Written on 20.09.20 Coming off Strattera has been a roller-coaster ride. These past 6 months have been the most mentally challenging months of my life and I feel like every step of the way I am being tested and challenged. . These past 6 months have been the most mentally challenging months of my life and I feel like every step of the way I am being tested and challenged.
I started tapering down the dose (as recommended by the Psychiatrist) from 80mg on July 14th 2020 and then halved the dose to 40mg for 4 weeks month then 18mg for 4 weeks and now I am writing this on my 5th day Strattera free.
Although it was the psychiatrist that suggested tapering me off to then try mood stabilisers, I had also had the same idea to taper off and was going to ask her what her thoughts were.
Fear of Coming Off Medication
Although I was scared, the fact that she had suggested this to me before I had even asked her gave me confidence because I felt like it was fate. I had told myself from the beginning that I would follow the Psychiatrists instructions not only so I can experience these medications for myself but also so that I will be able to write about them and my journey through these treatments.
It is so hard to know whether I am getting better or worse. The Strattera, (prescribed to help control ADHD symptoms), worked amazingly for me. It calmed me, it massively helped me to focus, it controlled impulses, removed the craving for alcohol and drugs and improved my life massively.
Side Effects of Strattera
However, of course all medications have their side effects and come at a cost. It was never my intention to be on a medication for my whole life because I felt that in order to gain the benefits of the drug I had to sacrifice a part of myself and my personality.
As I delve further into spirituality and my investigations into different religions, the possibility of god(s) and angels I feel my intuition and senses have heightened.
This, I imagine, is part of growing up. I am no longer a kid with no responsibilities or consequences to worry about, I am a man trying to grow in this tumultuous time whilst trying to truly discover who I am and how to find happiness.
The more I probe, the more I discover and sometimes it all becomes too much and I find myself frequently breaking down in tears.
Each day I feel like I am peeling back a bit more of my skin and revealing my true self (Removing Your Three Masks). I can’t be sure whether it is due to withdrawing from Strattera, or if it is a result of the constant meditation, mindfulness, days of silence and self reflection that I have been undertaking. I imagine it is a combination of both.
Aphantasia and Feelings of Isolation
I have always felt so lost and lonely, always surrounded by people but with a feeling of total isolation, and it has only been this year that I started coming across the possible reasons for this.
Memory is always something that has confused me and it was only this year I found out that some people can replay memories in their heads in video format.
This totally blew my mind.
I have no memories which I could count as real. I have memories of situations, and how they made me feel, but very limited photographic memory of these situations.
It may sound stupid but until the beginning of this year I didn’t know that people could actually recall situations like this.
I wrote a couple of posts about Aphantasia which is the inability to use your “third eye” (or other mental senses) and this then sent me down a rabbit hole as people started contacting me to share their experiences with visualisation, mental imagery, memory and other sensory differences.
We are all amazing creatures and it fascinates me to hear all the differences between us.
I know this post has been somewhat convoluted and I actually am posting this nearly a year later as I wrote it and didnt post it at the time.
After being free from Strattera for over a year I have learned a lot. I learned there is no easy way to conquer your brain and that sooner or later, if you really want to heal, you need to spend time totally sober and invest your time and effort into overcoming trauma and a healthy lifestyle. Read Overcoming Addiction: Your Deceptive Brain for more information on addiction recovery.
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I would love to hear your thoughts on this post and also to hear about people´s different experiences of visualisation.
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.
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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!