I think I’ve realized that I’m what people call a “High-Functioning Alcoholic” meaning that even if I drink quite a bit more than is healthy/good/normal I don’t exhibit any of the “classic signs” of being an alcoholic. I don’t miss work. I don’t drink and drive. I don’t gamble or blow unusual amounts of money when drunk and I don’t beat the shit out of my family. But by being this type of person you get sucked into the mindset that you don’t have a problem when you probably do. Since there is nothing to really gain by maybe, possibly being an alcoholic I think I’m going to attempt to stop drinking. Again.
That’s right: Again. I gave it a decent shot a few months ago and failed miserably. I made it two weeks sober and just totally fell off the wagon (or got on the wagon?) You might think that two weeks sober is pretty good, and while I suppose it is, it apparently means you’re not out of the woods yet. Upon reaching two weeks sober I realized that shit was beginning to get very very difficult. Let me digress for a moment…
I used to smoke cigarettes and nicotine, the addictive ingredient in cigarettes, is one of the stupidestly addictive substances known to man. Like it’s right up there with heroin in case you didn’t know. I smoked for about five years and tried to quit countless times and met failure each of those times, except for the last of course. Because I did quit smoking! I told myself when I was free from nicotine to never get addicted ever again because it was such a bitch to quit. I just never wanted to have to quit smoking ever again.
It’s common knowledge that quitting smoking is hardest in the first week; if you make it a week without smoking you’re good to go. I found this to be not precisely true as you still crave nicotine even after a week. In fact the urge never seems to totally go away; the cravings just sort of tend towards zero after a long time. But I would say after two weeks of not smoking I felt pretty decent and not at risk of smoking again. The hardest time occurs during the first few days though. Upon trying to quit cold turkey I found I became suicidal within the first six hours. It was no joke how nicotine (or the lack of) fucks with your mind. I know it was nicotine withdrawal causing my mental havoc because upon smoking a single cigarette my suicidal thoughts magically disappeared. My point here is that nicotine withdrawal peaks really fucking fast and is really shitty. With nicotine I found I needed to slowly “wean” myself off them because cold turkey just didn’t work at all for me.
Here. I made a rough chart showing how miserable I felt when I quit smoking. As you can see your misery peaks in a day or two and then slowly subsides to a low level by a week.
Since I quit smoking — which is one of the most ridiculous and addictive things ever — drinking should be easy to quit! Right? After all I never drank as much as a “real” alcoholic would; I wasn’t drinking daily for years upon years. Even if there were scary withdrawal symptoms (alcohol is one of the few substances that you can die from during withdrawal) I was confident that I wouldn’t suffer the worst of them like DTs or those fucking “pink elephant” hallucinations from the Looney Tunes cartoons. Like I wouldn’t end up hospitalized or anything so I have that going for me.
One thing that should’ve tipped me off that not drinking wouldn’t be that easy — even without any serious medical issues to worry about — is realizing how I can easily go a few days without drinking and that cravings really only happen on the third or fourth day. I assume I had this “nicotine withdrawal” mentality going on where I thought if you made it day or two without drinking you instantly win against alcohol, which is obviously easy to do. This is not the case.
I made it about a week and a half before I really started to know something was going on. I began to feel tired and exhausted all the time. I would sleep nearly 10 or 12 hours, drink three cups of coffee, and still be tired. I also started to feel like I was “fake” and in a dream for large parts of my day where I would blink and sort of be surprised at the fact that I existed or something. My mood noticeably degraded where I came close to snapping on a few of my coworkers. These coworkers are perpetually aggravating but somehow being sober brought my frustration front and center and almost allowed it to boil over. I was agitated, depressed, tired, and didn’t even want to eat. I’d come home from work and go to bed and just want to be left alone with the lights off. And everyday that passed made it worse.
You’re told that when you quit drinking that things are going to get better so a descent into depression, lethargy, and misery is shocking. You can power through the tough times here and there, but it seemed like the bad feelings just kept piling up without any reason or way out of feeling like shit. It felt like walking into a dark cave where there is supposed to be an exit in front of you but the further you walk the darker it gets and the exit seems like a made-up lie. Every day would seem worse than the day before, and eventually I wanted to drink again not to be drunk but just to feel like a normal person again.
So I made it two weeks and broke down just because I felt like I was going insane or losing my identity. As what happened with my nicotine-withdrawal-induced-insanity, upon having the drug you’re craving you instantly feel better. After one beer I felt calm, mellow, and like myself again.
Here’s my nicotine chart slightly tweaked for drinking. The dotted line is what I think will happen if I make it past two weeks. As you can see the time period here is about seven times longer: if you flip out without smoking in a day or two you will probably flip out by not drinking between the first and the second week. This also makes me think the comedown period will also be a ton longer, like on the order of a few months.
This is obviously some shit. Nicotine gives you a fucking quick battle with misery that starts and ends relatively quickly while alcohol seems to drag on forever. A huge downside to this is that there’s just more time for something stressful to happen to kick you back down again. If you stop smoking you can pretty easily pick a span of a week or two when nothing stressful should happen but how do you ensure that you have a span of three months without stress to stop drinking? Alcohol is a pain-in-the-ass to stop using, and I have a newfound appreciation for anyone who has become an alcoholic, realized they are an alcoholic, and made the effort to stop drinking. It’s apparently hard as hell to do so congrats to any and all of you who’ve succeeded. Stopping drinking fucking sucks.
Update: I wrote this about a week ago as a way to sort of write about my problems and not drink. I knew it would be frustrating to stop again so venting helped get my spirits up quite a bit. I’m now on my 11 or 12th day sober and it still fucking sucks, but the key it seems is to not think about things too much and to keep fucking busy with whatever you can find.