Tag Archives: Benadryl

Substance-Free September Sucks: Sleeplessness

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.

Visual aid. I get so happy seeing this box. I’m conditioned to associate it with comfortably passing out asleep. Plus I think it legit tastes good!

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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My Sobriety is…Meh

Today is my fourth day sober. It’s nothing to celebrate, but after the past month it kinda is. Before this recent streak, I had been drunk for nearly three weeks. Not perpetually drunk but just drinking everyday. The worst days were those where I pounded down 15 or 18 beers (although it’s hard to count after that many drinks) and the best days were those where I “only” had six. It was a mess and my life was a blur.

Only one day out of those three weeks did I stay sober. Somehow, during all the haze, I called the airport and scheduled a flight lesson to become current with flying again (three landings in the past 90 days). The night before that I didn’t drink because one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t want to fly a plane hungover; you get hot, you sweat, you get airsick, and everything is generally awful and uncomfortable. Add in the anxiety of an instructor judging your skills the entire flight and it’s a recipe for disaster.

The flight went okay, by the way. He was impressed with my professional flying skills, until my first landing that is. I bounced the plane three damn times and it was embarrassing like nothing else. Here you are trying to show an instructor that you’re good to fly and you bounce the plane a few hundred feet down the runway. Yikes. I vaguely remember trying to get the plane under control while muttering to my instructor over the intercom, “God…..damnit. Jeez…Man…” as we hit the ground, went back up, hit the ground again, went back up, until the plane finally decided to land.

The mighty Cessna 172 SKYCOCK

I told my therapist about my total two-week binge (it was only two-weeks at the time) fearing she’d shit all over me and tell me to get the hell out of her office. How I’ve fallen, how much progress I’ve pissed away since the start of the year. Remember the “drink once a week” goal from January? Whoops. Surprisingly she almost seemed supportive of it, mostly worried that I was drinking to cope. “No,” I said, “I don’t know why I’ve been drinking so much. I’ve been in a good mood and I’m not depressed or anything. It just seems like something to do I guess.” She kinda smiled and said something along the lines of, “Well, sometimes you need to do whatever works, and if you’re mood has been good…” That sounds really bad but it wasn’t worded that strongly; she didn’t seem to be encouraging me to drink. Like she was acknowledging that maybe there was some reason for it all and that maybe I had to abuse my body until I felt I was done with it or something. What she said felt very cryptic.

And damn if there doesn’t seem to be some good to it all. In the final week of my binge I was starting to feel pretty worn down. Just tired and exhausted and burned out all the time and feeling like I should take a break for a bit. Not for my mental health (because I wasn’t suffering from depression/anxiety issues for some reason) but for my physical health. Anyone who has drank that much should know what I’m talking about here. That ever-present exhaustion with life that comes with drinking all the time.

I also realized that I wasn’t taking sleeping pills every night either. I used to have issues with sleeping, but during my binge I wasn’t taking many pills to sleep. Sure, I’d stay up until 5 a.m. but I’d go to sleep “naturally” (minus the alcohol, of course) without the need for Benadryls or Alka-Seltzer Night TimeLemon Flavor. In my three-week binge totally abusing alcohol I somehow stopped taking sleeping meds like I had been doing the past three or four months. Is this progress?

And towards the end of my binge I realized I wasn’t even drinking coffee when I woke up like I usually did. Sure, I’d try to drink my usual three or four cups of coffee, but when you’re hungover, jittery, anxious, hot, sweaty, and nauseous the last thing your body really wants or needs is caffeine. I’d make my coffee, drink maybe half of it, and head off to work. As before, is this progress?

I decided I’d just stop consuming caffeine and sleeping meds during the final days of my drinking binge. The sleeping pills were mostly gone, but I was still weary of the dreaded caffeine withdrawal, most terrifying of the symptoms being the headaches. Caffeine headaches aren’t like any other kind of headaches, and luckily I can’t explain why they’re different because I weened myself off coffee this time. Sunday, I had two cups, and Monday I had singular cup of coffee, just enough to ward off the headaches. But Tuesday, my first sober day with alcohol, was also my first day with zero caffeine. I was mildly hungover and sleepy and really wanted a cup of coffee, but stayed strong and felt okay the entire day.

I did have a Coke from Chick-Fil-A today but that’s like, what 90 mg of the stuff at most? That’s not going to do anything and my main goal was to not require like hundreds of milligrams of the drug to function during the day which I’m glad to say I’m succeeding at.

It really makes me notice how much I’ve been forcing my body to do what I want it to do by using drugs. Can’t sleep and want to sleep? Benadryl/Alka-Seltzer. Wake up groggy and nonfunctioning (probably due to the Benadryl at 3 a.m.): caffeine! Hundreds of milligrams of caffeine! Can’t sleep because of the caffeine? Benadryl! And repeat this over and over. By not taking either of these drugs that seem to lead to the other, it’s like I’ve broken the cycle and don’t need them anymore. I feel worn out and tired at the end of the day and it’s a healthy and natural exhaustion; my body is ready to sleep and does so easily. Amazingly, I even wake up and not feel dead either! Who would’ve guessed! Sure I still need my nicotine to get going, but it’s tons better than needing nicotine and caffeine to wake up.

It’s strange that by abusing alcohol for three weeks I’ve somehow came to this random idea to not drink caffeine or take sleeping pills every night. I doubt this is what the therapist was hoping I’d do, but I still feel like I’ve made some positive life choices by abusing alcohol for three weeks. I’m not saying that if you want to stop drinking coffee or needing pills to sleep you should go on a three-week drinking binge (any week-long drinking binge isn’t smart for any reason) but I’m rather surprised that’s what it took to get me where I am. I’ll take any minimal form of progress I can and try to be happy with it.