Just over 3 years since taking those first steps into the Doctor´s, (25.09.17), to admit that I had a problem with alcohol and ask for help, I find myself sober, and trying to piece together my life and personality, whilst giving my brain some TLC and the much-needed freedom from the shackles of substance abuse. Life after Strattera has not been easy but each day that passes I feel more positive and closer to finding the inner peace that I have spent my life searching for.
As I wrote in a previous article, Overcoming Addiction: Your Deceptive Brain, our brains will try anything they can to replace the fix that they once had. It is a highly problematic situation because any substance or activity, no matter how mundane or innocent it may seem, can quickly turn into an addiction or an obsession.
I came to realise that the fear and inability to be sober and alone with our thoughts is the driving force behind the addictive, escapist behaviour that so many of us exhibit.
When was the last time you spent a week without any mind altering substance?
The unbalanced levels of neurotransmitters in the brain such as Dopamine and Serotonin due to alcohol, drugs, poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, trauma, and repressed emotions or memories cause us to be in altered states of consciousness and this affects our mood and view on life.
Searching For Comfort And Pleasure
After quitting drinking, I passed through a heavy nicotine addiction – smoking shisha for about 2 hours a day for a year, a caffeine addiction, periods of MDMA and Ketamine use, an addiction to work, exercise, Tinder, and just about anything to distract myself from being sober.
I thought that I could literally run away from my problems by leaving my life behind. At the time I thought I would never come back but of course, you cannot run forever and eventually I was forced back into reality and back to a life that hadn´t changed in my absence.
Learning To Accept Your True Self
It has taken me the good part of 3 years to learn to recognise and accept this escapist behaviour, and try to sit down with myself and really be me with no substance or distractions. This hasn´t been a particularly pleasant process, as there is no hiding from intrusive thoughts or past mistakes.
Over the summer I tried to push this to the extreme by spending entire days fasting in silence. I wanted to really experience this inner silence and be alone with myself, whilst also resisting the urge to talk, or write.
To people around me it seemed like a stupid exercise but in a few short days I feel that I really learned to appreciate silence and began to learn to control the urge to constantly blurt things out.
I came to realise that we learn far more when we stay silent and observe than when we incessantly talk.
In a desperate attempt to experience being my true self, I took what I believed to be the appropriate measures to help myself flush out the innate need inside me for stimulation. I tried to remove as many external pleasures from my life as I could:
I thought that this would just magically solve all of my problems but after coming off my medication Strattera / Atomoxetine, I quickly entered into a deep depression.
Removing all of the things from my life which gave me pleasure was very difficult and just pushed me further down but I felt that it was necessary to try and “reset” my brain. Whether or not this is the best way to handle it I am not sure. I have always been a person to take drastic measures to try and break habits and learn new things.
My logic was that if I could fight through the depression with as little external stimuli as possible then I would reset my base level of happiness. If I could learn to use natural tools such as breathing and meditation to help control my mood and productivity then I would be able to free myself from the need for an addiction or distraction.
I came to realise that we should be able to find happiness and gratitude in all aspects of life, but that it just takes a bit (or a lot) of practice. Click here to read about How to Become Grateful.
Hallucinations From Meditation
Once I found out that we can reach levels of intense euphoria, hallucinations, and visions just from breathwork and meditation I turned my attention to learning this art. Euphoria and hallucinations are the goal of most drug users, so learning that this was possible using our own physiology made me a very happy man.
I have not yet had any crazy experiences but I am not losing sight of the goal. Neither am I very advanced at meditation or breath work but it is a work in progress. Just like going to the gym to train our muscles, we must train our brain to change frequency and enter new levels of relaxation, creativity and love.
To try and maintain sanity I have been trying to meditate as frequently as possible. I have also been trialling different methods of breathwork and have recently started a self-hypnosis course to learn how to enter into states of trance and either relax, or program new positive thoughts into the brain.
One of the most inspirational people that I follow is Wim Hof – the “Ice man”. Check out this video below where he introduces his breathwork.
There is a wealth of resources out there and I think the key is finding what works best for you. It is important to enter any new practice with an open mind and no expectations. Consistency is vital and incorporating any new practice into your routine takes time and dedication.
Strattera / Atomoxetine has been an amazing help in my life and I am so grateful to have experienced its effects. Life after Strattera is a whole new experience but it is a welcome challenge.
This blog and other related projects require a lot of time and money but I do it because I want to help people.
If you have benefitted from my content and would like to help me to keep creating more, then I would be so grateful for any donations through my Patreon account.
Please Get In Contact!
I love hearing from people so please don´t be shy. If there is anything that you would like to hear more about or if you have any questions then you can contact me in any way that you would like!
It is not easy and it is not quick but overcoming addiction it is possible. As you start to chip away at addictions and bad habits and give your brain more space and time to think you start to undercover the true reasons for why you have problems with addiction.
As you start to remove the false pleasures and painkillers from life, you start to free your mind and uncover the ugly truths that you have been hiding from this whole time. Bit by bit the world that you have created for yourself begins to unravel.
Addiction: Your Deceptive Brain
It’s a highly unpleasant process and the brain, being the astonishingly deceptive and manipulative organ that it is, starts latching onto anything that it can find. Your alcohol consumption decreases, your cannabis consumption increases, your cannabis consumption decreases, your caffeine consumption increases. Your caffeine consumption decreases and your sugar intake sky-rockets.
Sex, drugs, and rock and roll, your brain will find any way it can to regain the pleasure it is so desperate to feel.
The brain is the master of mind games and will try to confuse you and avoid the truth. It will do whatever it can to mask your insecurities. The brain will go to extreme measures to trick you into thinking there is nothing wrong with you and stop you from overcoming addiction.
It is only when you remove these cheap pleasures that your brain has nowhere to hide. It cant hide behind false euphoria and distraction. You are forced to confront what you have been hiding from. As you begin to remove your masks any pain, trauma, and negative emotions that you have bottled up will surface and there is no way to stop this.
You start to question your relationships with people. You start to question how you have treated people and how they have treated you in return. You start to realise the damage that your selfish actions have been causing yourself and your loved ones.
The resentment you hold towards those you believe to have mistreated you is totally inversed as it dawns on you that the one doing the damage has been you. By damaging yourself you have damaged those that you care about, whilst believing that you are in fact the victim in this situation.
Addicts are selfish, self-centred, and self-absorbed because their brains have put them in survival mode. They are unable to view the outside world for what it is and how their actions affect others, as this causes them even more mental damage. The shame, self-blame and guilt is bottled up and thrown down a deep ravine.
Playing The Victim
Addicts play the victim because they are victims, victims of their own self harm, self-loathing and self-hatred. Victims of their own selfishness and the problems they burden themselves with. When you see repeated patterns of selfishness, lack of empathy, lack of understanding and sometimes outright ignorance in a person you believe to be a good person, understand why.
Understand that that person’s internal struggle and addiction has caused their stress levels to rise, which in turn shuts down the brain, and puts the person into a state of self-protection and self-obsession.
The brain expends no effort taking into consideration other people emotions or feelings because it is totally inundated with its own stress, anxiety and fear.
There are no moments of silence, no time for self-reflection, and certainly no space for loving, healthy relationships or friendships.
The Brain In Survival Mode
The brain is doing everything it can to keep itself safe from external threats and so the outside world becomes the enemy.
The problem is that the brain likes this state. This state of high stress is a deep-rooted intrinsic survival mechanism. We are born to survive, and our brains will do anything they can to protect us. The safest way for the brain to ensure protection is to consider its own needs before the needs of others.
A World Filled With Addiction
Unfortunately, when you have a world filled with addiction, a world filled with people trying to escape reality and a world distracted from reality, you end up with a damaged world filled with greed.
Greed, another key characteristic in the addict´s survival handbook. Addicts need money, they don’t just want it they need it. They need to consume – food, drugs, clothes, material objects. This need to purchase and consume is just another way to satisfy the brains craving for that metaphorically cheap dopamine fix. Depleted levels of natural Dopamine and Serotonin caused by the consumption
The outside world cannot make us happy. Only we can make ourselves happy, and we do this by beginning to truly understand and accept ourselves. To accept our flaws but learn to love them. To work through our wrongdoings and regrets.
This whole process takes a lot of time, patience, support and willpower. There can be breakdown after breakdown and days, weeks or months without any feelings of happiness but never let go of that glimmer of hope for better days.
Overcoming addiction is an arduous path to take but no matter how many times you fall, once you make the decision to begin you will not want to turn back.
We are a work in progress, but just putting the effort in to chip away at the outer greedy, selfish shell we can begin to focus on the wonderfully creative, intelligent, and truly confident person that we are waiting to become.
By just trying to change, we are always as perfect as we can be.
First of all, I would like to apologise for abandoning the blog for such a long time. I was undergoing a lot of changes mentally and was really struggling to get anything done. I knew I had to just ride out the tough times, try to learn as much from it all, and emerge stronger on the other side. During this time, I began to unknowingly chip away at the three masks I will talk about in this article.
I know a lot of people have been waiting to hear the rest of the story with my experience with Strattera (Atomoxetine) and so I apologise for keeping you waiting. I felt like it would be unfair of me to write anything before the journey had properly ended.
I am glad to say that the story has a happy ending, and I am beginning to return to what I believe is a new and improved version of my “normal” self.
Since my decision to quit drinking alcohol in September 2017 I have been on a tumultuous path towards what I hope to be a life free from addiction and the mental burden that comes with this.
Along my path I have been forced to face the ugly truths and explore the deep parts of my soul that I had kept hidden even from myself. By doing this I began to unknowingly demask myself, and I am now trying to live a life as faithful to my true self as possible.
It Is Believed That We Have Three Faces or “Masks”
The First Mask
The first mask is what we show to the world, the person that we want everyone to think we are – often: flawless, confident, and happy. This first mask is fuelled by: alcohol, drugs, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, and all other stimulants or false pleasures that give us false confidence.
The more substances you consume, the thicker your mask will be.
The Second Mask
The second mask is reserved for close friends and family and reveals us at a more intimate level. We feel comfortable enough to reveal some of our less pleasant characteristics and a deeper insight into our personality is observed.
The Third Mask
The third mask is what we believe about ourselves before spending time to introspect and really get to know our true self. The third mask often suffers the negative effects of the substances that we put inside ourselves. The anxiety, fear, and depression that all substances -even sugar- cause.
Interestingly, what we believe about ourselves is often far worse than the actual truth. We often focus in on every possible negative aspect and extrapolate them into the ugly picture we paint of ourselves – to ourselves. It is curious that we do this, but it is possibly because we have evolved to air on the side of caution, often underestimating our ability to save us from harm.
This third mask is by far the most dangerous and harmful.
We tell ourselves that we are not capable, not smart enough, not good looking enough, not strong enough to achieve what we truly desire even though deep within we know that of course we are capable.
The True Self
Beyond the third mask and deep within is our true self. It is often a part of ourselves that not even we know and understand. It is the part that we try our hardest to hide from the world, and even from ourselves.
The true self carries all the suffering that we have ever endured. All the regrets, past trauma, and negative emotions that have impacted our lives.
Connecting with your true self can be very painful because once you begin to remove the masks the pains of a lifetime can return to haunt you. Your entire view on the world can begin to change as realisations completely knock you sideways.
Freeing Yourself From The Past
You are held accountable for all your wrongdoings as repressed memories flood back. As you try open your mind again to the world you begin to allow yourself to experience all the trapped emotions inside.
This process can be very unpleasant, but you know that it is worthwhile as you can feel yourself evolving and releasing the emotional burden that has been weighing you down.
Freeing yourself from addiction is a long and painful process but once you embark upon your journey and you get a taste of freedom you won´t want to turn back.
This end goal is now even closer than ever as I am on my final week taking Depakine (Sodium Valproate / Valproic acid) – hopefully the final stage of my medication process.
Read more about coming off Strattera (Atomoxetine) in the next article .
I am trying to keep my articles shorter so that they are easier to follow,.
This blog and other related projects require a lot of time and money but I do it because I want to help people.
If you have benefitted from my content and would like to help me to keep creating more, then I would be so grateful for any donations through my Patreon account.
Please Get In Contact!
I would love to hear from anybody that is considering going through this process or if anybody has had similar experiences.
This article was written on 24.04.20 but re-published due to a site update
I would like to start this by saying that I AM NOT completely sober. I take a mind-altering substance every single day to help me live a normal life as well as recreational Psychedelic drugs from time to time because they FASCINATE me.
What do I take? I take Strattera, (Atomoxetine), which is a Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitor. This is a medication designed for people with ADHD who are expected to have an imbalance of Noradrenaline. Noradrenaline, amongst other things is responsible for our fight or flight response.
I have however passed through various stages of (almost) complete sobriety.
Complete sobriety I think is very nearly impossible. Everyone has their vice
Starting with the biggest killer in the world…
Followed by the next most popular poison of choice
After these come all of the “bad” drugs. The other drugs that all have very similar mind-altering effects but are considered damaging to society and thus illegal.
At least one of the “big 4” is freely available to purchase or consume in almost every part of the world and they are the “socially accepted” drugs – but by far amongst the most powerful.
I do not drink alcohol, I do not smoke (weed or cigarettes), I do not consume caffeine, I do not use cocaine. I do however use Psychedelic drugs from time to time.
So What´s It Like Be Sober With ADHD?
When I came back from Brazil I had come off my medication and was going somewhat crazy. Read about My Strattera experience here. Strattera can take up to 2 months to take effect in your body and so the changes that it makes are slow but quite drastic on a neurological and physical level. Coming off it was horrible.
For long term prescription drugs such as this it is highly unrecommended to suddenly stop, because although it is not a physically addictive drug, (there are no physical withdrawals or cravings), it does change how your body functions and so there can be a lot of side effects.
The first few days I noticed my anxiety levels shoot through the roof – partly due to the fear of uncertainty – but partly due to the rise in Noradrenaline.
Within a fairly short space of time I started to feel more and more out of control. When I am “sober” and not medicated I feel like I have adrenaline surging through my body.
I can feel it pulsing and if I try and sit still my muscles get cramped and agitated and I get restless leg syndrome. Some part of my body is constantly moving, twitching, shaking. Sometimes I will be sat “still” and my entire body will be vibrating.
It can be exciting, it feels like you are supercharged and unstoppable. It feels like being on a stimulant drug such as Cocaine or Amphetamine. However, being “high” like this all day causes me to be agitated and anxious. I talk incessantly, blurt things out, say totally inappropriate things because the “filter” that the Strattera gives me goes.
Those are the irritating parts but not the dangerous parts. The dangerous part is that I start WANTING danger. I start to search for any possible way to occupy my mind and give me pleasure. Anything that will stimulate me and excite me. I start craving alcohol, I start taking drugs, I start looking for sex, I start arguments, I start doing absolutely anything that will distract me from myself. I WANT the danger and I want the stimulation and I do anything to find it.
I got through this after a couple of months of insanity and then went to speak to a private therapist for the first time as I needed help and answers for some problems going on in my life. When I explained to her that I had been using recreational drugs from time to time she explained to me that it is not possible to give any sort of accurate evaluation until I had passed 3 months of sobriety – as a sober mind is a mind that is free from any sort of drug.
This made total sense and so I decided to stop absolutely everything that was mind altering in any way. I stopped having sex, I stopped taking any sort of drug, I stopped consuming caffeine, and then I even stopped consuming sugar by living off Huel (a vegan, organic, meal replacement shake), and then a diet almost 100% free of added sugars.
Quitting sugar and caffeine was absolute hell and made me realise how savagely addictive these substances are. The withdrawal symptoms are horrible and the depression that they cause is far worse than that of any other drug withdrawal I have experienced. Caffeine withdrawal for me lasted roughly a month and drinking caffeine was on my mind most of the time.
The whole point of this story is that by being as close to 100% sober as possible I was forced to see myself fully unmasked, without the added confidence and stimulation of caffeine, without the buzz of sugar, without the exciting thoughts from psychedelics, without the affection of sex. I was forced to experience life without any unnatural “buzz”.
I was faced head on with even more personal problems and insights into my personality and toxic behaviour traits. There was literally nowhere to run, and I found myself struggling to get out of bed as it was all too much.
What´s It Like To Be Sober
I was trying to stimulate myself in healthy ways, by going to creative events – poetry, comedy etc. and meeting new and interesting people. I was exercising, trying to get work done, and trying to be a normal human being. Sadly at the end of the day I was still miserable.
I was going through some family and relationship problems at the time as well and so this obviously didn’t help but I realise that I was, and have been for my whole life – DEPRESSED
When I realised this, it made total sense and seemed obvious as day. I had always thought I couldn’t be depressed because only depressed people get depressed. But obviously I was one of those depressed people.
Sane people don’t become addicts at the age of 12. This was actually something that my Therapist had to make me understand.
Depression and Sobriety
Depressed / people suffering with personality disorders / identity issues turn to drugs as an escape method. This of course does not mean that all people that take drugs have issues. Drugs are a wonderful pleasure of life so long as you use them responsibly. The tough part is using them responsibly.
The more troubled a person is, or the more toxic their environment the more likely they are to turn to drugs.
In my case these problems stemmed from the inability to control my brain and my thoughts. I have had major personality and identity issues my whole life and this has only started becoming clearer very recently through therapy.
On that cliff-hanger I will end the article. I have been writing more about my discoveries through therapy but that is for another day so stay tuned!
I always thought of alcoholics as those old men with red pimpled noses that I would see at 6.45am in the morning as they wait (im) patiently for their local bar to open. Alcoholics were those men and women who sat in the big Wetherspoons in my home town (Aberdeen) all day drinking halves, talking to themselves and sometimes pissing themselves at the bar.
They were alcoholics, I was just someone who really enjoyed a drink and yeah I got myself into a state but who doesn’t. It didn’t mean I was an alcoholic, I was just the same as the vast majority of the people I would see in the pub at the weekend.
It only really occurred to me that I might be an alcoholic when I was discussing the subject with a friend of mine who said that “well we are both alcoholics mate, we might only drink once or twice a week but we cannot control it when we do so that makes us alchies” I thought about it for a second, agreed and moved on.
I just casually accepted that yeah ok fine I am an alcoholic in that sense but that’s better than being that old man waiting for a bar to open pre 7am… it’s different isn’t it, I don’t wake up craving that taste, that feeling, I can get up, go to to work, play football, live normal life without the need for booze on a daily basis.
Turns out that only because I had some semblance of routine like going to work every morning was saving me from becoming my own definition of an alcoholic.
I started drinking like most kids do at friends houses and in parks when I was 15/16. To be honest though, it didn’t really do it for me. I didn’t massively like the taste of beers and I could only really manage to force down 4 or 5 on any given night. Yeah I know what a lot of people are thinking, ‘only 4 or 5’ trust me, that was a ‘few’ beers watching the football for me.
Now, yes I did get drunk on some of these nights, sometimes embarrassingly so but I would probably go weeks/months without another similar drinking session. Along with the general dislike for the taste of alcohol I also woke up one morning after a friends 17th birthday party with a kidney infection.
My doctor was of the belief that I was drinking too much… it was one night so either I did indeed drink an obscene amount or my kidney’s were trying to tell me something early doors. I think this scared me off a little bit at the time because the infection was particularly painful.
I don’t really have any recollection of any big nights out or anything stupid until a month or so after my 17th birthday. I had already left school and was working full time. I was still very shy back then but was slowly coming out of my shell and beginning to speak more and more to the other staff there.
One Friday a couple of lads from the workshop invited me for beers on the Saturday. 17 year old me was so stoked that these two guys who were both older than me (one a year or two the other would have been in his early/mid twenties) wanted to hang out with me in the pub.
We met at lunch time for beers and we. got. on. it. I was so proud of myself that I handled my drink so well that day, managed to stay upright all day/night and stay out until about 2am after an underage trip to the strippers. Despite the hangover on the Sunday I felt like I was both a fully fledged adult and most importantly that I had been accepted.
These Saturday sessions quickly turned into any day of the week sessions, after work of course but I would find myself clock watching the last few hours of the day away so I could go and hang out with my new friends. I say hang out but really it was to get black out drunk.
I very quickly became enamoured with the reputation that came with being a young prolific drinker who could out drink the older people in the group and then get up again the next day and do it again.
I was very proud of my drinking streaks (30 nights in a row don’t you know) and the sheer amount of booze I was getting through. To give you an idea about my level, if I was half way though a pint and I noticed the bar getting busy I would go up to order my next one so that I had it ready for when I finished. I didn’t want to have to wait a few minutes with no drink in my hand. Mentally I could not cope with it.
This was my life in Aberdeen for 15 years. Booze/nights out over everything. I would always find someone to drink with, always find an excuse to go out and always find an excuse to stay out more importantly.
It really didn’t matter to me that I had girlfriends, friends, work, plans the next day, money to save for holidays, booze would win out over all of these things. I would rarely justify any expensive purchases for things I really wanted but I’d always have treble that value readily available to spend on drink.
I mentioned the kidney infection earlier, these were a regular theme in my life through these years of drinking. Do you know what I did when I got them… drank more. What kind of logic is that?! The pain was excruciating and to most people it would mean slow down, stop for a while but not me, I would drink through it… like trying to walk off an ankle sprain.
Just for info, a ‘regular’ say Saturday night would involve between 10-15 beers (pints) and then probably about a litres worth of gin…sometimes a little more, somehow.
I’m not really sure how much detail I need to go into about my nights out, there was a lot of obnoxious attitude, mouthing off constantly at people, falling over, the usual I suppose.
In my early 20’s I was an extremely angry drunk but I mellowed (at least a little bit) during my 20’s and into my 30’s. It really didn’t take much for me to fly off the handle though, I would misconstrue almost any innocent comment and become a total asshole.
It’s actually surprising I managed to maintain relationships of any sort to be honest. The biggest problem at the time was that no one called me out on my behaviour when I was drunk so I just passed it off as being acceptable. At most I’d offer a token apology and move on.
Lack of Confidence
One thing I was very aware of was alcohol’s ability to drain any energy and confidence from my soul when I was sober. So many plans, so many ideas, so many things I wanted to get involved in that sober anxious me just couldn’t bring myself to do. The drunk me would speak to anyone, talk relentlessly about ideas and plans and things I liked. Sober me would always be on the wrong side of the anxiety of course and that little voice in my head would always tell me to not be so stupid, you can’t do that, you don’t have the talent for that. And repeat ad nauseam.
One of the many dreams I had was to move abroad and at the very least try living in a different country. I had spoken about this sooooo much but had never even taken tentative steps to do it. Suddenly at 32 the company I was working for were going through a hard time and were making redundancies. I basically just blurted it out to my boss, get me out of here if you can, tell them to make me an offer and I’ll go. I don’t know why but I think subconsciously there was something telling me it was now or never. A few months later I was living in Barcelona.
So I moved to Barcelona with grand plans – see the correlation here – to take a few months off to rest, explore the city, learn Spanish and start a business. If I needed to take a job in the meantime, just to keep money coming in then I was happy enough to do that for a few months. On my first day in Barcelona I met my new flatmates and stayed out partying with them until 8am…
This was my life for the next almost 2 years. I never bothered to look for that job, never really bothered to learn much Spanish and most certainly didn’t start a business. With zero structure around me to keep me from my worst self I fell apart.
Now, I wasn’t drinking every day so again I could find reason enough to keep telling myself everything was ok. However, I was finding myself drinking for breakfast, baileys in my coffee or breakfast beers… Breakfast beers were the name we gave the mini bottles that you can get in Spain. In the UK a night out would finish at 2am, here in Barcelona my nights out would end the next evening, or later. I would find myself getting up after a few days of tranquility to go for a shower, find my flatmates having a party and join in. At 7am.
I blew 30K in those two years. 30 fucking grand, the things I could have done with that money! Hindsight eh! Sunshine, new foreign friends, cheap beers and too much time on my hands meant pretty much non stop days/nights out over that time.
All the old traits were still there too, flying off the handle for no reason, falling over in bars, walking home obliterated, wearing headphones through the most dangerous of neighbourhoods. I was Indestructible when drunk, incredibly arrogant too.
There were a few steps towards sobriety for me. First was and I mean this with as little offence as possible but a lot of my social group just seemed to age rapidly in front of my eyes. And I mean rapidly. Every so often I would see photos of myself and see me going the same route and it started to play on my mind.
Hangover Anxiety – The Fear
Secondly the hangover anxiety was through the roof! I had always suffered with the hangover fear but it was manageable, I could still function. In those times though I could not cope with it, I would hide in my room for days after a night out. Only sneaking out of my room to grab the pizza from the takeaway guy at the door. I wouldn’t even look at my phone during those times, just watch films, sleep and feel like my world was falling apart.
Thirdly and this was the biggest one, I had a panic attack one afternoon. Long story short I love street art and graffiti and at one point in BCN I started working with one of the street art tours. I had done a couple and after some initial nerves was beginning to become a bit more comfortable with them.
The tour was on a Monday and I had a pretty heavy Friday and Saturday so Sunday was ground zero for the hangover and Monday was the beginning of the anxiety. I planned on cancelling on the tour but last minute decided that I could handle it. I appeared at the meeting point and saw the group, there must have been 50 people.
My heart immediately started racing at a rate I had never experienced, my breathing became really fast and really difficult and I had to crouch down in a doorway. I dragged myself home, cancelled the tour, got fired on the spot and spent the next hour lying in bed trying to calm down. Being fired did not help haha.
The Start of Sobriety
After that, the next few months although I didn’t stop drinking (obviously d’uh) I really pushed myself to call it quits after a reasonable amount of drinks. My idea of reasonable of course but still a huge improvement on my previous lifestyle.
From memory I got drunk twice in around 5 months and both times the hangovers were obscenely bad. I had been speaking about getting sober for a little while but every time I was banging on about it I would always claim that it was impossible and that I just needed to get it down to a beer here and a beer there and I would be fine.
These conversations continued though so obviously something inside me was pushing me to call it quits. Then it happened, I woke up on a Sunday and decided, no drinks this week. And that was it, honestly, that easy. I didn’t drink for two years after that point. I kept giving myself check points where I could start drinking again but when I got to them I would just keep going.
Is It Hard To Stop Drinking?
I’ve thought about this a lot, Is it easy to quit drinking? I just stopped one day, boom, but only because I had got to a point where my mind could not handle anymore. If I had kept going like I was I would probably have done something stupid by now the way my head was.
I have had so many friends say that they wish they could stop and that I had a lot of strength to do what I did. I didn’t really see it that way, probably still don’t, I needed to stop and I did. But really it took 17 years to get to that point so no, it’s not easy. Especially if like me, socialising always revolved around drinking…
Losing Friends From Stopping Drinking
Stopping came at a cost. I lost loads and loads of friends, basically my whole social circle disappeared overnight. I was a little bitter about that for a while but thinking back in reality it was my lack of ability to socialise whilst sober that was the problem.
It occurred to me whilst at a gig one night that I had never ever been sober at a gig or a festival or, well at pretty much anything I could think of actually. I had zero experience at socialising sober (work doesn’t count) and was absolutely fucking useless at it. Honestly, 3 years in I still am. I went from 100 to zero and then tried to go back to 100 on the socialising part and it was such an alien feeling to me.
I don’t think I’ll ever become comfortable with it if I am being honest, I am FAR to aware of the drunks in the room and too often, their ability to switch from happy to angry in a split second. It leaves me on edge and it’s almost like a sensory overload when I am in bar, it’s pretty overwhelming. I can see why alcohol helped me so much, I was rarely aware of any of this stuff when I was drinking. That being said, I don’t miss the big nights or hangovers, not one bit.
One and Done
I mentioned earlier about having a beer here and a beer there. Well last year I decided to test myself with a beer to see if I could be sensible with it and just ENJOY one. Well I did enjoy it but the feeling of MORE was gone. After I finished it I was satisfied and I knew that I had gotten over the final hurdle. So today, I have a beer now and again (I’ve not had one for 3 months) if I am out for dinner or if I just fancy one but it’s just that, one and done.
So that’s my story, even if one person reads it and thinks, shit that’s basically me and it inspires them to at least think about getting help/stopping then great, job done!
Mind Your Business – The Silent Battle Being Fought Every Day
This is a guest article that a friend wanted to write for everyone to see.
Even though this battle has been making some noise for a few years now, it is still a relatively quiet one, and many of us are fighting it silently while often the people who love us the most doesn’t even know it’s going on, furthermore the very people who love us might even be making it harder for us without knowing,
By the title of this article you might have thought that I’m talking about the old lady who told your mum about that one time you came back home drunk at 3am and fell asleep on the porch, or the one who told your parents how you pierced your tongue and have been hiding it for months.
I mean yes old ladies, mind your own freaking business, but what I’m really talking about it’s not a battle against nosey grannies, I’m talking about a war to be more precise, one that it’s going on inside the mind of those of us who find it hard, or straight up impossible to set our attention to something in order to complete simple tasks – from the most mundane tasks, such as cleaning the room, to much more serious ones like studying for that one test that we needed to pass in order to get into that university (those of us who were able to make through high school, I mean).
Attention Deficit Disorder
At this point you might have heard of it, Attention “Deficit Disorder” with or without Hyperactivity, or ADD/ADHD, I will elaborate on why I quoted “deficit disorder” later on.
“Pay attention”, “what’s wrong with you”, “Can’t you just sit still?”, “You are so smart and you insist on sabotaging yourself”, “You’ve so much potential and you continue to waste it”, are some of the most common things people with ADD/ADHD have to grow up listening to for the most part of their childhood/adolescence and often all the way through our adult years.
They frequently come from people who genuinely care about us and only want the best for us, but as Jesus reportedly said while being tortured to death on the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (I’m not religious, don’t run away)
They just don’t know, so they just can’t understand, not even ourselves can understand why we seem to struggle where other people seemingly thrive, so we’re called lazy, rebels or difficult, they think that we just don’t care, and we feel misunderstood, those feelings turn into frustration, and frustration turns into anger and anger turns into harmful habits… so many of us have a history of alcohol/drug abuse, anger management issues, volatility, sex addiction and so on.
Not to mention what it does to our self esteem when we are constantly compared to those who, with the same apparent tools and opportunities, seem to do it right.
There Is No Attention Deficit
The way we are doesn’t have to do with a deficit of attention or lack of focus, in fact we can focus much more than many, it’s just that we can have many more things in our head at once than most, we find it hard to focus solely on the book that we’re reading, when we also wonder the life expectancy of the fly on the window.
While people struggle with what to be interested in, we cannot be interested in anything that we’re not genuinely interested in, it’s not a choice, that’s an advantage and a disadvantage on its own, on the one hand when we like something, we know we really do, otherwise we wouldn´t pay attention to it.
ADHD and Thinking Outside The Box
We are terrific at thinking outside the box (in fact we very often didn’t even know there was a box to begin with), but on the other hand, this life requires us to complete things that are not always necessarily interesting, yet important for us to properly function within a society with rules and expectations.
Yes, I don’t know many people who enjoy doing their taxes or staying awake until 3am studying for that one test, but for some of us is borderline impossible to concentrate on that (and no, we can’t sit still).
We don’t suffer from a “disorder”, we just function differently in a world that’s definitely not made for us,
We need dynamism in order to thrive, we do impressively well when dealing with a bunch of things at once, we just have a hard time setting our mind to one that doesn’t absolutely fascinates us.
Evolution of ADHD
Maybe it is an evolutionary thing, we humans have increasingly come into contact with more and more information over the years and especially since the internet came into play, you can ask your parents or grandparents what did they do to entertain themselves in the past.
The most important things have always been there; nature, sports, each other’s company, there has been music, books, film and TV for a while, but right now… Shit man! We have all that multiplied by the billions, and we have it just a click away, it is available in our pockets at any given moment.
We have Tinder, Netflix, and Audio books, If you want to order food you have 20 apps on your smartphone with hundreds of options, you can learn how to build a computer or to tie a tie by watching a tutorial…
We’re overloaded with information and images and possibilities, is it really that crazy that some of us have difficulty to concentrate on one thing? Shouldn’t areas of society such as education adapt to the new human and to meet the requirements of those of us who can’t sit still also?
Medication can be incredibly helpful, but it’s important to note that for many of us, all that it takes is to know that we’re all different and unique, what works for you doesn’t have to work for me and vice versa, yet we insist in trying to fit all into a square box when in fact some of us are a circle, or a line, or my personal favourite, a spiral.
This article is intended for everyone, for the misfits so they know that they’re not alone and for everyone else who need to be a little more considerate and open to those who are different, because we all are. Even those of you who can sit still, yes, you’re also special in your own unique way.
I believe that if you take the time to get to know someone, you will inevitably end up finding out what makes them special.
“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid”
I was speaking with a friend recently and we were talking about how our 20s just seem to be getting tougher instead of easier. She said to me, “literally is anyone actually happy?”.
We are bombarded with so much information nowadays, and social media means there is literally no escape from the horrible things that are happening in the world. From Elections, to Wars, to Poverty, to Cyber Bullying we see it all and I don’t think many people in their 20s are really mentally prepared to handle it all.
Bursting the Bubble of Happiness
For me as I trundle through my life trying to understand and
control my brain and ADHD, I feel that every so often I reach a stage of
happiness and then a bubble bursts, I discover something new about myself, and
have to start all over again. This feeling is exasperating as I just never know
when it will end. How many more bubbles are there to burst?
The more I learn, the more confused I get, the more issues I
find out about myself, the harder it is to live my life knowing these things.
Sometimes I feel that I am burdening myself with too much at once, but then
other times I feel like it is the only way.
I am determined to overcome my addiction to everything, my “addictive personality”. I want to be able to relax and enjoy stimuli like a normal person, but I know this will be a long process.
Not Knowing How to Handle Emotions
Having spent my whole teenage years and early 20s drinking
and taking drugs as much as possible I feel I never learned to handle emotions.
Any time I felt any pain, hurt, rejection, shame, guilt – I turned to the
Untreated ADHD made it absolutely impossible to understand and know how to deal with emotions. It is a constant bombardment of every sound, every feeling, every thought all at once. It is completely overwhelming and unbearable at times.
Avoiding Pain or Negative Emotions
After I quit drinking and spent some time sober – self reflecting and analysing – I thought I was “cured”. I felt happy and fresh, I was distracted, and I was living in a beautiful city. What I didn’t realise was that this pattern of pain avoidance continued. I continued to avoid my pain or negative emotions from my relationship break-up with any possible stimulus.
Sex, drugs, exercise, dating apps (validation), or anything else
that would give me a little buzz. I was much more cautious of drugs and had
this under control but the other stimuli which fed my addiction to pleasure
were still rife and I was oblivious to this.
The feeling of addiction is essentially just an addiction to Dopamine. We can experience this Dopamine rush from any stimulus that is exciting to us.
Addiction to Video Games
Interestingly enough, my Psychologist mentioned to me the
role that Video Games have with people with ADHD and Addiction problems. She
explained that a lot of people experience the intense Dopamine rush from video
games at a young age, and this can actually change the brain chemistry.
I realised that when I was young, before I had a chance to
become addicted to alcohol or drugs, I was insanely addicted to video games. I spent
every second playing or thinking about video games. This is just another coping
mechanism to hide from your brain, and a way to feed the pleasure system.
ADHD & Nicotine Addiction
After quitting alcohol, I hopped straight on to nicotine and
started smoking shisha alone for at least 2 hours a day. My whole day revolved
around smoking and getting this massive hit of Nicotine.
I was too naïve to understand the power of nicotine and
after a few months I started to feel sick all day every day, until I smoked, due
to the withdrawals. I was angry, irritable, negative and obsessed. Having this addiction to anchor me meant that I
could avoid my emotions still, as this had taken over my life.
I had to quit smoking shisha after a year and when I went
cold turkey, I decided to punish myself by quitting caffeine at the same time.
The withdrawals were horrible – I had no energy for weeks, gained a stone
(6.5kg), had the horrible feeling of loss – which I can only describe as the
feeling of a friend dying – and was majorly depressed.
ADHD & Addiction to Work
As I overcame this and saw the addiction unrolling and my
life returning back to normal my brain began to rapidly search for any new distraction
and I started working insane overtime hours (by choice), 7 days a week. Working
70+ hours a week in an office completely drains you mentally and physically, so
I had no time or energy to deal with the emotions I was experiencing.
As I never learned to deal with pain, rejection, guilt, shame, or any of the other negative emotions that people learn in their teenage years, I feel like these are all things that I have been intensely experiencing recently.
I am sick of running, self-medicating, acting selfishly and hurting people around me. It is time now to accept that sometimes I will be miserable, sometimes I will be depressed and that is okay!
I am also sick of letting ADHD control me and not being in full control of my mind. I am sick of searching for quick fixes and quick highs.
Learning to Live In The Present
In a recent meeting with my Psychologist we spoke about living in the past and future. She explained to me that living in the past causes depression, whereas living in the future causes anxiety. This made total sense. The regrets of the past can only bring us pain, and living constantly in the future causes us to panic, fear failure, and try and protect ourselves from any potential pain.
The real struggle, and what I am trying to learn to do now,
is to live in the present. Question my motives for doing everything, question
how my actions will affect other people and question if what I am doing will
have a positive effect on my life.
This may seem obvious and simple for some people but I really
struggle with this. ADHD generally makes you think of a million things,
sometimes very abstract and unique things, but often this means that you can
miss the obvious. Sometimes its easier to think of the bigger picture but impossible
to think of what´s directly in front of you.
I am trying to avoid anything that does not make my life better, and anything that is a quick easy high. For normal people that is the obvious things like drugs and alcohol. For an addict with ADHD it is absolutely everything, from Whatsapp messages to over-exercise. It will be a tough learning curve but with the new year coming up I know it is time to take the plunge.
Get In Contact With Me!
I love talking to people about their experiences and stories, and I love answering questions. We are not alone in this!
I love to chat to people that feel overwhelmed and misunderstood. Please get in contact ASAP, I will always reply and no question is ever stupid or embarrassing!
I would also love to hear any advice, suggestions, criticisms, ideas etc. I absolutely love to be criticised as it helps me to improve and create better content.
I am writing this post from Brussels, Belgium where I have come to see a friend who I met in Brazil. The post discusses my my wild experience with Strattera as I came off and then rapidly back on the drug, (highly unrecommended).
After an extremely turbulent 3 months I finally feel like myself again. Or should I say the V2.1 of me since I started medication for ADHD and my experience with Strattera (Atomoxetine).
It was one of my stupidest ideas to date to, “accidentally”,
not sort out my medication before I went to Brazil and have to, “figure
something out”, for my last 2 weeks there. My life and my mental health were
the best they had ever been, I felt completely in control of my actions, and I felt
at relative peace.
Why oh why then did my irritatingly morbid curiosity decide to mess with this? I remember saying to some friends that I met in Sao Paulo that when I went back to Barcelona I would be mental for a while. I knew deep down what this would do to me, yet decided to do it anyway – just as some sort of brain experiment?
This past week since my journey to Berlin has been yet again the most revolutionary, difficult, and inspiring week of my life. Crazy I know, that things have just continued to spiral – first downwards to rock bottom – and then they bounced right back with some serious vigour.
I began to address the toxic relationships in my life and focus on all the things that were holding me back, in order to begin to heal and move forward.
However, I was in a very manic state of mind and I did this in the most impulsive, irrational and insensitive way possible. I was completely blind to how my actions would affect people and I was selfish and unfair. The things that I said to people, I all still believe to be true, but my delivery of this information – in every case – was terrible.
Words cannot describe the journey I have been on this weekend. I went from a state of complete and utter turmoil and chaos to flipping everything into the most positive experience of my entire life. What I have learned from the incredibly successful, intelligent and driven people that I spent time with is that literally the only motivation in life should be from happiness and searching for those natural highs.
Since my last post life has been absolute chaos, danger, destruction, and impulsivity due to my medication having not yet taken full effect again. I have had to ride this rollercoaster and just deal with each day becoming easier and easier. I have never felt so bad and so overwhelmed in my life.