monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking


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Anti-anxiety medication

I’ll start by saying this post is not a crisis. It’s more like something annoying which has dragged on… and on… and on. It’s time to try something new. I still have no desire to drink (sub-note: watching people on TV drinking heavily has been repulsing me lately) and it’s 62 weeks sober tomorrow.

Yesterday I went to my GP and asked about anti-anxiety medication. I didn’t do it lightly and I’ve been practicing anxiety self-care: exercising regularly, tried proper sleep routines, eating well, and doing a meditation course.

Lately I’ve been so angry, frustrated, tense, flat/no mood, chest tightness, sleep issues, zero libido. I don’t care if alcohol cessation has caused it – or if the lack of alcohol has unmasked it (I was often drinking to manage stress). I’m going to try a low dose, front-line SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and see how it goes.

It’s been a horrible two years in multiple parts of my life. I know that a lot of the stress and anxiety has been extrinsic (caused by something outside of me) but a chunk has been intrinsic. I know this because the external stresses have started to settle down but after 2 years of high drama, I’m constantly in a state of cat-like readiness (slight exaggeration). My internal systems are wound tight and day to day stresses constantly flip me into alert/alarm mode.

I’m interested to see what sort of side-effects I get. The most common side-effects I’ve heard are: gut problems, nausea, headaches, sleep issues sweating at night, erectile dysfunction, delayed orgasm. Most of the side-effects are meant to pass in the first few weeks while your body/brain adjusts. I’m also keeping in mind that there are ‘side-effects’ associated with doing nothing.

I’ve had gut problems for months (anxiety does that to me), I’ve had libido and sex issues for months (can’t feel sexy when I’m worried about work), sleep has been really crappy in periods.
I’m also aware that I’m a naturally highly-strung dude who was raised by two highly-strung parents. I had a good and caring childhood but I remember being very socially anxious at a young age. I’ve never taken any anti-depressants but there have been times in my life when I probably should have considered them… but back then I usually just drank some anti-anxiety medication in the evening.

We’ll see how this goes!

PS: At some stage I think I also just need a new job – but at this stage I can’t financially do that.

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A different hang over

Just passed day 420. All good, no wobbles or desire to drink.

I woke up this morning with a running hang over. I’m halfway through a marathon training program so the distances are getting serious.

Yesterday was my first 30km (18.6miles) run for a few years. It went pretty well and I’m really pleased with it! But yeah, it takes a toll so today was a rest and recovery day.

Bit of a change! Everyday used to be a hang over, and real hang overs are worse than what I felt this morning. I really don’t miss them.

All is good. I’m still struggling with periods of intense anxiety. It flairs up and lasts a week or so, and I just ride it out. As well as a running training program I’ve also started a daily meditation program for my anxiety.

Must admit that I’m a bit sceptical about the meditation program but it also can’t hurt.

And because I’m spending several hours running each week, I’m trying running meditation. I may as well see if I can combine the two things. Hit two birds with one stone.

Running is pretty meditative anyway : focused on breathing, body sensation, your immediate surrounds, the rhythm of your feet, your posture, body tension…

So in summary: I’m doing well on the alcohol side but I’ve got still quite a challenge on the anxiety side… BUT it’s still a hundred times better than 420 days ago!

Hope you’re all well!


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One year came and went

One year came and went without a blog post or a big hurrah. This weekend will actually be my 55th week sober (1 year and 3 weeks).

Alcohol issues have been easy and plain-sailing for months. I’ve just been manically busy, angry and frustrated at work for weeks. The work drama hasn’t triggered any drinking issues or desires which is great – but the work shit is really starting to get me down.

I’m really passionate about my work – but my organisation isn’t passionate about it. That makes me feel incredibly frustrated, angry and cynical… and it’s eating me up.

I’m working on one big, last-ditch project to interview and document the needs and experiences of people with disability using our hospital services. It’s really interesting and meaningful work (to me).

Then after I launch the findings I’ll give the organisation 6-12 months to start to respond to the issues. If there’s no signs of genuine organisational response, it’s time to look for work elsewhere. There’s no sense flogging a dead horse.

I just can’t understand why a health organisation won’t prioritise the needs of some of our most unwell and disadvantaged clients. It’s hard to not just see it as plain and simple old prejudice. If the death rates, medical complication rates and care quality issues were affecting other groups, it just wouldn’t be tolerated.

Anger can be powerful and productive – but when it’s combined with powerlessness and futility it eats me up. For my own wellbeing I think I will have to leave.


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An alcohol-free hangover!

So I just spent the weekend down at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. It’s a huge festival and parade and gets hundreds of thousands of people out to watch.

And afterwards… We went out to an after-party. And I didn’t drink. And I didn’t WANT TO. But most amazingly, I danced for hours and stayed out until 3am!

I must admit that I didn’t want to drink, but I did get a few waves of nostalgia and loss. God I used to love the feeling of dancing and being drunk. You can acknowledge a loss without wanting to do it again.

Like, that’s just nostalgia isn’t it? I might also have nostalgic longings for fun periods of my life. BUT I’m not going to quit my job, live in a run down, crowded share house and go back to uni.

It just means that there were some great positives but the chapter has closed. I got what I needed from a situation and then it stopped being a positive growth experience… So you let it go and look back at it with fondness.

The weekend was a great experience.

Other things I learned were:

*I can still dance sober (albeit a bit more self-consciously). I think I might need more practice!

* I can still wake up feeling hung over after a few hours sleep… Like seriously! How the fuck does that work?!! (although it was just been a mild hang over).

Anyway. I’ve got to sleep now. Fun is exhausting.


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Eleven!

Yay. Eleven months. Just a few weeks until my soberversary.

Going out with friends tonight. I’ll paint the town red!

The night will start with a low calorie vegetarian meal (I’ve been mainly vego for nearly 25 years and I’m currently trying to lose some booze weight)…

Then I’ll skip dessert because I’m doing no sugar during February (for a FebFast fund-raiser and to help me fit in my pants)… Then I’ll chug a few jugs of lime and soda water.

Wow! Time to cut loose!

Actually I don’t mind at all 😁 if people think I’m boring tonight. My friends won’t care and I’ll still be looking fresh at midnight.

Cheers!


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Disclosure: it’s ALL about ME!

I just read a post from Storm in a Wineglass. I really admire Anna – she has a great blog if you want to follow her. It made me think about disclosure, honesty and telling other people (or not).

I still keep my cards pretty close to my chest about quitting alcohol – and I don’t see that changing soon.

Some of my close friends and health workers know why I’ve stopped drinking. There are other friends that I will tell but there just hasn’t been a good time. I need enough time with them to get past small talk and to be in a private space. And these days most of my best friends live in other cities and I don’t want to tell them via text messages or emails.

So my rule of thumb at the moment is that I tell people if it helps me. Telling close friends brings me closer to them, it gives me support and it makes things less awkward in social situations when you’d normally be drinking.

BUT I don’t feel the need to confess my sins to everyone. It’s not about shame. It’s not about hiding. It’s about being aware that I can’t un-tell people or control what happens with the information afterwards. In most social boozey situations I usually:

  • Deflect: I’m OK for now thanks.
  • Tell half-truths or white lies: I’m not drinking during OcSober/FebFast/Dry July (technically true); Oh I drove today (true – but irrelevant); No thanks – I’m training for a marathon (also true – but irrelevant).
  • Use camouflage: When I’m holding a no-alcohol beer, drink or glass people rarely pay attention to what it is.

I’ve learned that in social situations most people don’t pay attention to what I’m drinking – they just want to see a glass in my hand. Most people just don’t care.

I also haven’t told my co-workers because things can affect my work reputation… I’m aware that it can be a stigmatised issue. I don’t think it should be and I don’t think that’s right – but I realise that it can be. So I treat the issue carefully – especially because I work in a conservative hospital health care environment.

Being open and honest can help other people and change community stigma. I know that. As a young gay kid I quickly learned from older Queers that the most important political act you can do is to be open about yourself to your friends, family, workmates and neighbours… If it’s safe.

But right now, I’m still in the relative early stages of recovery and I am my priority. I choose to be choosy. I tell people who can help me – and at times when it suits me.

Down the track I probably will be more open. But by giving myself some more time, I hope that I’ll be more confident and more able to deal with whatever happens.

At the moment I am unapologetically selfish.


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Energy rising

10.5 months.

Energy levels rising. I’ve been running training since mid-Dec. I’m back up to running 18km (11miles) again. I’m slow but that’s why I’m training!

I’ll do a half marathon (21km) again in April… And then maybe keep training for another full marathon later in the year.

Also decided that it’s time to shed my booze weight. I’ve hit the brakes on crap food, cut out snacks and reduced my portion sizes. The weight is finally dropping off – that’ll make the long distance running easier too.

Energy levels rising. Stress settling. Starting to get more emotional range again.