I quit drinking recently. Something that I had tried and failed to do many times before. During the first couple of days of this attempt I wrote down some of my thoughts. Here they are.
Saturday Jan. 07
While I am sure that I have mentioned that I like to drink beer, I am pretty sure that I failed to mention to what extent that goes. I drink beer every day, and I am not capable of drinking only one or two; I continue drinking until the beer is gone or I pass out, whichever comes first. Most would probably say that this puts me into the category of being a serious alcoholic, which isn’t exactly true since I never go to the meetings with anonymous people. I do have quite a serious drinking problem though, and as is always the case I continually deny that fact.
I am sure there are checklist type quizzes I could take to tell me whether or not I am an alcoholic but I don’t need to. The fact that I try to justify my drinking by saying things like, “It has never caused me to miss work” is proof enough. While it is true that I have never missed work because of my drinking, that is about the only thing that I haven’t missed because of it. A few notable examples of what I have missed being things like, say, the last decade of my life, five years of marriage, numerous events that I should have attended with my wife, the list could go on forever. Alcohol is destroying my life and I know it, I have known it for a long time but have been powerless to do anything about it.
I don’t put much stock into the idea that alcoholism is a disease. If this is a disease it is one that I willingly subjected myself to, and one that it took many years to incubate into the out-of-control condition it has become. I used to be able to control the alcohol, now the alcohol controls me. It is rather a helpless feeling.
Quitting drinking is pretty easy in concept, all I have to do is not open that can of beer, not drink that can of beer, but I can’t do it. The alcohol calls to me, my body shakes and trembles awaiting the depressant qualities of the liquor. I think to myself “Perhaps if I have just one, just to calm my nerves, what could it hurt?”, the next thing I know I am completely drunk wondering where the day went. I tell myself that tomorrow will be the day that I don’t drink but when I wake up it is today, and today I end up drinking. In this sense tomorrow really never comes. A cycle that I can’t seem to break.
I would like to say that I had some great emergence of will power to help me try to quit, that would be a lie. I am not sure if I would ever have even tried to quit drinking for my own sake. Quitting would be very good for my health of course, I just don’t think I could have ever tried to wrestle the demon without some external motivation. Finding out how badly my drinking was hurting my wife was a pretty powerful motivator.
Overcoming a drug addiction is one of the most difficult things a person can ever try to do. I have tried many times to quit drinking and to quit smoking, all attempts have failed. I am not trying to fool myself into believing that this attempt will be any different, but I have taken a different approach. I am not telling myself that I will never drink again, instead I am telling myself that I will not drink today. If I can just make it through today then I will have the chance to make the decision again tomorrow, but when tomorrow comes it will be today, and I have already made the decision for today, right? It is actually a bit more difficult than that, but you get the gist of it.
It has been two days since I have had a beer. That might not seem very impressive but considering that is the longest I have gone without a beer in about a decade I am considering it a victory. I am really wishing I had one right now though, and I have some in the room next to me. Oddly I think that is making it easier for me to fight the desire. I know that the beer is available if the desire becomes overwhelming, which seems to keep the desire from becoming overwhelming. It is like I am tricking the part of my brain that needs the beer into not needing the beer since I have the beer if I need it -which doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, but it is my brain and I know how to trick it-.
Aside from the trembling (more so than usual) the other adverse effect from not drinking was exactly the one I thought I would have: sleeping. My eyes can be as heavy as bricks but my mind, being so used to the daily depressant, is still wide awake. I am sure that within a few days this will get easier, as my body gets used to not having the alcohol administered to it on a daily basis, but the last two nights have just been a lot of tossing and turning.
Sunday Jan. 8
Another sleepless night. I turned off the television at about a quarter after one in the morning then stared at the alarm clock for about three hours before deciding to go read a little bit. Got back into bed at about 4:30 and stared at the clock until I dozed off at about 5, only to be awakened by the barking of my neighbors dog a half an hour later. (totally as an aside. Don’t you just hate the first month after Christmas, lots of kids got puppies that they absolutely loved…For about two weeks. Now all you can hear at night is the sound of the puppies barking as they are locked outside and forgotten. A couple more weeks and the sound will die down as the dogs end up in local animal shelters. One should never give a child a live animal as a gift, it really is animal cruelty). Asleep again sometime shortly after six. Woke up again shortly after seven, this time for good. Once the sun starts to rise I find it nearly impossible to sleep.
I did a bit of research into this and found this website: http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/health/a/blacer030816.htm . It says exactly what I thought it would say, almost verbatim. I am only one of the many people who really began drinking (at least daily) as a sleep aid. Of course it led to dependency, how could it not? Over time it would take more and more to relax me to the point that I could fall asleep, until I was eventually passing out instead of sleeping. Now I am dealing with the fallout of being self-medicated for so long. One unfortunate thing in that article is that it says many recovering alcoholics continue to have sleeping problems for more than a year after giving up alcohol, that is not a welcome prospect.
I have been trying to keep my caffeine consumption as low as possible over the last few days, but since I drink diet coke that is not an easy thing to do. The only caffeine free diet soda I could find in town was 7up, I have been drinking that in the evenings to try to make sure I don’t have a buzz when I am attempting to sleep. Honestly though, that stuff doesn’t taste very good. Not that any diet soda really does. Add to that the fact that each time I get up to use the restroom or whatever during the night I take a quick drink of soda, Diet Coke, and it is easy to understand where at least some of the sleeping difficulty is coming from.
This morning I went to the grocery store in Coolidge and bought one of every kind of caffeine free diet soda they had on the shelf, I am not even kidding. I brought home diet orange crush, caffeine free diet coke, diet a&w root beer, diet squirt, diet mug root beer, diet 7up, and three different flavors of sparkling water. Surely one of these will be to my liking. I am not entirely sure if I should try to give up caffeine completely at the same time as I am giving up alcohol, but if I could just not have any caffeine in the afternoon it would surely be a step in the right direction.
As for how I am actually feeling it is still hard to say. I think my body feels better, I am certainly eating more, or at least more often but in smaller quantities. The effects on my mind have been pretty immediate though. I am thinking more clearly now, even though I feel so fatigued from lack of sleep, than I have in as long as I can remember. My hands are not trembling as bad as usual. And I am actually typing quickly sober, that is something that I used to never be able to accomplish until I had downed at least a couple. I am in pretty good spirits so far, hopefully I can keep them that way.
I quit writing about it after that because it just kept reminding me that I am supposed to be drinking, not the best idea when I was trying to quit. I can tell you though that the most difficult day was the 5th day. I don’t know why but I needed a drink so bad I felt like I might actually die without it. With no way to fight the desire I just went to bed and tried to sleep, of course I didn’t sleep at all. I did stare at the alarm clock until the morning though and by then the desire had passed.
It has now been 8 days since I gave up drinking. I find that I hardly even think about it now, and when I do it is more of a “a beer would be nice” type thought, opposed to the “must drink or perish!” commands my mind had been making for the last decade. I think I may have subdued the demon this time, yet I know that if I ever take a single drink it will likely lead me back to the hell I was in before. So, success for now.
I should also note that I have just about completely given up caffeine as well. It turns out that staying up late getting horribly drunk makes your body desire caffeine in the morning. With the alcohol out of the equation I don’t really have a need for it any more. Since the fridge is loaded up with nothing but caffeine free soda I haven’t had a caffeinated beverage in three days. Let me tell you though, Diet Squirt tastes like a carbonated grapefruit, that shit is foul.
With that it seems that smoking is now my only vice, a vice that I am keeping for myself, at least for now. I don’t think I could handle giving up all my vices in a two week span.