It’s a very windy day here in west London and I’m thoroughly enjoying the whining sound of the gusts as they tear through the tree tops outside our front windows. Running will have to be an evening project today and along the streets – I had a mad run through the park a couple of weeks ago when it was just like this and at one particularly exposed spot I had to stop because I was actually being thrown around by the strength of the wind. It was raining hard too that day and I guess my cue to give up was seeing other people, who’d been equally foolish heading out in that weather, taking shelter near big trees as the wind and rain whipped mercilessly at the park.
I’m just finishing off what’s still not a great essay but it’s a matter of forcing myself to write rather than coming up with things to say. I can’t speak for the others of course, but I figure we all have the basics and could easily account for most of the required theory and its concepts. The problem is how the essay is structured – it looks nothing like the kind I used to write at university. Back then, both during my degree and for my Masters too (aren’t I just such a bloody clever clogs, hahr-dee-hahr), we’d be given a selection of essay questions for whatever unit to choose from. Each would pose an issue to consider using whatever theory or school of thought and on occasion there’d be a little instruction to go with it to ensure we understood the direction. This thing is two pages of instruction with a bunch of sub-sections that have a specified theory to cover, a word count and also how many quotes to include. It’s either aimed at someone who doesn’t know how to write an essay or too complicated for me. I suspect it’s the former because you can do this course without having been to uni. But oh my Lord, the panic it has caused!
Oh well. It’s almost out of the way and I can’t say I’ve given it much effort – I spent a couple of hours yesterday and it’ll take me less than an hour to finish it off today. It’s a load of drivel – a bunch of pretty sentences that make it sound like I’m saying something clever but it’s just waffle, honestly. Once I have it all spewed out, I’ll go back and tidy and tighten it up to something I can hand in without blushing. I keep saying I’ll have it done today (and even told Hubby I needed to have today home solo to have peace and quiet to get on with it, effectively preventing him from being here even though it’d been nicer for him to work from home) but I’m sure that any good work I do on it will happen sometime late on Monday, the day before it’s due. I’m still me, you know.
This blog is about recovery and on that score I’m still clean and sober. I’m coming up to two years of sobriety and at this point in time I have no real fear of slipping. This has been the case since I stopped, really. Whilst I don’t ever want to allow myself to become complacent or cocky, I was so DONE with drinking that recovery has largely been one huge sigh of relief. That’s overwhelmingly the overriding sense I’ve had the whole time: thank God I don’t have to drink anymore. Thank God!
AA was never quite for me, and at this stage I’ve not been to a meeting since I collected my 18-month chip back in July. Before then, I was never a frequent flyer either, but it’s definitely a part of my toolkit, just not a major one. I’m sure I’ll head to the occasional meeting in the future too. And I do want that chip signifying two years. I think the main reason I’ve not found AA meetings particularly helpful is how I always come away feeling fearful – a mixture of being ashamed and a little scared – when in fact what I feel so much more is pride and courage. Again though, it’s very useful to be reminded of the pitfalls of getting cocky and I honestly don’t want that. What a shitter it’d be if I suddenly got so cock sure I’d decide to have a drink “in case I can handle it” suddenly. But then, why would I be tempted to do something I know for sure does nothing for me. I think that’s the point – alcohol holds no temptation. For it to tempt me, it’d have to have some sort of benefit and it just doesn’t. I don’t really believe I could suddenly go from feeling this way to a u-turn where I begin to think of alcohol as rewarding. But who knows. I guess I’ll keep on glancing over at the cage in which the Beast is still sitting pretty, knowing it has no lock.
What I do find inspiring are the various sobriety and addiction forums I often check in on, as well as the blogosphere – it’s here and in those I hear the voices I relate to and draw strength from. Something came up only yesterday in one of the forums, a discussion that does pop up from time to time, namely, how to get through alcohol withdrawal.
Someone had posted how they were trying once again to get off the booze but were suffering really bad physical abstinence with shakes, feeling weak and “like my body is shutting down“. They went on to say how they in the end had to resort to taking a drink to get through it and put to the group whether anyone had experience of “successfully tapering off”. I felt compelled to answer. Partly because alcohol withdrawal, when severe, can be freaking dangerous (yes, you COULD die from it – it’s that serious) and partly because the proposition of tapering off is to my mind just nuts.
Think about it. If you end up in a position where you suffer withdrawal as serious as this person described – “like my body is shutting down” – this, I think, might just suggest that your drinking poses a little more than A Problem. It points to a serious issue, no? You don’t, I don’t think anyway, get to that state by just over indulging or partying a little too hard. To end up with alcohol withdrawal severe enough for you to fear you’re body is about to give up, I’d be as bold as suggest it’s because you’ve lost control completely. It says to me that you cannot control alcohol. It says to me alcohol controls YOU. It tells me you’re one of US. Sorry, but it does.
And what is tapering off? What would this involve and require? It is by its very nature an exercise of control, and, more than that, it’s an exercise of moderation. And if you were in any way, shape or fashion capable of controlling alcohol or moderating your intake, I’d say it’d be fucking unlikely you’d find yourself in a position of severe withdrawal in the first place.
I say this because I attempted this more times than I could count. OK, so thinking back on this actually makes me chuckle. Right, pull yourself together, Anna. So I’d be feeling like death and indeed like my body was giving up on me (which it may well have been in many of those instances) and knew that the only thing that’d possibly pull me back from the brink would be a drink. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the horrors of alcohol withdrawal, it’s terrifying to go through. You are shaking so bad you can’t stand up, much less walk. Even taking that drink is hellishly difficult because you’re in such a bad way you can barely put the glass to your lips even holding it with both hands. Don’t get me started on getting to where you have the booze and pouring it in the first place. Anyway. Add palpitations and going from sweating profusely to shivering. Or both at once. Add feeling dizzy and unsteady and like you’re about to pass out. And the terror knowing it might not be passing out you’ll end up doing, but rather have a fit or just fucking die there and then. I can’t find words awful enough to describe how horrible alcohol withdrawal is. It’s fucking AWFUL.
My friend Tumbler, whom I’ve mentioned before, used to taper off. She had a method for coming off the booze. Tumbler, by the way, if you don’t recall reading about her before on here, died from her alcohol abuse on her 48th birthday. It’s nearly six years ago, as it happens, April 2014. Jesus, that makes me feel so sad thinking of her and how much time has passed. Another needless death because of this shitty poison that has no benefits. Tumbler was all the things the best people are – intelligent, funny, smart, insightful, reflective, creative, passionate, driven…. …just a total waste of an incredible woman who had so much to give. A travesty.
So anyway. She once described to me (to help me) how she’d do this tapering off booze. It went something like two beers in the morning, then two more around lunch and two in the evening. Then the next day one each time. And hey presto, job done! Only it never worked and now she’s dead. So I don’t think we could ever argue that this tapering off thing is a sensible strategy for someone who can’t control booze.
And just like Tumbler, I have to testify it never worked for me either. Why? Because when I take a drink, I ignite a series of events I cannot control. If I start, I can’t stop. I never could. Ever, ever, EVER. My attempts at tapering off just resulted in me drinking from the morning on those occasions. Again, I’m sitting here chuckling sadly at the madness of it. Did I ever truly think I’d be having that one beer and stop? I don’t know – I honestly can’t tell you whether there was any part of me that believed it’d work. That’s neither here nor there though, it doesn’t matter what I believed because it never worked.
Therefore, I didn’t bother wrapping my words in cotton wool. I told this person they should immediately contact their doctor and get help – IF they were determined and wanted to get away from the booze. I told them what I know about alcohol withdrawal (you know, you could DIE and stuff) and to be safe. My heart took a happy little leap when this person messaged me this morning to say they were going on a supervised medical detox. Thank God. I responded by truthfully telling them how this made me very happy and I hope they want it enough to make this the only time. Because if you really want it, you only have to go through it once.
Well. This is a blog about recovery and sobriety and all that this involves and I felt I wanted to steer it back to that given how writing every day now means I get side tracked quite a lot. Today’s advice: get help if you suffer bad withdrawal from alcohol. It ain’t safe to do this on your own. It’s also much harder, if not to say impossible. The same is true for stopping regardless of withdrawal – find your tribe. Alone I’m nothing but together we’re everything. Trust me. Don’t do this alone.
Today I’m not going to drink.