Alcohol Abstinence and Recovery. Month 1.
So, what now? It’s Monday morning, I’m wide awake, detoxed and on this alcohol abstinence and recovery program. So what actually happens now?
After the support and Rah-Rah of detox week it all feels a bit flat, a bit of a let-down really.
There’s no ticker-tape parade down the street to celebrate and certainly no award or certificate saying “Congratulations Paul, You Are Now Detoxed”
The very least I expected was a hand-written note from the MD of Banrock Station Vineyards saying “sorry your leaving us but thanks for making me a millionaire. P.s. If you change your mind Tesco are running their 25% discount offer next week when you buy 6-bottles or more, so don’t miss out”
I absolutely loved that offer.
But to be honest I’m just feeling a bit apprehensive because this is where the real work starts. The next 4-6 weeks are either going to be make or break, shit or bust, or a combination of twenty other commonly used pointless quips, none of which are designed to rev your motor and get you punching the air with determination.
All I know is that I feel a bit weird like I’m not sure who I am anymore, and the scales tell me I’m a pound lighter (one measly pound for God’s sake). I’ve just denied myself 12000 calories of sugar saturated alcoholic grape juice, pee’d out what feels like a thousand litres of fluid and the bloody scales are saying “Congratulations you’ve lost one pound Mr Fat Ba%tard”.
Well I can tell you, right here, right now, those scales are going to eat their words and end up in damnation. In three months’ time when I go back to the GP for my blood results they’re going to be screaming “Winner, Winner – Chicken Dinner” and begging for forgiveness.
So what is actually going on in detox world?
Well today I start a new medication called Acamprosate.
Acamprosate is a medication in tablet form that helps take the edge off the craving for alcohol. It doesn’t take away the feeling completely, but providing you keep up with the prescribed dosage it will reduce the craving by approximately 10 to 15% which is enough to help you ride the wave when a craving does come along.
To be honest, riding a wave is the only way I can describe it when a craving comes along. You’ve just got to jump on that board, get on the crest and ride it out until the feeling passes. Just as a wave would die down as it reaches the shore.
I don’t actually know where I got that analogy from. I’ve never even held a surfboard, let alone balanced on one in the water. In fact, I can’t even stand on a step stool without falling off, and I’m that bad at heights my head starts to spin if I wear two pairs of socks on a chilly morning.
But Acamprosate here I come ready or not, and I’m on 3 daily doses of two tablets (6-per day).
What was the outcome of Day 1 of abstinence?
So, the first day has gone without a problem really. I suppose I’ve still got the Librium in my system, plus I’ve got 1 left to take tonight, and now I’m quaffing down Acamprosate like a packet of M&M’s.
At the moment those tricky little receptors are well out-gunned, and it damn well serves them right.
I made a Spaghetti Carbonara for the evening meal which was quick and simple, and spent the evening watching TV, or at least trying to watch TV as my lovely wife has the habit of talking all the way through the programs and falling silent at the adverts.
Not feeling so sorry for myself this morning. I had a reasonable night and awoke feeling refreshed.
The feeling of feeling refreshed is actually quite a nice feeling. (I know that was a very poorly written sentence repeating all those feeling type words), but it was actually how I felt!
Ordinarily, I’d awake in a sort of a blur, stagger round the bedroom, bump into the door frame, fall over the cat and finally make it to the bathroom where I’d catch a glimpse of something in the mirror that would cause Godzilla to faint and bang his head.
And it’s not that I was ever hung over or feeling incapable, it was that I just couldn’t get a refreshing night’s sleep because the alcohol was making me pee like a horse and sweat like a menopausal donkey.
Anyway, now things are starting to feel different.
Sadly, I’m no longer receiving daily calls from my cheery bezzie support nurse, although she will check in at the end of the week, but obviously she has to move on and assist new people embarking on their detox journey.
It sort of makes you realise that you’re not the only one on this journey. Many have gone before you, and many more will follow behind, and that’s quite comforting, especially knowing that there are plenty of others out there who have got your back if you feel like you’re struggling to cope.
The rest of the day went quite smoothly, in fact the next few days went remarkably un-noteworthy. As each day passed I learned to deal more effectively with my trigger times which is around 6.00pm and preparing an evening meal.
Of course I have the Acamprosate taking the edge off the cravings, and I suppose it works in my favour that my crisis point is in the evenings only, as by that point I’ve taken the whole daily dose.
Have the cravings stopped? No, they still feel very real but I’m confident that I’m in control of them and fully understand that they flow in and the ebb away again. Also, I fully understand that a point will come when I get a day without any cravings, and an evening where I don’t think about wine time.
So how did the first week of abstinence come to an end?
Well in bloody bad form to be honest.
For me Friday has strong associations with drinking. It’s always been a very social evening, an evening to kick back and enjoy a drink like there’s something to celebrate. I don’t why I celebrated Friday because I’ve always worked on a Saturday as well. In fact, up until this year, the only day I ever took off was a Sunday.
But this Friday I decided to hold a family BBQ starting in the afternoon around 4.00pm with the idea of getting rid of everybody by 8.00 so I could chill out with a nice cup of tea.
We’re only a small family, so technically I was preparing food for only 5 adults, although in reality I always prep enough food to feed the Salvation Army.
The deal was that I’d supply and prepare the food, but everybody else brought their own booze. Somehow it seemed unfair for me to supply both the food and the drink, especially as I couldn’t touch a drop myself.
I managed to cope quite well with prepping and cooking the food, and keeping the trigger points under control, so as a little reward I’d bought myself a bottle of alcohol free Chardonnay, which I enjoyed once I’d sat down after feeding everybody. (As I’ve mentioned before, alcohol free wine is semi-dangerous territory for me as I’m trying to break the association of wine and good times. Although it’s alcohol free it still looks like wine, pours like wine and tastes like wine)
Moving on, we’ve always ran an open friendly sort of home. When the girls were growing up, our house was the one all their friends would come to in order to get changed and dolled up before heading out, and word had got round that we were having a BBQ.
Before I knew it, we had a house full (well 3-more to be precise, but it felt like a house full). So, after getting extra chairs out on the patio, off I went and cooked some more food.
By this point I was getting a bit tired and they’d all turned up with cases of cider, alcopops and bottles of spirits so I knew the 8.00pm curfew was out of the window.
As the night dragged on it got louder and louder, with multiple visits to the local Booze Emporium until by midnight they were completely Jager Bombed (and I mean totally bombed out, like the Americans launching an air raid, missing the target and hitting the local Vodka factory instead) and at this point I started to lose it.
In fact I’m not sure how I managed to keep myself in check that long to be honest. Not because I didn’t enjoy the company, I did. But with being over tired, everybody steaming drunk, fighting multiple ambush situations from my wine receptors and the general noise level, it was a test too far so early in the journey.
By the time I got rid of them all it’s fair to say I was traumatised! In fact, I was that traumatised I didn’t speak until Sunday night….
Weeks 2 and 3
Skipping ahead slightly, week 2 and week 3 were much of a muchness really. Nothing particularly dramatic happened. The Acamprosate was well into my system and helping me to cope quite well.
The main issues are still the weekends, in particular Friday night. I’ve managed not to succumb to anymore alcohol-free wine as I know that if I use that as a placebo it could very quickly lead me down the path of drinking alcoholic wine again.
The association that I have with wine and my past life is so strong that it’s only a very small cross over between the two.
As mentioned previously, I have two trains of thought about drinking wine. One is to never go back to it, and the other is to break the hold it had over me completely so that if I do ever find myself in a situation where I feel I could enjoy it again, then I would be in control of when, where, how much and how often.
Perhaps I’m deluding myself, however when I started this journey it was one day at a time. Just get passed today, tomorrow morning will be a fresh new start.
Now I feel that it’s more 5 days at a time that I can cope, and the testing time is from Friday through to Sunday night when I retire to bed, so definite progress there.
In fact, I’m almost at the point that I dreamed of being for years whereby I could quite happily live without drinking wine in the evening throughout the week and enjoy a moderate amount at the weekend. That said, I’m not that foolish to think I could do that now. If I fell into that trap I’d be drinking 7 nights a week again within a few days.
How did I get to this? The final week of month 1 of total abstinence. When I get through this week-I will have been alcohol free for 5-weeks (including detox week).
Five weeks ago I couldn’t even go one night without my evening wine infusion.
So, a quick hop on the scales and what d’ya know. Since the measly 1-pound weight loss I’ve lost 5 more pounds so nearly half a stone.
Not too bad considering I’ve had to replace the sugar hit from the alcohol with varying amounts of chocolate biscuits and those Greek yoghurt pots with a corner of some sort of preserve that supposed to taste like a New York deli cheesecake or some other weird concoction.
As the country is slowly coming out of lockdown, a good thing happened last week. I received a call from my employer offering me the opportunity to return to work on a part time basis until things picked up.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t decide whether to bring me back 2 days per week or three, and on which days, so I offered a solution whereby I’d do two and a half days and be in every morning. It seemed the obvious answer to me as that way I’d be in every day to deal with whatever arose.
Also, it suited me as I’d been at home for 3-months so it eased me nicely back into the routine of getting up early in the morning and heading off to work, with the added benefit of finishing at lunch time. Thankfully, the government furlough scheme paid my wages for the rest of the day.
Despite the favourite British pastime of moaning about the state of the country (irrespective of which party is in power) I’m thankful that we are privileged to live in one of the world’s wealthiest and most tolerant countries where we have the unique benefit of the NHS and near enough immediate access to all its’ services.
So how did week 4 end?
Unfortunately, like week-1 it ended on a sour note. I suppose I’m still a bit raw, and it is Friday, but here’s what happened. You can be the judge and decide if it’s me being petty, over sensitive because of the situation, or if I’m justified in feeling just a little pissed off.
So, during the start of my abstinence and with a lot of welcome input from the son in law, I designed and built a rather nice wooden pergola in the back garden.
Super proud of it, and it looked so good that son-in-law who runs his own handy man service business put it on his FaceBook page and promptly got lots of admiring comments, and a request for a quote to build one for a local home-owner.
I of course offered to return the favour and assist by designing, sourcing the materials and labouring, which included giving all the timber two coats of coloured wood stain on the Friday afternoon prior to installation on the Saturday.
My wife has a day off on Fridays, and on this Friday decided to go out to lunch with the two daughters, which is fine. It gives me a bit of space and allows me to get on with stuff.
By about 3 O’clock the wife is still out at lunch and this wood staining is getting super boring. Bearing in mind that there is approximately 40 linear metres of timber, each of which has 4-sides, and each of the 4-sides requires 2-coats then that amounts to some 320 metres of timber I need to paint before it starts raining again.
A second pair of hands from anybody would have been most welcome.
By 4 O’ clock I’m almost in a mind-numbing coma through boredom and the phone rings. It’s my lovely wife.
Here’s the conversation.
Lovely Wife. “Didn’t you get my text message earlier?”
Me. “No, I’m painting timber in the garden like I told you I was planning to do.”
Lovely Wife. “Oh, I didn’t know you were doing that.”
Me. “Well that’s what I’m doing.”
Lovely Wife. “We’re in the beer garden in the pub. It’s lovely, why don’t you come over?”
Me. “Who’s we?”
Lovely Wife. “Daughter 1, Daughter 2 and Son-In-Law”
Me. (Blood pressure instantly exploded from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1 in what seemed like a nano-second.) “No, I’m covered in paint, I need a shower and this painting needs finishing before it rains again.”
Lovely Wife. “Come over, I’ll treat you to a coffee”
Me. (Blood pressure now gone beyond DEFCON 1, and in my head East and West are firing missiles at each other). “No, I’ll pass on that offer thanks”
Lovely wife. “Oh right, I’ll leave you to it then”
Not only am I left painting all this timber while everybody else (including son-in-law) is in the beer garden, I’m expected to be so excited about the prospect of a cup of coffee that I’ll just give up and head on over there.
Two further hours later, timber treated, no additional help and I’m in a right old mood that I can’t break out of.
Frustration and mood justified? I’ll let you decide.
In fairness, none of this is wife’s fault of course. It’s her day off and she can spend it however she wants, and I wouldn’t have expected her to help me paint anyway. I suppose the annoyance came from my “get the job done mentality” and being stuck painting timber while everybody else was drinking in the beer garden, while the best I can look forward to is a bloody coffee!
As it turned out, the next day rained non-stop, so although the pergola got built, we would have had to return on a dry day to paint it. So from that point it was a successful outcome.
Anyway, it’s Sunday now as I’m concluding this post and reflecting on the previous four weeks.
It’s frightening how quickly time is going at the moment. It only seems like a few short weeks ago at the start of the new year when we booked our annual trip to be taken in May to my most favourite place in the world (the Mecca that is Benidorm).
Of course it had to be cancelled, and if I’m being honest I’m not sure I’ll ever go back anytime soon as it revolves around people crowding together, cheap drink, great entertainment and lots of it, but again we’ll see.
I do though remember one thing earlier this week, and that is for just one fleeting moment I actually felt like somebody who no longer drinks alcohol.
Now who would have thought that about me?
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