital my body started to get it's act together. Every day I got stronger and began to look human again. I rediscovered the glory of food. Now was the time to llok around for the best Alcoholism information and reassess whether I was also suffering from Anxiety or Depression. Not an easy task.During the last 20 days prior to my treatment I had eaten nothing at all. It was impossible to keep anything down. I went back to work and generally lived a normal life. Initially I was pre-occupied with just getting my life back in working order but in time that dreaded word for alcoholics, craving, reared it's ugly head. They creep into your life at the most innocuous times and can be the ruination of many good intentions. Coupled with this new threat was a new idea slowly forming that basically questioned the fairness of this whole " new normal" for me. Why me? Was there something wrong with me? Unfortunately these questions have the same meaning as asking how long is a piece of string?
If you sat down with 10 Doctors and Psychologists you might get 10 different answers to why some of us are alcoholics and others can get vrot drunk from time to time and continue living a normal life. The bad news is that medical science is divided on the answers. There could be a defective gene, it might be hereditary, neurotransmitters in the brain have got their wires crossed or it could be due to an addictive personality. What is a known fact is that there is no simple test to determine your risk of developing full blown alcoholism. The medical guys have a nice expression which basically says that you have crossed the line. You will not even know that you are approaching that line and you cross it oblivious to the fact that you are about to turn your life upside down. Realistically it is a subjective call that finally condemns you to carrying the label, "alcoholic" around with you for the rest of your life. That call is mostly based on your alcohol intake and your general functionality in your day to day activities. Not a full-proof system and one that has no appeal to the alkie contesting their life sentence. But in the hands of an experienced practitioner you can be sure that they have, for all intensive purposes called it right. It is probably this uncertainty that leads many of us to question our label and in most cases to chance your arm with a few dops. Bad idea guys. You will create history if you do manage to beat the odds. A blind acceptance of your fate is probably a good start to a long lasting "cure". Falling off the wagon is another phrase that we are all familiar with. It happens. In fact the majority of labeled alkies will fall off at some point. The trick is to pick yourself up. I have had the privilege and pleasure over the last few years to consul others and the "fallen hero" syndrome is never far away from your thoughts.Today I can help you but tomorrow is another day. There is a wide range of support groups out there who are only too willing to come to your aid. Good Alcoholism information is key to your recovery as well as fighting the Anxiety or Depression that you no doubt had developed. The well known Alcoholics Anonymous exist solely to help those battling with this killer disease. And a huge bonus is the fact that they are free. Staffed by men and woman who have beaten this monster, this is a good start to cleaning your act up. Like many support groups dedicated to this illness their counselors have been there, done that and got the T-shirt. Listen to them and they will pull you out of the black hole that you find yourself in.
After almost coming to terms with your label we come to the crux of this whole sad scenario. How in the hell am I going to not drink ever again? Four words. IT IS NOT EASY. We live in a world surrounded by alcohol. Just look around you. Unlike illegal drugs there is a bottle store on every corner. Hell nowadays when you pop in to buy your bread and milk net on die hoek you are confronted by rows and rows of bottles of my favourite poison. Newspapers, T.V. radio and magazines bombard you the whole time. Smoking has become a no-no but alcohol has crept into our nations psyche. I mean our national sports teams are financed by the giants of the liquor industry. Oh look there's our cricket Captain Graeme Smith, wearing a sponsored playing shirt with the name of a well known South African beer across his chest.. In their effort to sell the product they go to great lengths to glamorize life with a beer by your side. Our basic socialization teaches us from a very early age that no event is complete without the requisite alcohol intake. When did you last go to a wedding, promotion party, simple family braai or just plain get-together after work and you all drunk mineral water. You could probably count them on one hand . And these are the happy events. What about the fight with the wife, the retrenchment, the death of a loved one, losing that big deal or just feeling pissed off with life. Alcohol used and not abused is a feature of our fast and modern times. To sit and consider that it is no longer part of your life requires a 360 degree turnaround in your way of thinking. It is no help to try and demonize alcohol. Sure it is probably responsible in one way or other for much of the carnage on our roads, our ridiculous crime levels and the ever increasing women and child abuse in the new South Africa. But there is another side of the coin. Who can deny that a couple of cold ones after a bad day at the office rests the brain. That warm comfortable feeling at the family braai so that even Uncle John's nonsense starts to make logical. That awkward corporate do when suddenly Mr. Jones from Regional office does not seem such a prick after all. In all these instances it does not matter that the whole lot of you cannot sentence two strings together. You are relaxed, feeling good and life is not so bad after all.
Besides the physical presence of alcohol around you all the time "club members" have to have eyes in the back of their heads. There are many side-shows that can trip you up. Days after coming out of hospital my better half Mary out of the goodness of her heart decided to buy me an extremely expensive vitamin boosted drink. The object was to get my wasted body back on track. A couple of days later I started to feel as though I needed a drink badly. On investigation with my pharmacist I was informed that it contained elements of ethanol. Enough to make my recently sodden brain recognize that this was an old friend calling again. A close call.
As a recovering and sober alcoholic there are many instances when you are tested. Alcohol is a sneaky bastard and pops up in the most unusual places, usually unannounced. Christmas Day and as the restaurant clientele get stuck into their much awaited Xmas pudding , you have to take a rain-cheque. Sorry too much brandy in that one. Mouthwash, sports vitamin drinks, low alcohol beer, even some deodorants can get those brain cells craving all over again. It is very much a case of treading softly and making sure that you avoid even the smallest amount of alcohol. Modern psychology has more or less worked out that the brain is like a camera and records many of your memories. It is like a computer with 100,000GB of memory. The memory of your drunken stupors are recorded and are easily activated. So watch it.
Every sober alcoholic has to find his own individual way to deal with his life sentence. I took the middle road of evasive action. I buy wine for my better half. I will feel comfortable in small groups of friends and family who are drinking at a social event. I draw the line at large gatherings. Later in the evening I feel alienated and isolated. As the brews flow I do start to feel uneasy. It is just my way. It is for the individual to work out what works best. For me in a world swimming in alcohol I made the decision to have it around in small doses. A s they say in the classics- whatever floats your boat. Nobody starts out with the intention of becoming an alkie and that magical line creeps up on us unannounced.
Beware though once you are labeled your life takes a definite downturn. It is really best to try and head off that day. You all know if a problem is developing. Deep down you now need alcohol rather than want it. The body and mind now require just to give you a shot at getting through the day. What started out as a fun way to relieve tension and stress or just to have a good time is now a preoccupation. Without it you become one sick camper. Body sweats, nausea, shaking, mental confusion and generally one screwed-up constitution are the byproducts of even a few hours abstinence.
Take it from someone who has been there, do not go there. Stop it before you wake up one day and suddenly your daily dop is your master. Stop it before your every waking moment revolves around the next drink. It happens so fast and the next minute you become a member of that "club" that nobody wants to join. Have fun with your drink but do not let it become your everything. Take advice from family, friends and work colleagues. They will be noticing your slide way before you will admit to a problem.
Then again the whole question of how to get treatment is fraught with difficulties. A good starting base would be your family G.P. Try and choose somebody who regularly deals with this type of problem. It really does help to actually like the individual. Another base to touch is a Psychologist. I went through numerous Psychologists until I finally found one that I felt comfortable with. Alcoholics by the very secretive nature of their illness are very convincing liars and spend most of their time in self-denial. Modern research has concluded that alcoholism and acute depression co-exist in most cases. The burning question to sort out is" are you drinking because you are depressed or are you depressed because you are drinking". A tricky one but the type of issue a compassionate and experienced G.P. and Psychologist can get to grips with. I will never forget coming out of a session with a Psychiatrist, climbing into the car and proclaiming to Mary that the guy was a nutcase who needed help more than I did. Sad but true. In my confusion I had started to lose the plot.
The range of treatments depend on how long you have been on the slide and your mental and physical state. From simple counseling, anti-depressants to sleep therapy and if the depression is severe and life threatening, the last resort treatment of Shock Therapy. But ultimately the day will arrive when you are on your own and it is time to bite the bullet. Total, absolute and never-ending abstinence is the only route to go. Statistically the odds of you beating the odds are for all intensive purposes, one big fat zero.
Some days are worse than others. The usual and normal day to day activities of everyday life present you with many occasions when a couple of cold ones seems like the answer. Your slide into acute alcoholism followed by your treatment phase will eventually become a distant memory. The days,weeks, months and years of trying to stay sober will be your new reality. Once again I would like to quote another old guy who probably knew what he was talking about. During the dark days of World War Two when his island was been threatened by the ever-growing menace of Nazism, Winston Churchill, who by all accounts liked the odd dram, declared, " If you are going through hell, keep going" Better advice was never given. Use every avenue of information on Alcoholism and do not neglect the other 3 whammies, Anxiety or Depression and Addiction. They all have to be attended to. Turn your greatest weakness into your greatest strength. As I wrote in my article a couple of years ago, you are definitely not alone.