Archive for October, 2012

Jiffkriff is coming round in a bit. Since I stopped drinking he’s the only one the Spreadheads I’ve really seen.

There’s a great scene in The Wire… (I became pretty obsessed with The Wire last time I was on the waggon and one thing I can tell you is that it’s not always easy watching for a recovering alcoholic, boy do they film drinking well and boy does it look fun). But, anyway, there’s a great scene in it when Beadie tells McNulty (who’s been on the toot again) that the people he’s drinking with won’t be the one’s who turn up at his funeral.

She’s right.

Not that there’s any fault in that. We drank together because drinking was what held us together. Now it’s gone for me and I’m gone from where it’s done.

I’ve seen it myself and done it myself. We’re all full of good intentions standing at the bar, but stuff which involves actually leaving the bar seldom happens. Lom, a lovely old guy who everyone in The Spread knows and has a great deal of time for, had been seriously ill just before I finally left The Spread. Now, it would be wrong of me to tar everyone with the same brush, but only a couple of people (not me) went to see him in hospital.

It’s probably for the best. Last time I was sober, I continued to go to The Spread, staring at the beer taps and the whisky bottles while slurping my squash and sober. I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest this is why I didn’t stay sober for longer than a year.

It’ll be nice to see Jiffkriff though. He’s probably my closest friend in The Spread. And, he’s one of the few Spreadheads who doesn’t fit into the “almost certainly has what medical professionals would call a drink problem” category. He has a cannabis problem. Well, a problem in that he has to smoke it every day, which to him isn’t a problem, which is cool.

Anyway, he’ll be here soon, for a cuppa so I better log off.

Thanks for listening. Leave a message.



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Do we? I hope not, wouldn’t that be terrible.

I did find myself getting a little annoyed at a friend today though – for no particularly good reason it must be said.

I mentioned Desmond in my drug run down post.

I owe a fair amount to Desmond and he – or so I think – owes a fair amount to me.

Desmond and I did collaborate on what was to be a business. Just a website, which he set up and which I helped out on. He did everything really, I just wrote a little. It never happened. Desmond was – to my eyes – very obviously an alcoholic. Desmond was – predictably enough – in denial about it (“I almost never get drunk.”) Desmond hit the proverbial rock bottom. Desmond detoxed himself, moved house, got a lot of other health problems looked at too and is in a much better place.

I went to see Desmond today. I hadn’t wanted to go while I was still drinking and put it off again while I waited for the all clear on TB. Now, I thought this meeting would be to discuss work. Desmond is a real computer genius (I don’t use the term lightly in this case) and has now started to reap the rewards of his fantastic social media presence to get jobs. I thought I was to be offered some writing work on the back of this. I was not.

And, I’m angry about this. Unreasonably so. Like many very technically gifted people Desmond doesn’t have the greatest social skills in the world (which, if my experience is anything to go by is almost certainly one of the root causes of his drinking) and telling someone that you’re earning hundreds of pounds an hour for what work you get (he doesn’t get very much yet) when you owe them at least a couple of hundred quid, is not great.

The upshot? I stalk off feeling pissed off that I’ve just been asked to help out on the old site for no cash.

But, I didn’t ask. I didn’t raise the debt. I didn’t say: “let me know if you need a hand with any writing.” Desmond can write very well any way, he doesn’t need a hand.

There is a part of me that is very nasty, jealous and even potentially vindictive about the success of others. It’s not at all attractive. I think it’s because I’ve been quite close to success myself in some ways and because I know I could have (maybe will) done/do so much more with my own life. It’s not good or productive and I want it to stop.


That’s why I blog sometimes. I just have all this crap going round in my head that never comes out and hopefully crapping it here will help.

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I’m neither particularly down now up at the moment.

In fact, since I stopped drinking my mood has been all over the shop, like a toddler allowed to drive the IKEA trolley.

This is helping. I’ve not written enough lately – neither for fun, nor for pleasure, nor for profit.

I have my excuses. I always have my excuses. Some are better than others. Once, in an even Thinner City faraway, a wise young alcohol worker told me: “Once you stop drinking the reasons why you drank will still be there.”

He was right then and – if he’s still saying it to his clients – he’s still right.

So, the life I want to lead – productive, healthy, honest, independent, hell maybe even succesful in some small way – is now one step closer. That step is the sober step. The others do not necessarily fall after it automatically.

I’m writing more today because Mag is away. I’ve had previous blogs and one of the reasons I stopped them was because Mag read it and got upset – not only about what I wrote about her (and, as I noted with my post on the Spread, I’m not overly keen on anonymously splattering other people’s lives around the web), but with what I revealed about myself.

But this is good for me.

One of the downers that has stopped me experiencing the euphoria I associate with stopping drinking is that I’m still quite ill. Since I suffered pneumonia back in the spring my chest hasn’t been right and last week when I went to the doctor to report I was still short of breath a hurried conflab led to me being sent for a TB test.

That has now been taken and I am almost certainly – as I almost certainly knew – not suffering from TB. But it’s an excuse I can use to not make the other changes – too numerous to list here and now – that I need to make in my life. I’m seeing a specialist at the Thin City TB Clinic next week and hopefully that will put an end to things in that department.

But it hasn’t made me any busier workwise. It hasn’t made me address the large pile of papers hiding under this very desk. It hasn’t made me take steps towards financial independence. It hasn’t made me attend the tai chi classes I’ve enquired about.

It hasn’t even helped with my depression or anxiety. In fact, I’ve suffered some really quite dispiriting lows in the last week or so. It could be mourning for my lost love. It could be the reality of my life.

Because of my illness I haven’t been to counselling for a while. And on my ever-growing to do list is my homework. I’m to look at a situation where I started to think in an anxious way and record either how I observed those thoughts or didn’t give in to them.

To be honest, all I’ve managed in the last week or so (and Mag was away last week) is to attend my appointments, do the work I’m already committed to and… and… that’s that.

Drop us a line if you feel like it.



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Peter Hitchens, who by complete coincidence is about to appear on BBC Radio4 discussing his favourite paperback books, has a new book out on the so-called War on Drugs – or lack thereof.

He was interviewed in The Guardian around the subject of addiction. Now, Mr Hitchens is a writer for the Mail on Sunday – konservative kryptonite to most Guardian readers – and the article attracted a very large response.

I can’t address in detail the arguments of Mr Hitchens’ book.

I haven’t read it for starters.I have no expertise in drug policy. I am not a neuroscientist.

But it seems that everyone who’s struggled with addiction will have a view on Mr Hitchens’ headline friendly view: “‘I don’t believe in addiction. People take drugs because they enjoy it.”

I wish this could be definitively sorted out. (And, if you’re a scientist and you’re reading this and want to scan my brain or check my DNA to see if I was born to be an addict, then just get in touch, pay my fare from Thin City to wherever and I’m yours to prod.)

As I say, I’m not a scientist, and the only actual scientific evidence I can recall is from the BBC’s popular science series Horizon. Their summation of the latest evidence on alcoholism included some research in California which was examining the extent to which alcoholics had a much stronger positive reaction to the drug than the rest of the population and were thus more inclined to become addicted to it.

In absolute philosophical terms it’s almost impossible to disagree with what Mr Hitchens says.

My view, from my own experience is both that absolute philosophical arguments are of limited value when it comes to dealing with real, hugely complicated human beings and that I believe in a predisposition towards addiction.

All this must come with the caveat that, well, yes I would say that wouldn’t I. One of the reasons I write anonymously is to allow me to be as honest as possible so all I can say is that this is my own honest recollection of my own experience. I have no problem, by the way, with being thought of as foolish, weak, mistaken etc, I think it of myself at least 10 times a day, there’s no reason why others shouldn’t think.

So, why do I think I was predisposed towards becoming addicted to alcohol (and other drugs)?

There is a family history. This is a common question from doctors who treat alcoholics. They seem to think it’s important. Drinking problems run like a nasty Guinness stain through both sides of my family tree. I have at least one cousin on both the maternal and paternal sides who has been treated for addiction – usually with associated mental health problems.

From a very early age I displayed addictive behaviour. I took a hell of a long time to stop sucking my thumb for example and it was a real struggle, one that I still recall now. I also, as a very young child, tended towards habitual and repetitive behaviours as I still do now.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to alter my consciousness. Spinning till I was sick with dizziness; hyperventilating towards light-headedness; biting the inside of my mouth till it bled to feel that nerve singing pain.

The first drug I encountered made me feel whole. I cannot track down the quote attributed by a friend to Judy Garland. To paraphrase: “Drinking was like coming home.” I can, however, find the quite famous words of Charles Bukowksi: “With this, life was great, a man was perfect, nothing could touch him.” And that was it for me. I felt like a person and alcohol became a short cut to feeling ‘normal’ for me. That tends towards the self-medication argument, which is one I’m also – because of my own experience – sympathetic to.

Make of that what you will and let me know what you think.


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I thought I’d do a quick run through of my daily – and now entirely legal – drug intake.

So, here we go.

I now take:

One 20mg Citalopram, which is supposed to stop me being so anxious.

Three, vitamin B compound strong tablets. These are standard issue in alcohol treatment and it’s supposed to help you recover. I may start to take more – my similarly recovering friend, Desmond, is taking six.

One 100mg Thiamine (B1) tablet. This is similar in aim and effect to the vitamin B.

One 50mg Nalorex tablet which is supposed to help with cravings.

Six 333mg Campral tablets which ought to do the same thing as Nalorex.

One 200mg Antabuse tablet. I actually take these under supervision at the Addiction Unit, two on Monday and Wednesday and three on Friday. I’m breathalysed before I take it. This is the big one I suppose. The deterrent drug that reacts very, very badly with alcohol and makes you very, very ill if you drink whilest on the drug.

Finally, each evening I take one 30mg Mirtazapine tablet.

I won’t list all the side effects here. They’re all in those Wikipedia articles should you be interested and they’ll scare me.

Do they work?

I don’t know. Well, I do know that Antabuse works. It’s stopping me drinking and I’m not sure how far I trust myself if I stop taking it. (This is partly because of the intensity of the cravings I’m experiencing this time round and the fact that I’m yet to experience the huge positive surge of energy and vitality I associate with going sober.)

Now, Desmond has stopped drinking and also stopped taking Antabuse, Campral and Nalorex. There’s a difference in our experience though. Desmond really did reach rock bottom with drinking, he was hugely underweight and very ill indeed. I stubbornly believe that I never have. I must admit that it’s partly wishful thinking – I’ve got three suicide attempts under my belt which were all drink-related.

So, as I say I’m not sure how effective they are. How much worse might my cravings be without the Nalorex and Campral? The vitamins must be doing some good surely. If there’s one pill I rely on though it’s Mirtazapine and I rely on it too much. Whether it improves my mood is moot at the moment (I’m aware that it has in the past), that it is literally narcotic is not at issue. The side effects (which I said I wouldn’t mention) leaflet warns “May cause drowsiness” this, in my case, is a huge understatement. Mirtazapine knocks me out with a delicious drowsiness that I find incredibly attractive – the drugs to which I’ve been most attracted and of which I’m consequently most afraid are hynotic drugs.

And, that, for the moment is that.

Thanks for dropping in, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

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So, now the hard part.

Today is my 16th day without a drink (I must look out a sober clock I can post on the side there – if any one knows of a simple one that can be found online then do let me know).

It’s been quite tough. Tougher than I expected to be honest. I think part of that difficulty is down to doing the detox at home.

I – like may others I learn (I remember in the Thin City Mental Hospital one story of a veteran of 23 detoxes) – have been down this road before.

So, now I can offer my view of which is better – in or out-patient. As usual, and anyone who comes to read this blog will learn that I am not often a man of strong, unshakeable conviction, I can see the good in both.

So what’s good about in patient?

First of all you’re surrounded by people in the same boat as you and going through the same process. You might think that working with addicted alcoholics (and in Thin City the vast majority of detoxes are for alcohol, in my meanders through the addiction system I met one amphetamine addict and two cocaine) would be pretty thankless, but the staff of the detox word told me they loved it. One reason is the speedy change for the better they see. Most of us come in a pretty poor state – shaking, puking, dejected – and with a couple of days of treatment are relatively transformed. There’s an instant support group around you. Thin City’s treatment puts a heavy weight on completing a therapy programme alongside the detox, in fact, if you didn’t sign up for that you were pretty soon moved out of the ward.

Secondly, you are cared for. They threw food at us in the Thin City Mental Hospital. Four good – if sometimes rather stodgy meals – a day. I went in addicted to booze and came out in thrall to corn beef hash. I’m lucky to have a supportive partner at home, but if looking after yourself, making food and so on is a challenge, having someone do it for you is a great boon. I got good treatment and great support from doctors who sorted out my eczema and even started to suggest self-help books to read.

And, you are out of your drinking environment. When I detoxed at home, I was still 200 yards from the Spread, still the same distance from the corner shop with its rows of cheap cans. In the hospital we were on a locked ward and were breathalysed on re-entry if we did go out.

And, what’s good about doing it at home.

You’re not surrounded by alcoholics. On leaving in patient detox you’re advised not to keep in touch with anyone on the ward. Not even to give them your telephone number. The reason is obvious: if they fall, they could drag you down with them. An NHS detox ward is also not always a place for the shy or anxious. While most patients are delighted to be helped and improve wonderfully visibly, not all do, and many will have other ‘challenging’ behaviours too. I survived, but struggled. The day a fellow patient left the ward only to return in the evening drunk off his head to thump windows and cause trouble before he was chucked out again was frightening. I missed the fist fight that lead to another patient being thrown out. Everyone was committed to quitting the drink but not necessarily everything else – there was soon a cannabis conduit into the ward and plenty of illicit (bought online) diazepam doing the rounds too.
You’re in your own home. Again, this depends how safe, secure and comfortable your own home is. But if you can’t face anything more than an evening staring at a TV screen you’re free to do so.

So, on that brief scoring, it looks like I prefered in patient to home detox.

It – like everything else – is more complex than that. The waiting list for out-patient detx, for example, is much shorter. Who you spend your in-patient detox with is a complete lottery – could be saints, could be loons.

I’ve struggled more this time I think. The cravings have been worse. Much worse (although this could be down to kindling). Those two weeks locked away in the safe arms of the detox ward were a good start to sobriety.

So now I’ve stepped into my new routine. Of which, more later.



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Diazepam has been my friend for the last two days. And, what a lovely friend it is. (Diazepam used to be known as Valium, I assume they changed the name because Valium got something of a bad name.)

I’ve done a home detox. Well, to be honest I’m now in day two of a home detox.

Yesterday was the first and the hardest day, though not for me too hard. A (accompanied by a student R) came round at 9.30am-ish and the process began. There’s a checklist to be gone through to determine the levels of your withdrawals – how anxious are you? How agitated? Hallucinations? Sweats? Numbness or pins and needles in the extremities? Your hands are checked for tremors.

Now, I’m a relatively easy case and my detox has – and is – going very smoothly. My minimum of six pints of Guinness a day, starting at 5pm, is relatively little.

Of a maximum possible dose of 80mg of Diazepam, yesterday I took 30mg. If I take any today it will be just 10mg.

Today I started to take Antabuse, the deterrent drug. I’m also on Naltrexone and Campral.

And, because I’m very tired, that’s all for now.

Where this blog goes from now and when is a decision for later.

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