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Full Dark, No Sleep…

Posted Sep 14 2011 10:07am

(With apologies to Stephen King)


Pray – pray very hard – to whatever gods there might be that you never lose the ability to sleep. It’s a horrendous experience and can undermine your emotional and mental stability, and after the better part of 2 months with no useful sleep (2-3 hours, if I’m lucky), I was coming seriously unravelled.

A major part of my problem is that I can’t lie down – if I do, I can’t breathe, my herat doesn’t work properly, and the pain in my chest is unbearable, so since the end of January I’ve slept on the couch, sitting up – now that’s taking its toll too, with increasing pain and insomnia.

I sit here during the day, on the couch at night – great fuckin’ life, huh?

I’ve tried various remedies, including a herbal hop and valerian tablet which is normally helpful – nothing worked. The only sleep I got was on Thursdays when, full of booze I’d crash for 12 hours – not really a long-term solution!

Anyway, under normal circumstances I don’t drink at home, or drink very little – half a dozen bottles of beer will last a couple of months, for example –but in desperation I figured it was worth a try. Not having any booze, I thought I’d buy some cheap spirit – no point in anything expensive for medicinal purposes – but Sainsbury’s had Russian Standard vodka discounted by a third, so I gave that a try.

For me, drinking vodka is akin to drinking lamp-oil, an utterly charmless experience, but this is wonderful stuff, almost as complex, in its way, as gin. So, half an hour after taking my last dose of Co-codamol for the day, plus my nightly Amitryptilline, I had three ounces of vodka, and slightly more of orange squash. Done that for two nights now.

The first night I had 7.5 hours sleep, with a very brief meds break at 06.00. Last night it would have been over 8 hours, had it not been for a 90-minute or so pain break from about 05.30 until my 06.00 meds finally kicked in. Deeply unimpressed with that.

Still, it’s a solution, and might help to re-establish normal sleep patterns, not least because there is no prospect of sleep, yet, before 02.00.

And yes, I know all about the potential for problems combining drink with drugs (neither would be effective on its own), and frankly, I don’t care, I need sleep and I’ll take it any way I can get it. If anyone gets the urge to lecture me, think again; I’m not in the mood.

I did try, on two occasions, taking a single dose of 60mg DHC at night (it’s more effective than 30/500 Co-codamol). They didn’t actually do much, though, and on both mornings I woke with my lungs full of fluid again – on just one dose! It’s absurd, but it’s clear that I simply can’t take DHC any more. At all.

So anyway, I have at least a temporary solution, and tomorrow is pub day, followed by the one night in the week I can be sure of sleep (though Sod’s Law might make me regret saying that). Hopefully, the vodka will continue doing its job on the other nights and, I’ll be able to reduce it over a period, until I can sleep without its help.

It might not continue to be vodka – it depends what’s on offer – but what it won’t be is Sainsbury’s Basics vodka, an industrial blend of ethyl alcohol** (of unknown origin), and water, while Russian Standard is distilled from fermented Russian winter wheat, which imbues it with complex flavours just as it would if made into bread, by which I do not mean generic, white, Chorleywood crap, but good artisan bread.

**The alcohol in all booze is ethyl alcohol.

Talking of which, it’s bread day and I have some baking to do myself…

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