Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Things Are Settling Down Now...

I've been real quiet around here lately. Long story as short as I can keep it, I was on vacation last week -- a much needed vacation. I spent part of it with my family in New Hampshire, the first visit I've paid them in four and a half years. And I used that occasion to get serious about giving up drinking, or at least trying to. It got a little choppy at times, but overall, it was a very good visit, and I've not only managed to stay sober, my stress and anxiety levels have dropped considerably, what I thought was nerve damage in certain parts of my body has almost entirely vanished, my blood pressure is normal even though I've stopped taking the medicine for it, and I've gained some weight back (I was down to 179 at one point -- not exactly normal for someone who stands about 6'2") -- and this is only Day Eleven for me. I started feeling better than I've felt in months fast. By my standards, anyway.

The one big problem for me now is getting enough sleep at night. If I can get five hours of sleep, I know I'll be okay for the day -- six seems to be optimal for me. But lately I'm lucky if I get four. I found out that this is common among recovering alcoholics. It could take several months to reestablish a somewhat normal sleeping pattern, perhaps a year or more. That doesn't bother me, though; the last few weeks I was drinking, I was hardly sleeping at all. The situation is slowly improving, and though I've yet to get back into AA meetings, I find the "one day at a time" aspect of AA to be quite helpful. The same goes for the serenity prayer -- and I'm still a bit of an agnostic. But what's the alternative? Cirrhosis of the liver? Chronic pancreatitis? Cancer of the everything?

Fuck all that noise, I'll take the insomnia. Speaking of noise... My doctor told me that I would likely experience visual hallucinations as a consequence of alcohol withdrawal, and I know that that's also common among people who try to quit drinking. But I tried quitting more than a dozen times in the past year before I went to New Hampshire, and what I kept getting were auditory hallucinations. They were kind of strong at times, too. They were easy to pick out though: if you think you hear something unusual, but you can't tell which direction it's coming from, then it's all in your head. Once I figured that out, I just began to ignore them. They've virtually disappeared since then.

So I'm doing much better now, and in a very short time. Aside from the chronic insomnia, nearly all the problems I was having, mental, physical, or otherwise, seem to have resolved themselves -- and all I had to do was lay off the alcohol.

But there's one thing I can't get over. I drank for fourteen years before I quit for a spell last year. Then I started up again, drinking for one more year. The first fourteen years, I don't have any real regrets over -- lots of people drink too much for too long, regardless of the consequences. This last year, though -- I feel like I just threw it all away, and for nothing but sheer stupidity. Last month, I came close to losing my job because of my drinking. I've been beating myself up over that ever since. It's not something I've wanted to talk about, though I've done so with others.

It's not so much the realization of just how extensive my drinking problem was, and is. It's knowing how casually I had been courting self-destruction during the last twelve months, and knowing on some level not far below the surface that I was doing so. Sigmund Freud wrote of life, and pretty much all of human history, being a constant struggle between two forces which he called Eros and Thanatos -- love and death, respectively, or the instinct to preserve life versus the impulse to destroy it. For all his shortcomings as a psychoanalyst, he got that much right. The struggle is most obvious and lurid during wartime between two or more factions. But it functions in isolation as well, such between a drinker and the bottle that has gradually isolated him from those around him in ways he can sense but can't identify.

And when you've always been a bit of a loner in the first place, like me, the isolation was already in place. Isolation was a normal part of the landscape to me -- the drinking just reinforced it, and it wasn't until last month that I finally started sensing just how abnormal it was. It took a whole year wrenched out of my life to see it for exactly what it was: a courtship with self-destruction.

The good news is, I've stopped drinking, and this time, it's working. I don't dare say I'll never consume alcohol again -- I said that last year, and I got burned badly. I just don't want to touch the stuff now.

And with any luck, I may not ever touch it again. One day at a time. There just ain't no other way to do this...

4 comments:

  1. So very, very happy you're feeling better. Also glad your BP is normal without taking meds! I'm happy too that you were able to figure out it was the beer that was causing all that stuff! Now it's time to start feeling GOOD! AMEN!! M. :-)

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  2. One day at a time, Jim, and don't forget to congratulate yourself, often, for having quit. If nothing else, self-congratulations offer another level of deterrent.

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  3. A friend of mine who's been a recovering alcoholic for about ten years now is an atheist, but he has no problems with the religious aspects of the AA program. He shrugs and says, "I think about higher ideals like generosity and caring and being a good parent to my kids, that's my higher power." So don't think being an atheist somehow means you should avoid AA. Not that you do, but others might appreciate knowing that.

    Regarding addiction, once an addict, always an addict. The AA folks have that right. Addiction is something that happens to you due to your biology, not something that is somehow a moral failure or something. I'm lucky that I'm not an addictive personality (unless you count blogging as an addiction :), but that's just luck of the draw (shrug)... if you've discovered that your biology leads to being addicted to something, the only responsible choice is to do your best to avoid whatever it is, even if someone tells you that you're being a jerk for not imbibing the same substances they are. So it goes.

    -BT

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  4. Welcome to sobriety...good for you! I know we talked about this off and on over the past few years. How are you feeling overall? Are you doing this on your own or have you attended any AA meetings? Drop me a line or give me a call....

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