It’s the fourth of September, 2:45 a.m., and I’m still hopelessly awake. The two Tylenol PMs I’d taken an hour ago aren’t having much of an effect at all; I might be slightly groggy but otherwise by brain is cruising right along completely unable or willing to shut down for the night. Ill probably pop a melatonin to really attempt to knock my ass out. In fact I’ll do that right now as I write this.
It seems when you drug yourself with a depressant everyday for two or three months (however long the blurry existence actually was) your body says, “Hey, what the hell is all of alcohol doing here? It’s slowing things down! Better crank up the sympathetic nervous system to counteract it!” And over time your body gets use to the constant chemical bombardment, keeping your body into high-gear/combat-the-alcohol mode perpetually. The first sign of this is poor sleep: you pass out drunk and wake up four or five hours later totally drained and tired but unable to sleep anymore. Its a bad feeling. Shaky hands, fast heart beat, racing mind, feeling totally on edge like impending doom is just around the corner, and the only thing that can put you in a calmer state is, you guessed it, more alcohol. It’s not the correct long-term action to take, but damn if it doesn’t work like a charm.
My current problem is similar: trying to sleep without drinking. My body is still in high-gear and is unable/unwilling to sleep without booze. I expected this state so prepared for it mentally. Before I stopped drinking I bought a pack of Alka-Seltzer Night Cold Medicine: Lemon Effervescent Tablets because those always knock me out quickly and was fully prepared to drug myself to sleep instead of drinking. I went through those four packs in the past few days and couldn’t be bothered to buy more. And that’s why I’m on Tylenol PMs which apparently don’t do a fucking things.
The active ingredients in Tylenol PM are acetaminophen (paracetamol) and diphenhydramine HCl. Diphenhydramine, more commonly known as Benadryl, is what puts the PM in Tylenol PM. Popularly used as an antihistamine for seasonal allergies, diphenhydramine is also used as a sleep aid for obvious reasons: it makes you groggy as fuck. I recall taking two Benadryls before work one day for some reason (I think I thought it’d be interesting) and clearly remember driving a tug feeling like I was in some sort of dream. It was a battle to stay awake, probably wasn’t the safest or smartest choice, but I managed. I haven’t ‘Dryl’d it up before work since, and that was like six years ago.
I wrote a post months ago about how I quit taking sleeping meds while on an alcohol binge. I simply didn’t need them anymore. I even stopped drinking high-dose caffeine, although sodas and teas occasionally are fine, and this made me feel so much more lively and coherent when I woke up. My commonly abused sleep medicines were, you guessed it, Benadryl and Alka-Seltzer Night Cold Medicine: Lemon Effervescent Tablets. So I’m on the wagon with alcohol, and totally off it with ‘Dryls.
A friend at work who is also doing this silly Substance-Free September is having similar drug-replacement issues in her quest to be rid of nicotine. I don’t have to say it but will anyways to stress the point: nicotine is a hell of a drug to quit and it’s right up with heroin in addictive potential, even if it isn’t anywhere near as life-destroying as heroin is. Luckily for her she wasn’t a raging nicotine like I was (and still am). Still, she’s having issues and I’m surprised at how well she’s holding up especially considering like 3 or 4 of us at work are constantly vaping. She hasn’t asked for a hit from our vapes since August 31.
Her replacer for nicotine is coffee, well caffeine technically. She mentioned something about ‘replacing one drug with another’ and it’s always interesting when someone says something like this and how I interpret it differently than if I said it. I said, “if you replace one drug with another that isn’t as bad, who gives a shit? Nicotine is stupidly addictive and if you’re pounding caffeine to cope, it’s a net benefit really.” And if I felt I was replacing a drug with another I’d probably shit all over myself for it, feeling like I’m a failure or something.
But this is how I’m choosing to see my burgeoning Benadryl addiction. Sure, the ‘Dryl isn’t healthy to be eating daily because I’ll have the same sleep issues alcohol was causing, but I also don’t want to deal with two or three days of sleeplessness as my body adjusts to sobriety. If anything I think this could lead to more drinking with the justification that I just need to sleep though! This actually happened to an alcoholic friend of mine a few months ago. He was sober for a few days and couldn’t sleep worth a damn so on day three he drank just to sleep. And he did. But then I think he kept drinking because, well, who gives a fuck. Off the wagon for a day, you’re a failure, so why not embrace it?
Alcohol is a bitch to quit even if it seems strangely easy. This is day three and I feel fine. I’m not craving it, I’m not spiraling into any strange depressive mental states, and I’m wondering why it was so hard to be sober in the first place. Let that little bug sneak through a crack and you have a problem. “What if I have just a few drinks to celebrate not drinking? It wasn’t that hard to quit, I just had to quit. Maybe a few drinks so I can sleep?” Nah, fuck all of that, that’s the alcohol trying to get back to being drunk by you. In the meantime I’m going to focus on not drinking even if it means I’m giving myself away to legal OTC pills a bit too much. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
(Note: Its now 3:16 a.m. and the melatonin seems to be gladly working with the Tylenol PM. Thank God…but I should probably wrap this up.)
I’ll probably write a few more posts about alcohol and my Substance-Free September because I feel I’ve learned much about myself and alcoholism traversing through the hazy binge and the clarity and motivation that occurs when you stop. Maybe after this phase is over I can get back to shitposting about video games or something. Thanks for reading!
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