This is a story about escaping...
I just realised that I couldn't tell you anything about how these wines tasted. I drank them without savouring the smell and the flavour. I drank all these bottles of wine on my own and I can't remember a thing about them. If I had to choose which one I enjoyed the most, I wouldn't be able to - I didn't drink them for enjoyment. I drank them to get drunk.
When I took a sip from my glass last night, I still had a very bad hangover from the night before. The wine tasted sour and unpleasant. I had been in two minds about drinking anyway, but something prompted me to drink - I think it was anxiety about fast approaching Monday morning and returning to the office; another agonising week doing a job I hate. There was anxiety about my financial situation too. I had run out of money and spent my final £10 on wine and a cheeseburger. I was skint.
Alcohol has become liquid diazepam for me. Alcohol is a very poor substitute for benzodiazepines though. At least with benzos you don't have dreadful hangovers. At least with benzos, you don't get a fat tummy from all the excess calories. At least with benzos, it's possible to be very precise with a dose. Benzos slotted pretty easily into my everyday life, in a way that alcohol doesn't. I would take a benzo to go to sleep, and another to be able to get up and go to work. I was functional on benzos. Alcohol is unhealthy. Alcohol is not going to lead anywhere except becoming unfit, overweight and suffering from various alcoholism-related illnesses. Taking my tranquillisers in pill form is far more preferable to having to guzzle gallons of booze.
Why would I be getting so intoxicated anyway? Surely my life is wonderful?
There's a little bit of loneliness and boredom. I'm working away from home and living in a hotel. There's nothing much to do except drink. I was running out of money, so it's not like I could go out and do things. Also, did I mention I was running out of money? When you know that you're running out of money, it's really stressful. Stress means that you can't relax and you can't sleep. Constant anxiety is a terrible thing. When you're running out of money, anxiety is constant. When you're not sleeping, anxiety is with you all night long, tormenting you. There are no easy solutions to my problems, but money's a good start. If you don't have any money, you might as well just get drunk.
"How do you afford to get so drunk if you've got no money?"
Well, it's about priorities. The six bottles of wine pictured above probably cost me about £42. How much would I spend on gym membership? How much would I spend on a night out seeing friends? How much would I spend wooing a girl? It's not possible to simply not exist, and still earn money. Earning money requires existence - nobody pays you unless you're in the right place at the right time. The only way to get me into a shitty situation that I hate - living out of a suitcase and working a job that makes me sick - is to oil me up with a load of booze or tip a packet of pills down my throat. It's completely necessary to have booze when I'm doing something that's otherwise incompatible with my mental health.
Thus, we arrive at my central theme: drinking myself sober. The route to sobriety does not just include abstinence. The route to sobriety also needs to include things that are compatible with life. Modern life requires money. The way to get money is to do a job that you hate. The more you hate your job, the more you'll get paid. I REALLY HATE my job, so they pay me LOADS AND LOADS of money.
I finally got paid today.
Now I have money but I also have a big booze habit. I was pissed out of my mind the whole of Christmas and New Year, because I really didn't want to go back. I'm quite an articulate fellow but I really struggle to quite convey just how unhappy my particular line of work makes me.
"Retrain! Be a famous pop singer! Drive Formula One cars! Be an astronaut! Be a professional footballer!" I hear you shout.
Yes, but there are economic fundamentals at play in the capitalist bullshit society we all live in. It makes far more sense for me to be paid absolutely bucketloads of cash, and suffer a very great deal, than to be paid absolute peanuts and suffer loads anyway for different reasons.
I got paid today.
An alcohol habit, I can deal with, I think. When I had a massive problem with sleeping pills and tranquillisers and painkillers, life was a different story. There was no way that I was going to be able to quickly and easily cut down my addiction to prescription medications. I was actually physically dependent on benzos to the point where I would have seizures and possibly die if I stopped taking them abruptly. I was trapped. Now I'm not trapped. I have a booze habit - I drink more than I want to - but it's manageable. I don't drink spirits. I don't drink every day. I don't drink in the morning. I don't get pissed at work. It's a much better situation than when I had such a bad benzo addiction that I was on diazepam around-the-clock.
Sleep is one of the reasons why I've historically had a problem with booze and benzos. Zopiclone is called a nonbenzodiazepine, but it's still a benzo. Zopiclone is addictive. I used to have a few glasses of red wine to help me sleep. When I discovered zopiclone it became my drug of choice for helping me to sleep. I took it for most of 2017.
Now, I'm doing all the right things for sleep. I practice good sleep hygiene. Lowering the lights, avoiding strong blue light, having breakfast, completely avoiding caffeine, having 5-HTP (a precursor to melatonin) and magnesium supplements. All of these things make a difference. I get a little exercise too.
But, on the flip side, when you stop taking diazepam, alprazolam, zopiclone, zolpidem, pregabalin, mirtazepine, lamotrogine and a whole heap of other sedative/hypnotic/tranquilising/sleeping-pill type drugs, you get a horrible amount of rebound anxiety and insomnia. Words can barely express how horrible it is to live with a constant gnawing sense of dread, doom and dismay. I'm not talking about a few nerves that can be waved away with bloody breathing exercises or yoga. I'm talking about living for 24 hours a day with the unshakable sensation that you're about to die. It's not something that's going to be fixed by your quack snake-oil cures, because it has a biochemical origin. What goes up must come down. If you take heaps of pills, they're really really hard to stop taking and you'll feel awful when you do stop taking the medication.
So, I've been self-medicating for the combined anxiety of running out of money, having to start a new job, doing work that I absolutely loathe and that makes me sick, having to live away from friends and family in a lonely isolating environment and not having any bloody money to spend to make it bearable, while withdrawing from bucketloads of addictive medications. I think £42 for six bottles of wine is a bloody bargain, when you consider that this unhealthy coping mechanism has actually helped me to cope. I've done it. I've bloody done it. I worked and I got paid - that wouldn't have been possible without chemical crutches to prop me up.
Hurrah for alcohol. Better the devil you know. It should be straightforward to now reduce my alcohol intake to healthier levels. Some moderate alcohol consumption is actually desirable. I can't imagine living on this shitty overcrowded rainy island, without wine and beer to drink. I can't imagine anything worse than living life completely sober.
Of course, there's a risk that I swing the other way, and my drinking worsens. There's a risk that I'll reach for the harder stuff - which I've never touched a drop of in my life. There's a risk that I'll lose control.
At the moment, I'm really chuffed with where I'm at with my addiction to substances. To have quit all those dangerously addictive drugs, and now be left with a very negligible habit is quite impressive. What does a couple of glasses of wine matter?
The next challenge is to try to stay off the zopiclone and taper off the tiny amount of pregabalin that I've been relying on. It's taken longer and it's been much harder than I thought it would be. I'm amazed just how terrible I still feel, as I reduce my dose of all the pills I was addicted to to almost zero. It's amazing just how much of a strong hold on my mind those pills had. I'd reach for those pills to go to sleep, and I'd reach for those pills just to cope with hideously horrible stressful shit, that made my life unbearably filled with anxiety. Now, I occasionally have some red wine. That's not bad is it?
I really can't decide which way to go at the moment. I'm not going to drink tonight, but I've had to take 50mg of pregabalin to be able to cope with anxiety. I shouldn't be stressed - I finally got paid - but it's going to take a little while for me to re-adjust to the new circumstances. I've been living with the threat of bankruptcy hanging over me for so long, I can't quite believe I dodged that bullet.
I'm not sure if anybody who's followed my turbulent ups and downs can detect any improvement or change from where I was at when I was under the influence of enough medications to tranquillise an elephant. It's really hard to gauge in myself whether I'm any different at all. Am I able to better perceive reality? Am I communicating with more clarity? Am I getting better? It's impossible for me to judge.
One thing that should be noted is that my decision to reduce and quit a whole host of highly addictive medications, alcohol and other substances, was my own. I also don't think I could have quit everything if I was forced to go cold turkey and quit abruptly. In fact, it would quite literally have killed me to do so - you can't just stop when you're physically dependent on substances. Alcohol, for all its faults, is at least available as a ubiquitous form of self-medication. If I'd had to rely on doctors to give me what I needed, I'd never have been able to get through such a torturous period of re-adjustment. It's inhumane to not offer any kind of substitute prescribing or realistic tapering of doses, to help people escape from the trap of addiction.
Yes, I laughed at the amount of effort that junkies will go to in order to get a tiny bit more methadone or subutex, but that's the point - you do you. You know what you can take and you go at the pace that means you succeed. You know what you need and you should damn well get it. Anything other than this is going to be doomed to failure, and cause undue suffering.
I've suffered and it's been hard. It's still hard. But, I got through something really tough and I still have the comfort of knowing there's a bottle of wine waiting for me in the off licence down the road if everything gets thoroughly unbearable. Hurrah for red wine.
Tags: #addiction #alcohol