Skip to main content

I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Clean & Sober

5 min read

This is a story about prescribed medications...

Akira

After 4 months of sobriety I'm grateful for the weight loss. My liver must be very grateful for the break. It was exactly 2 years ago that my addiction peaked, when I had managed to obtain a stockpile of my drug of choice that would last me 6 years. Having that stockpile was a pivotal moment, because I knew that I would not survive for more than 6 months with a virtually limitless supply of the drug I was hopelessly addicted to. I knew that I had tested the patience of a very supportive friend - my guardian angel - and I announced to her that I would be committed to overcoming my addiction, which I have done.

These two achievements are not to be underestimated, and are also set against a backdrop of great financial hardship and other averse circumstances. I've been forced to move around. I've been forced to work when I'm sick. I've been forced to go deeper into debt and to re-invest the money I receive, in order to escape from the horrible trap I found myself caught in.

It's not really possible to travel directly from the depths of drug addiction and alcoholism to clean and sober living. A person can't wake up one day and decide that they're going to stop taking drugs and drinking. There are consequences of such a decision.

My hospitalisation in 2017 represents the peak of the consequences of my decision to attempt to quit addictive substances. At that time, I was still physically addicted to one prescribed medication and four which I obtained on the black market. It seems obvious that I should have ended up on an intensive care ward, having seizures, in a coma, with a machine breathing for me. It seems obvious that the battle was too hard to win and I would capitulate.

Presently, I am physically addicted to one medication and psychologically dependent on another. In terms of progress, this is a vast improvement versus taking 5 medications every day - instead of three physical dependencies, I have one, and instead of two psychological dependencies, I have one.

I swallow one pill for anxiety. If I abruptly stop taking that medication, I risk having a fatal seizure.

I swallow one pill for sleep. If I abruptly stop taking that medication, I will have insomnia.

I don't drink, which is great news for my physical health.

I'm working, which is great news for my bank balance.

Everything seems to be under control.

However.

My dependence on the black market is problematic. I had attempted to stockpile enough medication to allow myself to taper my dosage down and free myself from the physical and psychological dependence on the tablets, but the disruption of a breakup and moving house was a huge setback. My stocks are running low and I'm having problems replenishing my supply.

Of course, my plan all along was to end up completely substance-free. I tried in 2018 but my drinking got out of control. Drinking alcohol as a way of compensating for the unpleasant withdrawal side-effects of stopping medications, is not something that's good for my health. I gained weight and became alcohol dependent. Having broken my alcohol dependency, I would like to remain mostly teetotal because it's better for my weight, fitness and general health.

If you talk to any doctor they will tell you that all their patients suffer significant discomfort when withdrawing from psychiatric medications which they have been taking for long periods. In fact, the doctors will tell you that it's virtually impossible to get their patients to quit the prescribed medications which they have become dependent on.

Why quit?

It seems to be in vogue to stop people taking medicines which humanity has used safely and effectively for a long time. It seems to be trendy to stop people from taking opiates, benzodiazepines, tranquillisers, sedatives, hypnotics, sleeping pills and a whole host of medicines which were greedily guzzled by many generations without any issues. It seems to be the way of modern medicine to offer 'safer' ineffective alternatives and refuse to prescribe effective medications.

I can attest to the great difficulty of getting off the addictive medications which doctors don't prescribe. I've been addicted to all of them, and I've successfully stopped taking all of them for lengthy periods, so I can describe in exquisite detail the very many agonies and unpleasantnesses associated with cessation of these medications. I can recall exactly what the withdrawal side-effects are like for the pills that your doctor won't give you.

I find it hard to find a good reason to quit and be completely 100% free from any mind-altering substances, but I'm certainly having difficulties in maintaining a reliable supply, which puts me at risk of a potentially fatal seizure. Quitting the medications which give my life enough stability to be able to hold down a well-paid job, is not desirable, but it seems necessary given the exhaustive efforts undertaken to thwart me - playing the stupid cat-and-mouse game with a bunch of people who don't care about the consequences, is a waste of energy and I would love to be free from the stress of dependency and uncertainty about the supply of something which I physically need.

Luckily, my physical dependency is something I have the capacity to alter - unlike type 1 diabetes - so I am following through with my plan to wean myself off the two remaining medications, hopefully slowly enough that it doesn't destabilise me so much that I lose everything.

My version of clean and sober might not seem very impressive to you, but I assure you that it is a considerable achievement to have beaten fully-blown addiction to every substance imaginable and restored some health and wealth to my shattered life.

 

Tags:

 

Microcosm

10 min read

This is a story about paranoid schizophrenia...

Bedroom

I've lost my mind in all kinds of places, but the place where my sanity most eluded me was in this bedroom. I moved into this almost-ready-made perfect home, which only required a few bits of bedding and storage boxes to turn it into one of the most tidy and well organised places I've ever lived. I had stability and eventually I had security. I had my own front door, which I could lock and double-lock and be safely protected from the outside world and anybody who wanted to intrude.

The story begins in the midst of an unhappy relationship, several years earlier. A toxic mixture of mental health problems and drug abuse combined with an abusive relationship, to leave me barricading myself into rooms for my own protection, while my long-term girlfriend and later wife screamed abuse, kicked and punched the door which was my flimsy defence from the onslaught, which was seemingly unending.

The situation got so bad that I retreated to my summer house, where I drank water from a hosepipe and defecated in a bucket. I had no food or access to anything other than cold water. I couldn't take a shower. I was cornered.

To her credit, my ex-wife relented and I was able to come out of the summer house unmolested, unharassed and somewhat reassured that she was a safe distance away. We separated, but I was badly traumatised. The psychological torture had lasted for nearly 2 years and I was deeply damaged.

The extent to which I had been traumatised was not apparent to me. I moved away from the area to be away from her, and I assumed that my mental health was intact enough for me to start a new life without any problems. I assumed that having escaped from that abusive situation where I was cornered, I would be quickly on the mend.

What I discovered was that I carried a kind of post-traumatic stress which was thinly concealed by my generally sunny and upbeat positive mental attitude. I set about rebuilding my life and didn't think too much about the past. However, stress, exhaustion and drugs all had the capability of plunging me back into flashbacks of those awful moments when I was cornered. I experienced episodes of extreme paranoia about the kicking and punching of the flimsy door that protected me, and the torrent of abuse and violent anger which was a constant source of threat on the other side of whatever barrier I could find to protect myself.

It seems obvious that drugs are bad, and certainly the problems I had with drugs unleashed the very worst of the psychological trauma I had sustained. One might be tempted to say that the paranoia was caused by the drugs, but in fact the origin of my paranoia was much easier to explain. Few people would be psychologically strong enough to withstand the torment of being trapped somewhere with only one exit, and an angry violent abuser screaming and hammering on the single door with punches and kicks. Few people would escape without post-traumatic trauma from such events.

It seemed obvious in my perfect safe protected stable microcosm that nobody was going to hurt me. It seemed obvious that my front door was sufficiently robust to resist kicks and punches, and that I had escaped my abuser. It seems perfectly obvious in retrospect, but you have to understand that the trauma was deeply ingrained in my subconscious.

While I was able to function reasonably effectively and act mostly normal, I struggled with paranoid thoughts, unusual beliefs and strange behaviour, when I came under great financial pressure and and had a great deal of stress in my job. When I became exhausted, physically and mentally, I began to form paranoid beliefs. I struggled to maintain my ability to be objective and grounded in reality. My sanity suffered during moments of great difficulty.

I had a long period of drug abuse which demonstrated to me - beyond any reasonable doubt - that my original paranoia was no longer grounded in any past trauma, but instead had grown into something which was self-fuelling. While the original seed of my traumatised behaviour - barricading myself into rooms - was well understood, I had a lengthy period of time where I would suffer dreadful paranoia, only to eventually have to face the fact that my feared abuser was never going to turn up.

Strangely, that period I spent barricaded into my bedroom, hundreds of miles away from my abuser, did actually 'cure' me of my paranoid psychosis. Every time I desperately piled up furniture against the door and could never quite manage to create enough of a barrier to satisfy myself that I was safe, I eventually realised that nobody was battering on the door. I took down my barricades and I was surprised to find that my tormentor was nowhere to be found.

It was incredibly dangerous, and it cost me very dearly, but eventually I was left with nothing except drug-induced paranoia, which went away as soon as I stopped taking drugs.

I'd had periods where I'd been clean and sober, but they'd never cured me of my paranoia. My post-traumatic stress was still very much unresolved and the psychological damage was a deep and bloody wound. Even after long periods where I had been abstinent from booze and drugs, my mental health was fragile as hell and I could be tipped into insanity by relatively trivial stressors.

Two years in my lovely apartment, barricading myself into my bedroom and my ensuite bathroom, and I was cured by the most unusual and unlikely of things. The very behaviour which an outsider might assume was the root cause of all my problems, turned out to be a cathartic exercise which rid me of both the paranoia and the drug addiction.

I expect today if I were to spend several days and nights abusing powerful stimulant drugs, I would begin to suffer from paranoia, but I have been through some incredibly stressful events lately and my mental health has been reasonably robust. In comparison with the many days which I would spend not eating or drinking, barricaded in a room with only one exit, fearing for my safety, the few problems I've had in the last year have been nothing... hardly worthy of consideration.

A breakup and a house move were enough to unseat my sanity and cause me to be absent from work for a week. My brain chemistry was messed up for a couple of weeks following that episode, but the damage was contained and I've been able to hold onto the substantial progress that I've made, without slipping too far back down the greasy pole.

The demands placed upon me are almost unthinkable. I live amongst unpacked boxes of my stuff and furniture that needs to be assembled. I live with all my suitcases of clothes strewn around my bedroom, because I haven't built the furniture to put things away yet. My mail piles up and administrative chores are left ignored, because it's taken an unimaginable amount of effort to get myself from the point where I was homeless, jobless, penniless and detained against my will on a psychiatric ward, to where I am today, with a house, a car, a job, money in the bank, my reputation and my liberty preserved. The tasks which still lie ahead, such as making new friends and finding a girlfriend, plus putting in place the hobbies and interests and weaving the social fabric which will make my life worth living, is not something that should be underestimated.

Not all those who wander are lost, and I have decided that I wish to make this city my home, but it's not as simple as just deciding. There is considerable effort involved in surrounding yourself with the things which meet your human needs, such as the web of relationships which support you.

I'm convinced that the very worst of my mental health problems were caused by the circumstances of my existence. Psychiatrists would refer to my condition as adjustment disorder which is just a fancy way of saying that human beings will struggle under incredibly stressful conditions. My problems have been acute - not chronic - and can clearly be seen and understood in the context of the extremely toxic circumstances of my life. Certainly, quitting drugs and staying clean are essential to any hopes I have of continuing to rebuild my life and improve my circumstances, but drugs are just a small piece of the puzzle, which is mostly about having secure housing, financial security and a support network. Anybody would crumble to pieces if they were put under the kinds of stresses and strains that I've had to endure in recent years.

I now live in a brand new place. I've had a clean break. My home is untainted. This city gives me a fresh start.

London is big enough that you can lose your mind and nobody will notice or remember. London is big enough that you can go completely crazy and you'll never manage to screw up your life, because there are so many people that you get lost in the noise. It was good to be in London during those difficult years where I was barricading myself into rooms for no reason, except that I was so post-traumatically traumatised that I simply had to do it as part of my recovery.

I face the difficulty of starting afresh from almost nothing, but I don't carry a single bit of paranoia that somebody knows about my difficult past. I really feel like I have a chance to totally start anew without anybody knowing anything which might prejudice me. I'm judged totally as the man I am today, not at all on who I was during the dark moments I endured in the past.

It might seem crazy to write and publish this, given my opportunity to escape my past and re-invent myself, but I don't want to run away from my own history. I need to acknowledge that bad things happened in my life, and they have shaped me. I need to acknowledge that even though I am healthy and functional today, I will carry a lifelong risk of problems if I become complacent. I need to make sure that I keep my stress levels and energy levels within safe ranges, and I need to put in place the things that will help and protect me when there are inevitable hiccups in life.

My bedroom looks nothing like the neat and tidy bedroom in London, pictured above, but my mind is far more neat and tidy, ordered and robust. I feel far more in control of my behaviour and my thoughts. I feel far less troubled by anything even remotely like paranoia. To all intents and purposes, I have very good mental health, but still very poor life circumstances, but at least there are practical remedies for things like my lack of local friends.

It's a somewhat positive outlook, especially considering how frequently I suffer from suicidal thoughts, but despite my tendency to become depressed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead, at least most things seem to be within my control. I can choose between going on dates or trying to make new friends. I can do things to get the stuff I need in my life. I feel relatively safe from traumatic events that are beyond my control.

 

Tags:

 

Asleep On My Feet

5 min read

This is a story about sleeping pills...

Attic

The existence of this photo is something quite remarkable, even though it's hard to understand if you're not me. This photo captures the end of my attempt to smoothly extricate myself from an acrimonious divorce and pick up my life in London again with little damage. This photo captures the beginning of an astonishingly difficult period of my life - the part that contains all the homelessness and hospitalisations.

I try to compartmentalise everything, and to compare present experiences with past ones to see if I'm repeating patterns of behaviour which are flawed.

One experience which is oddly haunting is that of walking around in a somewhat out-of-body state; tunnel vision. I can hear my mouth talking - I can hear my voice - but it doesn't feel like I'm saying the words... I just hear them. It feels like I'm dreaming.

My brain is recovering from an avalanche of pills I've shoved down my throat in the past fortnight. I'm surprised I haven't suffered seizures or kidney failure, given the cocktail of chemicals I've swallowed.

I forget that I messed up my brain chemistry.

I wonder why I can't concentrate and my anxiety has gone through the roof. I wonder why my perception of time is so warped: The seconds and minutes are dragging along, taking hours and days to pass. My days in the office have been difficult, but my days at home have been no easier. There's no respite from the problems of my mind, my mood, my perceptions - I can't escape my brain.

I forget that I stopped drinking.

I wonder why the days are so long and I seem to have so much more time to do stuff. I wonder why I'm more able to cope. I wonder why I'm not so overwhelmed by things. Then I remember that I'm not shackled to alcohol anymore. I get to Friday and I start thinking that I should get drunk, but then I remember that it doesn't help, but it definitely hinders.

I think about all the detoxes and rehabs and I try to tell myself that £12,000 and 28 days in The Priory - the UK's Betty Ford - isn't enough to 'cure' me then I should go easy on myself. I think that I should allow at least four weeks since any major incident, before deciding that things are broken and won't get better. I think that 6 weeks is better, as a period of recuperation. I think that perhaps 3 months is best of all - 3 months stability and routine is the minimum, before making any big changes.

I always tried to rush things. I got very impatient and I tried to hurry things along. It ended badly.

I got very agitated. I got very angry. Nobody seemed to understand the urgency. Everybody seemed to be getting in my way.

The universe doesn't like to be hurried, it seems.

I think about how many different things I wanted in a short space of time. I wanted to work with my hands. I wanted to not work in an office. I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to be the CEO of a tech startup. I wanted investors. I wanted to win. Then, I wanted rapid promotions and progression. I wanted to make a notable contribution. I wanted to have a say in everything.

I thought I was going somewhere.

I can look back and laugh at myself, but I must've carried some of that same person from the past into the present, which means I'm laughable today too.

I did learn to keep my mouth shut though, a little bit.

I think it's an interesting story, but I'm biased. I find it interesting that I was held back for years, which was frustrating, but then I squandered many years as an addict, which made absolutely bugger all difference. Instead of screwing up my whole career and future earning potential, my profession just patiently waited to accept me back once I'd got a lot of nonsense out of my system.

What terrifies me is how many years it's been and how similar this feeling is - of being asleep on my feet - to that feeling I had when I thought I was managing to escape my screwed up life and start over again, back in London. It's terrifying to think I haven't progressed at all, except I'm older and I've damaged my body and brain quite a lot.

I thought "OK time to stop now" a long time ago, and then found that I couldn't. The things that I didn't want to happen - like losing all my money and sleeping rough - happened and I landed up having major medical emergencies. I'm smart enough that I made it this far and my story is kinda remarkable, but anything that's vaguely similar to the past gives me a lot of superstitious heebie-jeebies.

This weekend is tougher than I thought it'd be. I'm not as far progressed with my finances as I thought I'd be. I'm not as clean and sober as I'd hoped I would be. There have been setbacks. My journey has been nonlinear.

What's surprising is that the universe has just handed me some major life components. Whether I'm intent on screwing up my entire life or whether I'm trying to achieve something great, pretty much the same outcomes seem to happen. I'm pretty convinced that free-will is an illusion. I don't feel like I'm just observing, but the evidence seems to be that I don't have any control.

Of course, I have too few 'normal' experiences to really benchmark where I'm at. I have too few 'normal' human interactions to gauge whether I've lost my mind or whether I'm OK. I'm completely free from any oversight. I'm untethered.

I don't know what's going on and I'm starting to ramble. I feel very peculiar.

 

Tags:

 

Not Drinking Alcohol

6 min read

This is a story about life on the wagon...

Leftover booze

At more-or-less the same time as one of my best friends drank himself to death, I stopped drinking. I'd like to say that I decided to stop drinking because it seemed like the right thing to do, given how alcoholism had destroyed the health of my friend and pretty much killed him, but it was actually due to more complicated, and much less noble reasons.

Alcohol comes in 'portions' more or less: Beer comes in cans or bottles and wine comes in a bottle. Portion control with beer seems like it should be easy enough, because one or two beers don't contain very much alcohol. Portion control with wine is a little harder, because a bottle of wine contains the same amount of alcohol as six and a half cans, as pictured.

The calculations, if you're interested, are based on the 750ml bottle of red wine, which has 14.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and the 330ml cans of beer, which have 5% ABV.

I bought all this alcohol, even though I don't drink.

I bought the red wine, because it's an ingredient in a dish I make with red cabbage. The alcohol is evaporated during the cooking process.

I bought the beers, because I needed to replace some that I had 'borrowed' from somebody, back when I was drinking. The reason why the carton is open and some of the cans have gone is because my girlfriend also 'borrowed' some cans - she drinks whenever she wants, unlike me.

I want to drink.

I get home and I see this bottle of wine and these cans of beer, and it's very difficult not to allow myself a single glass or a single can, at the end of a long working day, or perhaps as a weekend treat. It's very difficult to justify my sobriety to myself.

I must remind myself of why I stopped drinking.

I stopped drinking because I couldn't stop drinking. One evening I drank all the beer I had bought for myself, then I drank all the beer I had bought for my girlfriend, then I drank some of the beer that didn't even belong to either of us. Then I smashed some stuff up and passed out. Apparently I did other stuff too, but I don't remember many of the details. I was blackout drunk. My memory has holes in it, although I do remember that it was enough for me to decide that I shouldn't drink anymore.

I didn't drink at all, except Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, and then I went on an outing to the beautiful Georgian spa town of Bath. In this picturesque setting, a group of us proceeded to embark upon an all-day drinking session. I was careful to only have one alcoholic drink for every three that they had, but later on in the evening they stopped drinking, while I carried on. I didn't drink much, but I was a little hung-over.

It's probably no co-incidence that I had little patience and a short temper following that drinking session, and while I was nursing my hangover I lost my cool and broke up with my girlfriend. I struggled to emotionally regulate and stay calm, while being somewhat provoked. I completely failed to defuse and de-escalate the situation, and instead I found myself packing my bags and storming off into the night.

I'd like to say that I've felt the benefits of sobriety, but I don't think I have. I've lost weight and I feel better about my appearance because of that weight loss, but I don't feel much healthier or that I have more energy and enthusiasm to be fit and active. I don't feel like my mood is improved. I don't feel like my sleep is improved. However, if I had continued to drink heavily every day, I expect that I would have continued to put on a lot of weight, and that my health would have slowly deteriorated.

It's the middle of winter, so it's hard to measure the benefit of being sober. Perhaps come the summertime, I will feel my mood lift and my energy levels will be elevated, such that I feel like getting out and about. Certainly, if I was drinking heavily, I would be in no mood to make any travel plans or spend any time doing anything except watching TV and films, with a steady supply of alcoholic drinks.

Another thing to consider is that I heavily sedate myself with Xanax and use sleeping pills, so that I can remain functional and cope with the demands of my job, while also dealing with a mood disorder and a hatred for my profession which dates back as far as the very beginning of my life in corporate hell, over 20 years ago.

Perhaps when my debts are paid off, my housing is more secure, I'm more financially comfortable and I feel more settled at work and in the place where I'm living, then I'll be able to give up my chemical crutches and feel a lot healthier and happier. However, for the time being, I am getting what I need to cope in the form of a handful of calorie-free pills, which do far less health damage than the gallons of toxic alcoholic liquid which I used to guzzle.

Temptation is less of a problem than you'd think it would be, having realised that my body's natural thirst could be quenched with non-alcoholic fluids. I had programmed myself to associate wanting a drink, with wanting an alcoholic drink.

I successfully de-programmed my brain, so that I no longer craved hot drinks, which was surprisingly difficult but I managed it.

I suppose if I was very strict and disciplined I could completely de-program my craving for alcoholic beverages, but I know that it was a very long and hard process to eliminate tea and coffee from my life, as well as energy drinks and even coca-cola, which all contain caffeine.

I've even been slightly tempted to try fasting, allowing myself only water to drink for a period of a few days, because I often eat when I'm not really hungry, and I'd like to lose even more weight.

Ultimately, it might be vanity which provides the motivation for healthy living. I don't want to be fat with red-wine stained teeth and lips. I don't want to have a beer belly.

I'm happy knowing that I've "stopped the rot" to some extent, but I must admit that it's very hard to resist allowing myself to have a glass of red wine or a can of beer, after a long hard working week, on a Friday night. Would I be able to stop after just one though? Historically, I've never been able to drink in moderation.

As an epilogue, it should be noted that at my friend's funeral, a group of us, who used to drink heavily with the deceased, all got absolutely blind drunk until the hotel we were staying in refused to serve us any more alcohol. It's what my friend would have wanted.

 

Tags:

 

How I Became a Drug Addict Again

6 min read

This is a story about re-relapse...

Syringe

The title of this blog post, the hyphenated nonsensical word "re-relapse" and the image of an oral syringe which I happened to spot lying on the floor of a hospital, are all intended to set the tone of this piece: Everything you think you know about drug addicts is probably wrong, especially when referring to "drug addicts" as a collective group of mostly identical people.

I could easily wander into the territory of blathering on about "we're not all the same, you know" and other such clichés, but instead I thought I'd simply tell you the story of my re-relapse.

I guess how I became a drug addict again is far less interesting and important than why, so I'm actually going to explain some of the who and the what which means my story makes sense, I hope.

Back in November 2018 - less than 3 months ago - I was a drug addict. I also booked some flights to Mexico for my girlfriend and I, so that we could spend Christmas and New Year on the beach. This presented a problem: How does a drug addict go on holiday?

When I went on holiday to Turkey for a week in October 2018, I literally went cold turkey, which I thought was really funny because I had travelled to Turkey for a hot holiday during the cold UK autumn. The irony of it had a kind of poetic deliciousness, which I couldn't resist. Besides, I wasn't that much of a drug addict at the time.

During that week in Turkey, I struggled to sleep at first, without the drugs which I had become addicted to. Then I became incredibly tired and lethargic due to lack of sleep, and I didn't leave my hotel room for 3 days. However, by the end of the holiday I was able to enjoy some sunshine and I was also 'clean' - I was no longer a drug addict.

Now we must ask: If I had managed to get 'clean' and beat my drug addiction, why would I relapse? The answer is quite simple and straightforward really: Because I am using drugs as a coping mechanism for my ordinary day-to-day circumstances.

What about Mexico?

I had planned a 2-week holiday with my girlfriend, to Mexico, which would have been far more enjoyable than the holiday to Turkey, except for the fact that my drug addiction had escalated. I'm not sure what was so particularly awful about November, except that the UK weather was getting even colder and more miserable, but I found it necessary to augment my existing drug addiction with additional substances.

I did not want to travel through two international airports carrying controlled substances, for which I did not have a prescription. In the UK, it's a criminal offence to be in possession of certain medicines, unless you have a prescription. I did not have a prescription. One of the medicines which I needed to transport with me to Mexico via transatlantic flight, in order to maintain my drug addiction, was unfortunately illegal to possess in the UK without a prescription.

What was I going to do?

I procrastinated for a long while, and then with 3 weeks until the scheduled departure of our flight to Mexico, I decided to start reducing my dose a little bit every day. I tapered myself off one of the medications I was addicted to - Xanax - until I was no longer addicted to it, so I was then able to travel without being at risk of prosecution for trafficking narcotics across international borders.

Essentially, I got 'clean' again. Yet again. I've gotten 'clean' so many times.

Oh, did I mention that I also quit drinking?

Yeah. Don't try to quit Xanax in the space of 3 weeks if you're addicted to it. If you're addicted to Xanax, you need to taper down your dose really slowly or else you'll have problems.

I had problems.

I drank 9 pints (5 litres) of very strong beer and I don't remember many of the details, except that I went bat shit crazy and smashed some stuff up. I was pretty much blackout drunk, so my memory is very patchy. I was out of control. I was a mess. The worrying thing is how little of it I remember.

So, I quit drinking soon after I started trying to quit Xanax. Mixing alcohol and Xanax is a bad idea, but drinking alcohol while quitting Xanax is a disastrous idea.

However, quitting alcohol and Xanax, when you're addicted to both... that's hell.

I had 3 weeks where I felt like the world was about to end and life was not worth living. I had 3 weeks where I was absolutely convinced that every conceivable disaster was lurking just around the corner. I had 3 weeks of the most unbearably awful anxiety.

Then I went to Mexico.

Turns out you can just buy Xanax over-the-counter in a pharmacy in Mexico if you smile nicely and pay in cash. Obviously, I was well aware that it's illegal to sell Xanax in Mexico, but I was also well aware that it wasn't illegal for me to buy it or possess it. So, I bought a bottle of Xanax from a Mexican pharmacy, and I resumed my drug addiction. Xanax is branded Tafil in Mexico by the way... if you ever need to get some.

Then, at the end of my holiday in Mexico, which was awesome by the way, I threw the leftover tablets in the bottle into the trash, at the airport.

Since my holiday, my life has continued pretty much as normal. I don't drink - I've managed to remain almost completely sober since I quit alcohol back in December. My life is also normal, insofar as I'm a drug addict.

Every night I take a sleeping pill and a tranquilliser, and I do so because I need sleep and I need to be tranquil. My life circumstances dictate my need for the substances I use.

I imagine that I will become completely 'clean' and 'sober' again one day, but for the time being, I need to endure some pretty horrible life circumstances, and I find that the drugs I'm addicted to are helping me to cope, even though it's commonly thought that all drug addiction is automatically a bad thing.

What I wish for is not to be 'clean' and 'sober' but for the circumstances of my life to be more pleasant and favourable to a life without the 'crutches' of drugs, but what I wish for seems mostly impossible, at the moment. I can't achieve the impossible. I have to work within the limits which I'm constrained by. I have no control over most things in my life, which cause me a great deal of discomfort and unhappiness, but I've found my coping mechanisms which work.

The end.

 

Tags:

 

My Friend The Alcoholic

6 min read

This is a story about unorthodoxy...

JPMorgan

This time last year I saw my old friend from JPMorgan in Warsaw. He'd just gotten me a job. I was almost bankrupt. Some years ago we had been propping up the bar at 4am, the last remaining men standing after all-day-drinking to celebrate me leaving the investment banking world... temporarily. We have the same attitude and approach to life: Everything to excess.

I'm writing this with a little haste, because I'm in a compromised situation.

I need to tell my friend not to kill himself - having received a number of worrisome messages and a call recently - but I can't do so in a direct manner, because it's barely more than a year ago that I tried to take my own life. I know that nobody could have talked me out of it. When I communicated, I did so to ensure that my intentions were clear: I did not want misadventure or an open verdict to be recorded by the coroner.

But.

This is not about me.

This is about a friend who sounds like he's about to end his life.

I have no idea what the emergency setup is in Poland. I have no idea whether a person can be located by their smartphone. I have no idea what the crisis intervention services are like. I have no idea what it's like to be 'sectioned' or otherwise interred for your own safety - 'committed' one might say - in Poland, and whether I might be unwittingly unloading a whole unwanted extra pile of shit on my friend's head, by raising the alarm.

I'm not ungrateful to those who contacted the emergency services on my behalf, who undoubtedly saved my life, but I'm aware that my decision-making power was taken from my hands. In fact, I clearly said at the hospital that I didn't want any medical intervention, but they decided I didn't have the capacity to make the decision to refuse treatment.

Does my friend have capacity?

He says he's drinking 2 or 3 bottles of vodka per day. I'm a borderline alcoholic, and I'd say that my judgement is pretty impaired when under the influence. I doubt I'd have so readily swallowed all those tablets during my suicide attempt last year if it wasn't for the Dutch courage of a gutful of booze.

It's easier to make the final decision when intoxicated.

Perhaps this gives me the moral authority to intervene and save my friend from himself. Perhaps it's my duty to inform the emergency services, such that my friend can sober up and then see how he feels about killing himself once he's got a clear head. How's he going to feel about being forced to sober up and face the decision to go on living in the cold light of day, with a dreadful hangover?

I can tell you all the answers to these questions.

I can tell you exactly how it feels to regain consciousness when you had hoped you'd be dead.

So can my friend.

I can't patronise him. I can't talk him out of what he wants to do. I can't approach the subject.

Strangely, I hope he has capacity enough to read this.

If he does - and I might try to prompt him into reading it - then what do I want him to know?

He needs to know that almost exactly one year ago, I was convinced that my life was totally beyond any hope of salvaging, but he salvaged my life. He got me a job, which rescued me from certain bankruptcy. He got me a job in the nick of time. He saved my bacon.

What can I do for my friend?

I remember he told me how buoyed he was by all the support I get via social media. I remember how emotional it made him feel, reading the comments section on my blog.

I want him to feel that outpouring of love from all four corners of the globe. I want him to feel anchored by connections.

My friend and I tend to value our sense of self-worth by the number of dollars, euros or pounds that somebody will press into our sweaty palms for a day's labour. My friend and I both feel valued when we're paid a lot and a company is chasing us for our skills.

It's disturbing to me that my friend knows that he can get a highly paid job in any investment bank in the world. He knows that he's needed and wanted in the corporate sector. It's worrisome that he knows that, but it's somehow not enough. I can relate. I know what that feels like.

I don't know what to offer him.

To remind him of his value and how much he's cherished is a cliché. I can't patronise him by talking about how much he'd be missed and what a huge hole he'd leave in all the lives he touches.

We're talking about the man who quite literally reversed my fortunes, exactly 12 months ago - from bankrupt to bankrolled; from rags to riches.

What can I say, except that I've written these 900 words with as much speed as I can manage, because from the tone and content of my last phonecall with my friend, he's in a very bad way. I'm very worried about him. I'm acting as swiftly as I can, in an unorthodox fashion, because I want to do something to interrupt and disrupt his behaviour, which looks to be on collision course with disaster.

I know that if anybody said to me that I lacked capacity, or was so patronising as to believe that they know better, and I should be relieved of the decision-making power to end my own life, then I would become doubly stubborn and bloody minded. I'd kill myself just to prove you wrong. Of course I would.

What can I say? I need to publish this, urgently.

I hope my friend reads this. I hope my friend - who helped me get back on my feet almost exactly a year ago - is somewhat moved by my desperation to try something, anything to move the conversation towards positive exciting plans for the future, and our next adventures.

I haven't been writing regularly, and of course I tend to be very self-centred, but I hope that I can continue to write, and include my friend as a living member of the tiny little world in which I inhabit. There are quite literally only two people who I speak to on a regular basis, one of whom is threatening to make an early departure from the party.

He might feel a little uncomfortable that I've made references that almost made him identifiable. Good. I'd rather have him angry and upset with me, than having missed an opportunity to get his attention. I'm being deliberately disruptive and provocative.

Please, mate, don't put me in this position!

Don't make me decide whether I have to call the emergency services or not!

This sucks!

 

Tags:

 

Exit Bag

8 min read

This is a story about the hivemind...

Phone Mast

It's getting late and I'm tired, so I thought I would retransmit some of the disturbing data that I receive. Having started this website about 3 years ago, Google quickly found it and began to index its contents to make it searchable, and therefore discoverable by anybody who uses its search engine and enters keywords which seem to be relevant, according to Google's algorithms.

A strange thing happens.

I get to see the search queries where my website appears in Google's search results - an impression - as well as the search queries which brought me a website visitor. What I write and publish on my blog makes it more likely that I'll appear as a high-ranking search result, and also more likely that I'll have visitors coming to my website for weird and wonderful things they're searching the internet for.

It turns out there are a lot of people who want to kill themselves.

I wrote a blog post a little while ago where I chose a title specifically to improve my search ranking, which I knew would work very well, so I tried to write something which was useful in some way. I thought to myself "why do so many people ask Google if they can drink themselves sober?" and I thought it was rather tragic that these people had reached such a level of desperation that they'd bother to sift through pages and pages of search results, hoping to find an easy answer. I felt like I should give those people an answer. I felt like those people should have the best possible answer I could muster.

Problematically, lots and lots and lots of people seem to want to suffocate themselves to death; to asphyxiate. More than any other thing, my website pops up time and time again on Google for people who are searching for answers to questions like "how do I kill myself with a plastic bag?".

Obviously, this is disturbing, but it also puts some responsibility on my shoulders.

This website is the second link on Google - second only to Wikipedia - if you are searching for information on the hypercapnic alarm response, which is the reason why you can't just hold your breath to kill yourself. People are quite fascinated, it seems, with the idea of suffocation, which I find very disturbing indeed - I could not imagine a worse way to die than gasping for air.

Given that a number of visitors will be directed here by Google in search of answers to their disturbing questions, I feel duty bound to give the most responsible and best answers that I possibly can, when those people are clearly desperate and vulnerable.

Firstly, do not kill yourself by suffocation. Your final moments of existence will be more horrendous than anything you've ever experienced in your life. The tragedy of self-suffocation - most often achieved inadvertently by hanging - is that you will trigger your most viceral survival instincts which your depression has robbed you of. Your survival instincts are merely dormant and imperceptible during the unbearable humdrum tedium of modern life. The tragedy of self-suffocation is that you will spend your final moments thinking "make it stop" but you will not mean life but in fact the terrible torment of the hypercapnic alarm response. You might think you've had bad anxiety and panic attacks, but you've not experienced anything that even comes close to your body's hard-wired survival instinct, which keeps you taking breath after breath, even though you feel dreadfully depressed and suicidal.

Remember of course that breathing is partially voluntary. We can choose to breathe fast or slow. We can choose to hyperventilate. We can choose to hold our breath... for a while. We cannot choose to hold our breath until we die. Almost nobody can choose to hold their breath until they lose consciousness. Besides, when we lose consciousness we lose our ability to make conscious choices, such as holding our breath.

The idea of an exit bag deals partially with the problem of resuming normal breathing as soon as we lose consciousness, except that the hypercapnic alarm response will cause you to claw desperately at the plastic to tear a hole in it, when the panic becomes unbearable. Your body has set safe limits, such that you will begin to feel the urge to save yourself well before you're in as much danger as you perceive. Perception-altering drugs can dangerously depress our breathing, because we're more impervious to the anxiety and stress that we would otherwise feel, causing us to increase our rate of breathing.

I've talked before about the role of high carbon dioxide concentration levels in the blood - quite literally hypercapnia - causing the alarm response. Because the hypercapnic alarm response is CO2 dependent we can easily lose consciousness and asphyxiate when breathing almost any other gas, including the stuff which makes up 78% of the air we breathe: nitrogen. It's ironic to think that almost every single constituent part of the air all around us is deadly - including the oxygen - if we were to breathe it at high concentration. It's also shocking to think that carbon dioxide is only 0.004% of the air, but yet this is the only gas which warns us we're suffocating to death.

I don't write this because I'm feeling particularly suicidal. I write this because for some reason this website is the second place people come after visiting Wikipedia, when they're reading about humanity's battle between the conscious decision-making part of the brain - where we have free will apparently - and the part which stops us from killing ourselves by simply not bothering to take our next breath. I write this because people want to know, and if they're determined enough they're going to find out the answers.

I can see how determined people are to find out the answers to some pretty messed-up questions. I can see how many zillions of pages of results they trawled. I can see all the different ways that people ask the same disturbing question.

For sure, I ask myself how much I see a world which reflects the way I project myself outwardly. They say an angry man sees an angry world, for example. It shouldn't surprise me that my website brings a lot of people who are interested in topics relating to suicide, but it surprises me that so many people are interested in suffocating themselves to death, when it seems so doomed to fail and would cause such terrible suffering in those final moments when it succeeds. Don't people who want to die just want to fall asleep peacefully and not wake up? I know that's what I wanted, when I was suicidal.

If the world really does reflect upon ourselves, I don't understand why I don't have more variety in the kinds of suicidal ideation searches which bring visitors to me from Google. Where are the people asking about which direction they should slice their veins? Where are the people asking how to locate their carotid artery or jugular vein? Where are the people asking about lethal doses of various substances? Where are the people searching about how to calculate the right amount of rope to avoid decapitation or a lengthy period of terminal strangulation while suspended by the neck?

I've been simultaneously accused of writing irresponsibly while also applauded for discussing things which need to be discussed, if we're going to make any progress towards reducing suicide rates.

From looking more closely at my analytic data, I concluded that many of my visitors are concerned with animal welfare and particularly with the slaughter of livestock, which is often done by gassing the animals. I had written in my blog post, which has proven my most popular, that I was concerned about how awful it would be for little piggies if they were gasping for breath in their final moments before death. I had written about the curious question of whether dolphins could hold their breath to commit suicide or not.

I write this tonight, because I'm interested to know how much concern we have for humans, compared with other animals. It certainly concerns me that seemingly vast numbers of people want to know if they can kill themselves without even bothering to take a few short steps to the nearest window, or to locate a sharp object.

I write this provocatively as always. I'm transmitting out into the world to see what bounces back.

 

Tags:

 

Can You Drink Yourself Sober?

7 min read

This is a story about giving people the answers they desperately seek...

Wine bottles lined up

Once you're trapped by an addictive substance, escaping is not as easy as the unhelpful "just stop" advice seems to suggest. In fact if you have a really bad alcohol addiction, stopping could be the very worst piece of advice you'll ever receive. Stopping could lead to seizures and death. Ignore those idiots who tell you to "just stop" drinking.

I'm going to answer the question which brought you here, immediately. Rather than beating around the bush and making you read any more of my waffle, let me just answer your question:

Can I drink myself sober?

Here are your answers:

  • You can drink until you are sober
  • You can drink until you don't want to drink anymore, and decide to sober up
  • You can drink so much that you make yourself too sick to drink anymore, although your sobriety will probably be forced upon you in those circumstances

The first point is the one which is probably the most useful to you.

If you keep drinking the same amount every day, you will have a short period where you are in effect, drinking yourself sober. Your brain adapts itself to the copious quantities of intoxicating liquor, building a tolerance to the GABA neurotransmitter released in response to the alcohol which crosses the blood-brain barrier. In short: if you're an alcoholic, you're already able to drink and remain quite functional. If you're an alcoholic, the moment you start reducing your alcohol intake, you immediately start sobering up, because your brain has become accustomed to vast quantities of booze in your bloodstream.

Most people's bodies are highly efficient and metabolising alcohol. It should take your body no longer than 4 or 5 hours to eliminate all the alcohol in your bloodstream, the moment you stop drinking.

But you don't want to stop drinking, do you? Well, you do and you don't. Your desperate want to be free from the grips of alcoholism is why you're here reading this, but also you love drinking. You don't want to be sober you want to be able to drink without consequences I guess? Did I guess right?

I'm going to take another guess: drinking is causing you problems at work, at home, on the roads. Drinking is costing you a lot of money. You're worried you're going to lose your job, your partner, your kids and get cut off by your family. Am I guessing right about any of this?

OK, one last guess: drinking is affecting your health. You're fatter than you'd like to be, or you're drinking nothing except strong spirits and you're skinny, but your doctor has told you're going to get pancreatitis and a scarred cirrhotic liver? Your doctor has told you to cut down on your drinking. Your doctor has told you that if you don't stop drinking you're going to die, and you're going to die quickly.

You want to stop drinking but you can't. Alcohol is everywhere. Booze is at every after-work social event, every weekend party, every christening, wedding and funeral. You can buy alcohol almost anywhere you can buy food. You can have alcohol delivered to your door by Deliveroo.

I was in two minds about putting a photo of wine bottles at the top of this blog post, but then I decided that it's not triggering because there are already more triggers than you could ever possibly avoid in the world. Almost every movie you watch - especially Hollywood movies - seems to have alcoholic characters constantly pouring themsevels large glasses of scotch bourbon.

If you have moved on from beer, cider and wine, to vodka, whiskey and other hard liquor, you are not going to be able to drink yourself sober, unless you set yourself a very strictly dosage-controlled taper schedule, and you're not allowed to cheat. Do you want to be sober and abstinent, or do you just want to go back in time, to a period when your drinking didn't seem to be causing any problems? I suspect either way, you and hard liquor - spirits - do not have a glittering future together. You're highly unlikely to achieve anything anywhere near sobriety with a big bottle of vodka in your possession.

If you drink spirits, I advise you switch to wine. If you drink wine, are you really asking me if you can drink yourself sober? You probably already know the answer to that: yes, you can drink wine all night long on a massive binge and find yourself suddenly quite sober, eventually.

I should be clear here that I'm not advocating binge drinking, excessive drinking, nor am I saying that drinking is healthy. All I'm trying to do is respond to the question which I have a lot of evidence to show that tons and tons of people want to know the answer to.

We know we have huge problems with alcoholism in society.

I do not thing abstinence is the answer.

Abstinence is not the answer because it leaves hundreds of millions of people trapped in alcoholism. The gulf between those who have smugly achieved their sobriety, and those who are trapped in alcohol's vice-like grip, cannot be bridged by saying: "stop drinking"

If you're looking to loosen that grip around your throat and get a bit of your life back, because alcohol's causing your world to fall apart, keep drinking! However, you should switch to something of lower alcoholic strength and you should buy it in smaller portions. It's much easier to control your alcoholism if you know how many bottles or cans you've drunk. One bottle of vodka has the same amount of alcohol as four bottles of wine. If you drink the wine at the same speed you'd have drunk the vodka, plus the mixer, then you'll be getting far less alcohol and you'll be more sober than you've been for a long time, when drinking. It's not ideal, but it's headed in the right direction.

It's all about harm reduction.

Drinking vodka every day is going to fuck you up very fast.

Drinking wine every day is not great, but your health and the problems in your life will be vastly reduced.

If you're intent on - for example - stopping drinking a botte of vodka every day, buy 4 bottles of wine instead and see if it adequately substitutes for the vodka. If it does, then great, because you can say to yourself "I'm not allowed to buy any more than 4 bottles of wine today" just like you say to yourself "I'm only allowed to buy one bottle of vodka today". Then, when you're ready, you can say "Today I'm only going to buy three bottles and a little half-bottle for emergencies, which I'm going to try not to drink".

In this way you can drink yourself sober.

In this way you can drink yourself to any point you need to get to.

If you want to be completely sober, you can go from 4 bottles, to 3.5, to 3, 2.5, 2, 1.5, 1, 0.5... none!

If you want to achieve total abstinence, you can do it with portion control and slow tapering down. Make sure you do it slowly though. Seriously. Do. It. Slowly. I'm talking months and months, not days or weeks. It's going to take a long time for your body to get used to not having all that alcohol. Your brain will need time to re-adjust to not having all that soothing GABA sloshing around inside your skull.

That's my 2 cents on how to drink yourself sober. Good luck and feel free to ask me any questions.

 

Tags:

 

Controlling The Variables

8 min read

This is a story about self-experimentation...

Xanax tablets

It's very difficult to conduct a scientific study involving human beings. Our innate ability and inclination to adapt to our ever-changing environment means that we can't control the variables as we would be able to in vitro.

Sample sizes are always tiny - statistically impossible to gain any insight from - because of the difficulty of recruiting so-called ideal study candidates and being able to follow them for long enough to gather any meaningful data. Each individual will have wildly varying personal circumstances, which render any studies of hundreds or thousands of participants, complete and utter pseudoscience hogwash; nonsense; garbage.

Aggregating data from all the antidepressant controlled trials, as well as thousands of other studies into the efficacy of those medications, concludes to a high degree of statistical significance, that in more than 80% of cases the person's depression would have 'cured' itself on its own - medication makes no difference at all.

Clearly, psychoactive medications do have perceptible effects, just as you're able to tell if you've drunk 4 pints of beer or 4 pints of water. Thus, a double-blind placebo trial is not a placebo trial at all, because those who are in the placebo group know that they're unmedicated.

The question then arises: can we prove that some medications have positive effects?

Problematically, we are as superstitious as an animal with a bird-brain, quite literally. If a food pellet is randomly released to feed a pigeon kept in a cage, the pigeon begins to believe that whatever it was doing when the food pellet was released caused the food pellet to be released. If the pigeon was - for example - turning 360 degrees clockwise when the pellet was randomly released, it will continue to spin in circles, believing that its actions are causing the food pellets to be released. This is called magical thinking and humans are just as prone to it as a bird-brained pigeon.

Extrapolating, if we take up yoga, start eating kale, listen to whale music, start believing in imaginary sky monsters, wear lucky underwear, read self-help books, use homeopathic remedies or start doing any one of the many billions of similarly stupid and futile superstitious rituals, these are at least 80% likely to co-incide with a natural improvement in our mood which would have happened anyway. However, we will falsely attribute our better mood and more hopeful future, to something which actually had absolutely no effect whatsoever so far as good empirical evidence-based repeatable science is concerned.

To control the variables is extremely hard, in complex modern life.

I had a very good night's sleep last night, woke up early, ate a healthy breakfast, got to work early, had a productive day, and I felt like I had the energy and enthusiasm to do some exercise. My quality of life was manyfold better today than it has been for a very long time. My hope and optimism were sky high today.

Let us deconstruct the reason for my good day.

Last night I swallowed two 7.5mg zopiclone tablets, which are a sleeping pill. Perhaps it's high quality sleep, delivered with some help from medicine, that's the reason I had such a good day - I was well rested and refreshed.

No.

Earlier in the year - and in fact quite recently - I had completely quit all sleep aids and I was sleeping very well without them. I have no problems initiating sleep and remaining asleep. This variable is eliminated.

Last night I swallowed one 2mg Xanax tablet, which is a short-acting benzodiazepine hypnotic-sedative muscle relaxant, generically known as alprazolam. Perhaps it's relief from anxiety delivered with the help of medicine that is the reason why I had such a good day - my anxiety was subdued.

No.

Earlier in the year - and in fact quite recently - I had completely quit all sedatives, tranquillisers and tranquillising painkillers and I was coping very well with my anxiety without those medications. I am fully functional despite my very high-stress and demanding life. This variable is eliminated.

Last night was my 5th consecutive night without alcohol. Perhaps it's the healthy decision to quit booze and become teetotal which is the reason why I slept better, woke up refreshed, had improved concentration and felt more full of energy and enthusiasm for other healthy activities than I have done for a long time. I thought about catching up with a friend. I thought about doing some exercise.

Ah. We have a problem.

On the face of it, we have 3 significant changes, and those changes all concern mind-altering substances.

I can be fairly certain that I'm able to sleep and I'm able to cope with my anxiety without medication, but I combined two medications which should have helped with both, which is already complicating the clinical picture, but then I also quit heavy drinking quite abruptly and managed to get through 5 consecutive sober days. 3 changes is far too many changes to attribute my improved mood to any one of them, or even all 3 in combination.

But.

Oh no.

There are other changes too.

I got paid on Monday. Getting paid is always a good day. Sure, Monday I was off work sick, but it wasn't until yesterday that I started doing some sums and I realised that I can pay off half my debts at the end of the month. It's something worth considering.

I went back to work on Tuesday. Not losing my job is always a big relief when I get sick. Sure, it'd be pretty bad luck to lose my job after just one day off sick, but it's always a relief somehow to go back to work and find everything's fine and people are cool with me. It's something worth considering.

I have 8 working days - less than two weeks - until I go away on holiday. I haven't had a week-long holiday since July 2016, over two years ago, so that's a massive relief to know that I'm going to get a relaxing break soon. It's something worth considering.

I spent the weekend in the company of old friends. I took a flight to Prague. Socialising and travel are exciting and stimulating. I played with my friends' children. We did activities, like sightseeing and mushroom picking in the woods. All of those things are very nice and normal and pleasant. Sure, it was exhausting, but now that I've gotten over the travel I have some really nice memories of that trip. It's something worth considering.

At work I'm starting to feel like I'm really making a difference and I'm a valued member of the team. My colleagues were glad to have me back and people are keen to work with me. I feel cherished and a little bit more secure every day. I feel increasingly confident in my own skills, knowledge and experience. It's something worth considering.

My sister picked up my mountain bike from my parents, so that I can collect it from her. I'm looking forward to seeing her and maybe my niece too. I'm looking forward to having my bike back. I'm looking forward to getting my bike repaired, upgraded, and being able to use it to get a bit more fit and active. It's something worth considering.

Lives are complicated.

Life is complicated.

It's impossible to control the variables.

If you were looking for the perfect test subject - a guinea pig - you would fail to find a better one than me, because so many things in my life are constant. I stay in the same hotel, I eat in the same gastropub, I do the same job I've done for 21+ years. I'm a creature of habit and I'm not destabilised by anybody else, such as family, a partner or children. I've cut every variable out of my life that's possible to do, short of locking myself in a laboratory cage. I'm the perfect test specimen.

I can't tell you why I had a good day today, but I have very good reason to believe that it was a combination of a multitude of factors, including the sleeping tablets to help me get back into a good sleep pattern, the anxiety tablets to help me cope with intolerable stress levels, the sobriety, the travel, the socialising, the money, the job satisfaction and a million and one other little things, all of which are very positive. For example, my Apple Macbook was repaired under warranty, saving me the cost of a £1,500 replacement or a hefty repair bill, which is a big relief. Who could have predicted any of this and why would we attribute my life improvements to any one particular thing, such as the favourable mood of an imaginary sky monster? Stuff was just going to get better on its own.

As you can tell, I'm not the superstitious type.

I will, however, be taking a zopiclone and a Xanax again tonight.

 

Tags:

 

The Dread

6 min read

This is a story about when the alarm clock goes off...

GMT

I'm routinely late for work but I think I've figured out why. I was very tired when my alarm went off this morning, but I think I could've gotten out of bed and gone to work. I was tired but I felt OK. I needed more sleep but I'd have been alright if I immediately got out of bed.

Unfortunately I let the dread set in.

My thoughts and feelings changed from "I need more sleep" to "I'm going to be late" to "I don't want to go to work at all". From initially planning to get up, iron a shirt, iron a jumper, take a shower, get dressed and drive to work, I then started planning how best to tell my team that I wasn't going to make it to our morning meeting. As lunchtime approached I dreaded having to finally get up and the ridiculousness of "I'm going to be late" meaning not turning up until the afternoon.

I did not get up.

As the afternoon wore on I was dreading having to tell my team that I was actually going to be a no-show. I dreaded the loss of earnings. I dreaded the damaging impression that I'm unreliable. I dread the day that I'm finally unable to keep going any longer, and I stop turning up for work altogether. I dread the day that I hit the wall.

I did not tell my team that I was going to take the day off sick.

It might seem like I'm my own worst enemy. It might seem like I'm making things harder for myself. It might seem like there's a long string of decisions here, and I'm making bad choices, but it doesn't feel like it at all. The whole process is quite agonising.

A couple of times in the past fortnight I've woken up at around the time when my alarm goes off. I've gotten up, dressed, had breakfast, driven to work and arrived on time or even early. "This must be what life's like for a normal person" I've thought to myself. It's been blissful on those days. Life has felt sustainable and pleasant and I've even envisaged being able to keep working for the foreseeable future, on those good days.

Most days are not good days.

I've only found a few solutions for the dread.

Short-acting hypnotic-sedatives work very well in the short term. Xanax and zopiclone last just long enough to get a good night's sleep a bit more tranquillising effect in the morning, when the dread would normally set in. Without a sleep aid, the dread sets in the night before: "I'm never going to get enough sleep and I'll be exhausted in the morning" I think as I lie awake until the wee hours of the morning.

Alcohol works a little bit as a sleep initiator but the liver metabolises alcohol so efficiently that it's mostly eliminated from your bloodstream after 4 or 5 hours. Alcohol-induced sleep is not high quality and it's followed by dehydration and a full bladder, which I usually try to ignore because I'm warm and comfortable in bed. By the time the alarm goes off alcohol withdrawal and bad sleep combine to make the dread doubly bad.

Getting absolutely smashed drunk works surprisingly well as a mechanism for getting me to the office more-or-less on time. Waking up half-pissed from the night before does offer an intoxicated tranquillisation which allows me to overcome the dread.

Driving to work drunk and/or tranquillised and being in the office while reeking of alcohol and/or slurring due to tablets, is a pretty undesirable state of affairs. Public transport, heavy lunchtime and after-work drinking were the norm in the City, so my heavy alcohol dependency was not conspicuous until I was banished to the provinces.

Everything's catching up with me now.

The heavy boozing has led to sudden weight gain this year, which depresses me. Drinking heavily no longer seems like a sustainable strategy to get through the working weeks.

The solution is a total detox, exercise, sensible bedtime, healthy breakfast and good sleep hygiene; routine. The solution is to live the most boring life imaginable, dedicating myself purely to the pursuit of being able to get up in the morning. The solution is to completely change the way I live - the way I act - in order to fit in with early-bird culture.

In many ways I am still going through an extended benzodiazepine withdrawal, neuropathic painkiller withdrawal and sleeping tablet withdrawal. My alcohol use has prolonged and worsened the excruciating withdrawal from the physically addictive medications. My body and brain's instinctive reaction to drink more and eat more to compensate, has been a very poor coping mechanism and has instead lengthened and exacerbated the negative symptoms, instead of providing the mild relief I so desperately crave.

Having used Xanax a couple of times in the last fortnight, it was remarkable how my brain responded: "THIS is the stuff which I've been screaming for" it seemed to say, as I gained some long-overdue respite from round-the-clock anxiety and the dread.

Obviously it's not desirable to use pills or booze long-term. Obviously, it'd be good to suffer the short-term pain and get healthy, before things get any worse. I've done a substantial part of the hard work, in breaking my physical dependence to a multitude of addictive medications.

I desperately craved alcohol all weekend but remained sober because my friends who I was visiting are not big drinkers. I was really craving alcohol tonight, but I managed to resist, although I'm comfort-eating to compensate for the craving.

I hate the situation, where I'm not where I want to be with anything. I'm not teetotal. I'm not medication-free. I'm not doing the healthy stuff. I'm gaining weight not losing it.

To eat less, eat healthy, go to the gym, be teetotal, stop taking sleeping pills and stop taking the occasional tranquilliser, but yet maintain my miserable single hotel-dwelling living-out-of-a-suitcase life, seems completely ridiculous. However, using my misery as a justification for drinking as much as I want, whenever I want, is also ridiculous and has led to appearance change and health degradation, which I don't find acceptable.

Tonight I've comfort-eaten and not done any exercise. Tonight I will take one or maybe even two sleeping pills. However, I won't have any alcohol or tranquillisers. I'll try to go to sleep at a sensible time. I'll try to get up early, have a healthy breakfast and get to work on time. If I can do all that, it's still a reasonable achievement considering the circumstances.

I'm not reliable. I am struggling. Hopefully nobody will hold it against me though.

 

Tags: