Monday in Eden

It’s Monday and it’s a good one. I say this in an attempt to convince myself I’m in my usual good mood. Hah! Pretty obvious I’m not, eh? Not in a bad mood exactly but feeling distinctly prickly and impatient, which is almost always the case when this she devil is hormonal. That bloody Eve and her fucking apple appetite – if it weren’t for her us women wouldn’t have to put up with this menstrual cycle nonsense or the pain of childbirth or any of that. I wonder how having children would have gone down in Eden though? You just collect them like you would a parcel at the Post Office? Or we’d all have rubber band vaginas that wouldn’t stretch too far or snap or tear? Bet Eden ladies would just have their rubber minkies just snapping back to perfect and tight and provide perfect bladder control even during the most relentless sneezing fit? Oh I don’t know, but then Eden also sounds like a really boring place if apples were considered such a taboo there. Yes, I’m a total delight this morning. Sorry Eve, I’m sure you did your best.

A recent conversation really got me thinking. Alcoholism and depression. Being challenged is very good for me, because I think I’m always right so I’ve really given this lots of thought over the past day. As usual, I can only speak for myself so I’ll have to start there.

I’m an alcoholic. I didn’t drink because I had a terrible childhood and I didn’t drink to cope with stress or pain or life. In fact, the times when I’ve gone through something shitty I’ve largely stayed away from alcohol because I was always terrified I’d end up feeling much worse. I had it in my head (and I don’t know where it came from) that alcohol enhances everything we feel, and so when I felt down I steered well clear of the stuff. When I look back on the past 20 years, there are two bad patches where I went through serious shit storms. Those also happen to be the two longest dry spells when I almost entirely stayed away from alcohol. It’s not a coincidence. Now I obviously know that this statement I had in my head is only half true: all alcohol does is numb and depress us, so yes, it’ll enhance how shitty or sad we feel but it can’t ever make us happier. After all, it’s a depressant so by default that just isn’t possible. It can only ever make you less happy or sadder. My number one trigger was (and is) a good mood. Booze to me was the illusion of a positive addition to life, I’ve referred to it before as glitter and that’s how I saw it when I was eyeball deep in my addiction. Crazy, isn’t it? I’d point to anything other than my BFF Sauvignon Blanc as a problem – I only saw the truth when I had no other choice and couldn’t lie to myself anymore. It was never my BFF – it was my worst enemy and it was out to kill me.

Beyond this however, I didn’t drink the way most of the people around me drink. I binge. When I start, something happens in me and I cannot stop. I either drink until there’s nothing left to drink or until I pass out – whichever happens first. And because I was really fucking awesome at being an alcoholic, I always made sure I had an ample supply. It takes over with terrifying force that I have no power over. I am powerless over alcohol and I always was.

Was I depressed? Sure – with every hangover I felt low, anxious, paranoid, vulnerable, scared and unsettled. But this was a by-product of booze when my whole system was awash with this powerful depressant. Do I feel depressed when I don’t drink? No. Sure, I have bad days and sometimes I get upset or angry about stuff as we all do, but I have never experienced depression per se. I.e. a hopeless state of feeling low and all those other things for no reason whatsoever. I’ve never cried for five hours without understanding why, which is how my friend Lopez described her depression. Another friend, Kitten, is right now battling a patch of severe depression and she is a tee-totaller. So when I refer to depression, I refer to the illness that comes from within. Not the kind we put into our system. The way I see it for me personally and my own experience is that something in my wiring means that I can’t find the off-switch when I start, and also that I am a human who got addicted to a highly addictive substance. I kind of relate to the first two parts of AA’s take on it: a physical allergy and a mental obsession. It 100% feels that way to me. AA’s third bit says it’s a spiritual malady but I just don’t know about that one. Perhaps one to explore further but it does imply pain somehow and that just wasn’t why I drank. I have never filled up that glass of wine in order to stop feeling bad about something.

But there is a link, although I don’t think this would come as news to anyone. If you ingest a depressant, you will end up feeling depressed. And alcohol is also an anaesthetic, so it would also make sense that someone might turn to it to escape depression or any other type of pain or stress.

Because I wanted to get some facts, I hopped on over to The Royal Society of Psychiatrists. This is what they say:

What is the connection between depression and alcohol?

We know that there is a connection – self-harm and suicide are much more common in people with alcohol problems. It seems that it can work in two ways:

  • you regularly drink too much including (including ‘binge drinking’) which makes you feel depressed OR
  • you drink to relieve anxiety or depression.

Either way:

  • Alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain, increasing the risk of depression.
  • Hangovers can create a cycle of waking up feeling ill, anxious, jittery and guilty.
  • Life gets depressing – arguments with family or friends, trouble at work, memory and sexual problems. 

Remember what I said? I’m always right. Oh, stop! I’m KIDDING! But this does point to how I see it: if you drink a depressant, it’ll get you depressed and if you are already depressed you might be inclined to self medicate with Uncle Booze the anaesthetic. It also makes sense that it makes us more likely to become depressed, given it affects the chemical balance in our brains – depression by definition in the biological sense is, after all, a chemical imbalance in the brain. This all makes sense to me. What do you think?

I’ve heard before about the presence of alcohol in suicides, I can’t remember the figure on top of my head now…. I’m going to look it up…. Oh damn… I wanted the percentage of suicides in the UK 2017 where alcohol was present, but I’m struggling to find it strangely. So unfortunately I can’t quote it because I simply can’t remember what the percentage I’ve heard before is, but I do remember it’s a huge number. It’s sort of logical though. No matter how much you want out, taking your own life must be 1) scary as hell, and 2) hard to put in action. But when you’ve come up with a modus operandi, you still have to go through with it and what better way than calling in Uncle Booze again to numb your senses. Alcohol is perfect for that little thing called fear, which is why we’re much more likely to do stupid shit when we’re drunk. What I can find online are some other interesting facts around alcohol and suicide though.

The Samaritans tell me:

The link between alcohol misuse and suicidal behaviour is well established. The risk of suicide is up to eight times greater when someone is abusing alcohol. Alcohol can reduce people’s inhibitions enough for them to act on suicidal thoughts and it can increase impulsivity, change people’s mood and deepen their depression.

The Oxford Academic has published a paper called ‘Association Between Alcohol Misuse and Suicidal Behaviour which states as follows:

Intoxication and psychological distress

Alcohol has a biphasic effect on emotion, with low doses often ameliorating negative affect, but higher doses producing central nervous system depressant effects (Hufford, 2001). Many adults and adolescents believe alcohol can be used as a form of self-medication, but unfortunately this effect reverses itself at higher levels of intoxication (Pihl and Smith, 1983), and can precipitate suicidal behaviour. Borges et al. (2000) found that alcohol’s effects were mainly on suicidal ideation and unplanned attempts rather than planned attempts, thus lending more evidence to the theory that acute intoxication is more significant, in relation to suicide, than chronic abuse.

To me, this underlines that alcohol is, ahem, very VERY bad for us. Sorry to be flippant – these are terrifying facts. If we are not depressed it’ll hugely increase our chances of ending up there, and if we already are it will make us even more unwell and much more likely to act upon dark thoughts. It numbs our senses. Scary shit, no?

The question still remains as to whether all alcoholics are depressed. Personally, my drinking days were dark – my reasons for drinking may not have been to self medicate but Oh Ehm Gee do I know what it’s like to feel like death both inside and out the next day! Because I don’t feel that way when I don’t drink is why I’ve come to the conclusion that the low mood, anxiety and everything else I felt with my hangovers were a direct result of the alcohol. Sober Me can be in a morning grump or, like now, a little ratty because I’m hormonal, but in general I don’t feel low or any of those things. Never have. Research and studies seem to point to how alcohol gets us depressed and/or increases our risk of developing clinical depression, as well as showing evidence of alcohol and drug use as a form of self medication. I can’t, however, find anything to suggest ALL alcoholics drink to drown their sorrows. Unless of course you look at what addiction is: relieving the discomfort of the previous drinking session or hit, which may or may not take the form of a low mood. We’ve become dependent on it – physically or mentally or both. Habit also has a lot to answer for. And of course, chuck in the reasons we tell ourselves we have to drink. I fucking celebrated the neighbour’s cat’s birthday – I always found a reason to propose a toast. If there wasn’t a reason I invented one – cue aforementioned cat.

So much to make sense of I suppose. What do you think?

This is turning out to be very long, but there’s one thing I really wanted to tell you so please bear with me for a short while longer… Yesterday I was heading out for a run. I love running in the rain but not in a sky fall where it comes down so hard you can’t even see. Well, 20 or so minutes into my run, the heavens opened. I was already hormonal and in a bit of a shitty mood so I needed the endorphins going, there’s no better way to get me feeling really good than a long run. So I actually got really pissed off, or rather, disappointed because I needed that run. Muttering to myself, I stood under the nearest tree for a while and then sprinted across the fields hunched as the heavy rain whipped the shit out of me. As I got back to “our” end of the park it suddenly stopped. I was SO annoyed and completely drenched. And then I looked up and saw the most perfect rainbow and it felt like it was some higher power telling me to get some perspective. It seemed to end roughly where hubby’s gym is and that’s where he was at the time, my very own pot of (heart of) gold. I pulled myself together and felt instantly happier. It honestly made me feel all light and happy inside and as though it was a sign. Silly perhaps, but sometimes we get just what we need exactly when we need it and in that moment of hormonal aggro and being soaked to the bone, I needed a rainbow.

rainbow.jpg

Today it isn’t raining so I’ll be heading out for the full hour.

Today I’m not going to drink.

16 thoughts on “Monday in Eden

  1. “If there wasn’t a reason I invented one” My friends and I used to play a drinking game called 1-2-3 Drink. In this game you counted to three and then you took a long pull on your beer. And then again, and then again, etc. It’s fun to see elements of a conversation arrive in a blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hormones suck! They’re just unfair … I’m really embarrassed to admit that one day per month I’m grumpy and am likely to burst into tears for no apparent reason … hubby looks baffled and understandably tends to disappear. I then feel such a bitch so have to apologise! Grrrr xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In general addiction is about not being able to deal with ‘what is’. I’m thinking, if you are looking to understand why you drank, you might want to pay extra attention to the moments at which you want(ed) to drink. As I read in a booklet on nailbiting: if you want to know why you do it? Stop and you will find out which drives you over the edge :-D.
    It is my general idea that nobody starts drinking excessively because they are so very balanced and zen. Obviously it is not helpful to create problems where they are not, but addiction is a serious ‘going off track’ of the natural state of well being and in its core is utterly self-destructive. When reading your post I wonder if you take that dark fact in itself into consideration. I never thought I had any problems with being chased and raped untill I got into 2 years of sobriety and the whole emotional experience of the memor, which up to then I knew in ‘words’ but not in feelings, came flooding back to me. :-/ Made me find out in a whole new way how addiction and substance abuse works with denial. 😦
    Now I would like to end with a light tone but ‘just saying’ isn’t really gonna cut it I guess ;-). Well, as I said, no need to go look for problems where they are not. Sometimes things heal because we choose to look at beautiful rainbows and be happy about them :-).
    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right. I wanted to really think about what you put to me and although I think this is 100% worth exploring MUCH further, I think I can just about formulate a response. I felt a little defensive initially (maybe you touched a nerve – we rarely feel defensive for no reason, right?), which is both childish and thoroughly useless if we are to have an honest and engaging conversation but I’ve now tried to pull my big girl pants back on.

      First off, THANK YOU for this comment, it really made me think and obviously you’re one of my favourite bloggers so I love being able to discuss all of this with you. Who knows what we might find and/or untangle!! That’s exciting to me.

      You’re hitting the nail on the head. WHY did I drink? When I peel away the layers and have a closer look at what’s going on and what I’m feeling when I get the urge (or “ping!” as I usually refer to it), I find that the common denominator is a good mood. I’m excited in some way and about to head into a situation that I enjoy, be it finishing work for the day or meeting up with a friend. Peeling back further, I can clearly see that this is how I’ve grown up to perceive alcohol: you pop open a bottle to celebrate. If I switch on the TV, I’ll almost immediately be bombarded with images of how booze adds something positive – a cold beer on a summer’s eve, champagne glasses in a wedding scenario, the sophistication of whisky on the rocks, Mr Suave himself aka James Bond with his Martini – shaken not stirred. When I grew up, alcohol was at home a rare occurrence and only ever figured around big holidays and once I came “of age” it was something you ingested to have a good time. So deeply ingrained in my mind through a lifetime of conditioning, alcohol represents something positive, light, happy and fun! So no wonder it’s what my mind would automatically conjure up at the moments it did.

      What I’m trying to convey is how I used to think of alcohol is a big fat lie but that the mind and the images and impressions we are spoon fed from when we’re little are powerful opponents. How else can we drink a powerful depressant and think it’ll make us feel even happier or make our celebrations more fun? How else can we drink something that’s actually so foul it makes us shudder yet convince ourselves that oh, this fermented fruit mixed with ethanol is the height of good taste? I believe it’s an illusion.

      This is the case for me, and I believe, many others. Have you heard of This Naked Mind? It’s a good read and it completely tears down and deconstructs all our misconceptions of what alcohol is and does. I genuinely believe that one day our great grandchildren will sit here and view booze commercials the way we now look with horror at the cigarette commercials from the sixties! I have no doubt that the tide is turning.

      Of course, self medication is something different altogether. I do understand that there are many, many people who turn to alcohol as a way to relieve pain, stress or just to cope with being alive. And like any other mind altering drug, it will change how we feel. It makes us numb – it’s an anaesthetic. But I don’t believe all people who become addicted to alcohol or abuse it drink for that reason. Many – yes. Many who don’t – also yes. I can protest until I’m blue in the face though. All I can do is account for my experience with absolutely unflinching honesty.

      I also believe that it’s fairly logical to get addicted to an addictive substance.

      Am I “very balanced”? Drunk – no! Sober – kinda. Am I zen? No, absolutely not – I feel stuff strongly and I am ruled by my heart, I sometimes over react and sometimes I’m way too sensitive. Perhaps there is some truth to how someone like me might be more disposed to getting addicted somehow? I still can’t – no matter how much I want to (because also that’d be much easier as it’d give me more of a key to the puzzle!) – say I ever drank because I was hurting or couldn’t accept life the way it is. This is the most ridiculous thing about it, actually because I drank to enhance it.

      Gosh, this is turning into an essay – there is so much to say and it really does me so much good to hear other people’s experiences and views and perspectives. You’ve really got me thinking! At the end of the day, I can just account for me and my own experiences. It’s not all happy-happy unicorns and spring blossoms and I have a million flaws and probably a fairly average amount of baggage. I think I’m probably a lot more appreciative since I got sober – it quite literally feels like a whole world has opened up and I’m loving how I now get to feel everything at max capacity.

      Big hugs to you and thanks again – I’m going to really dig into this more and hope we’ll have many more conversations just like this one. xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nooooooooo that’s not what I meant! You didn’t offend me at all! I found myself getting defensive but that’s because I’m sensitive so sometimes need to really think about what someone said, which is why I gave your comment lots of thought. It really made me think about whether there could be something there that makes sense for me in what you said, how drinking excessively might not happen unless we’re out of whack somehow. Lots to uncover!! I can think of one issue in particular that used to hurt me but that with sobriety I’m learning to let go of. Just not sure it was the reason I drank but who knows! I’m open to all possibilities. But PLEASE don’t think you offended me, you absolutely didn’t! Even if you write something I can’t relate to or vice versa, I’ve only ever taken your words to be honest, well intended and from a really good place. xxxx

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      • Ok 🙂 Thanks. I have a certain, not sure if it is autistic, not sure if it plain asshole streak to me where I push a thing if I think I’m right. 😦 It can bring clarity, often it (also/only) brings pain.

        Then in serious answer on your comment. You write: “This is the most ridiculous thing about it, actually because I drank to enhance it.” If you are looking, I’m thinking the answer is somewhere in there. That is also a version of ‘not dealing with what is’. There are people who drink from feeling below zero to zero and people who drink from zero to further.

        And yes to the whole idiocy around alcohol advertising. 😦 Addicted society 😦 Or so she said and ate another piece of chocolate. 😦
        xx, Feeling

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      • I think I see what you mean now! Interesting! Really, really interesting! I think I read “not dealing with what is” to only mean reaching for the bottle because we want to get away from pain/stress. I can see where you’re coming from more clearly. Haha, with me sometimes you have to explain like you would to a child! I think I was locked into what I thought you were saying and therefore when you put it at a slightly different angle I kind of got it! 🙂 Don’t think you’re an asshole at all, I like how you put things across and with this last comment when you put it in a slightly different way that found its way into my thick skull there’s now a lightbulb moment. Awesome and thank you! I definitely push when I think I’m right or when I really feel passionate about something too and quite often I’m like a dog with a bone… 🙂 MWAH! x

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      • Lightbulb! Good! 🙂
        I read ‘The addictive personality’ by Graig Nakken. I’m thinking this ‘not being with what is’ comes from there. It’s a good book if you want to look into the how’s and why’s.
        The dog with the bone ay…. If it were my bone it would be ok. Not sure. I’m thinking today I should stick to tea and books and no people because because something internally is going totally against everything. 😦
        Thank you for taking the effort to be clear with me. ❤
        xx, Feeling

        Liked by 1 person

      • And thank you for explaining until I got it! That lightbulb you just helped me light up is actually growing in size…. Chasing highs…. Thank fuck I didn’t discover worse shit than booze!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s a lightbulb I’ll come back to, now that you helped me see it. xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yay!!!! 🙂
        Same here: thank god I did not discover worse things than booze. I drank my first beer at age 13 or 14 and immediately knew I would get addicted. Obviously that smart insight was flushed away immediately by the next swills :-(. But it kept me from starting other things like coffee and the heavy stuff.
        xx, Feeling

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