What It’s Like to Go On A Hen’s Night As A Problem Drinker

I drank more than everyone else and not as much as I wanted. Story of my life these days really.
So back to last Friday night: I had to go on a hen’s night, for the first time since my drinking became a problem. That meant being in situations where alcohol as readily available, and I had to make the decision to partake and try to avoid being ‘that’ drunk in the group or not drinking at all.
I chose to drink. Bear in mind that I had arranged to be picked up afterwards by my parents so if I was obviously drunk when they got me, they wouldn’t be happy.
The other object of consideration was that the hen is a christian girl, as are most of her friends and the others are mums who have to get up to young children the next day so in that scene, no-one is going to be drinking a lot. If I get black out drunk I will stick out.
The hen’s party consisted of dinner at a fancier pub bistro then bowling at a nearby games centre that serves cocktails. Very sensible activities but with a lot of alcohol available.
With the above considerations in mind I went to the pub. The bride the be was already there, and a few of the other girls were also arriving so we immediately went to get drinks. I took note of what everyone else ordered – a few lemonades, lemon lime and bitters – and when it was my turn thought fuck it, might as well have one to start the evening off and ordered my standard poison, a gin and tonic.
I took my drink back to the table and put it down. “Oh did you get a piece of lime in your lemonade? That’s a good idea.” The maid of honour asked cheerfully.
“no, it’s a gin and tonic.” I admitted sheepishly
“Ah…lemonade with extra then. Nice.”
It is a conscious effort for me to drink slowly but I did that, only allowing myself one sip at a time. I made myself get engrossed in the conversation as I hadn’t seen these particular friends for awhile and the bride was more than happy to talk about all the intricacies of wedding planning. I told myself that I would only have another gin and tonic with dinner.
We had dinner and I tried to be as healthy as you can be with pub dinner (steak and veggies) and got my second gin and tonic. I was appalled when I ordered from a different bartender and he charged me more.
We finished eating and I finished my drink, then the bride said “We’ll wait another half hour then we’ll walk to bowling.”
I found myself thinking, half an hour…that’s enough time to get another drink. No, I told myself firmly, you can wait until we get to bowling.
After we got to the next venue we had to wait for a lane. Some of the girls started playing arcade games and I went predictably straight to the bar and perused the cocktail list. Immediately my attention went to a long island iced tea. Tempting, but I don’t want to be comatose by the time my parents pick me up with I definitely will be if I drink one of those. I settled for a gin mixer and went on my way.
We started bowling which I am terrible at. So many gutter balls. About halfway though they gave us bumpers and strangely my scores went up while everyone elses scores went down. In amongst this I found time for another sneaky cocktail.
Our time on our lane ended and the girls were wanting the go to karaoke but I knew I was just going to keep drinking so I decided to call it a night. I called my parents and they came and got me. I didn’t feel drunk, and nothing was said about how sober I appeared on the ride home.
I guess the biggest thing I’ve learnt on this journey is when to remove yourself from the situation. This is what I keep with me moving forward.

Mac

Just Checking In

 

It’s been a while since I have blogged and I guess I want to update where my life is at now.  It’s not often that I stop and think “hey, how am I going?” and when I do, and am really honest with myself, the answer can surprise me.  I did this recently and after exhaustive rumination I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going great, and I’ve started putting some habits in place to rectify that.

 

First, the drinking.  It’s funny how drinking and sobriety episodes have become such a major episode of my life – and this blog – but here we are.  After several binge drinking episodes at the start of April co-inciding with my meltdown when Pea went on his weekend away, I realised I had to do better.  And so my energy has gone into stopping binge drinking.  Not drinking altogether, I’m picking my battles.  I went on to have a couple of binge drinking episodes over the next month but there were greater lengths of time between them.  As of now writing this I haven’t had one since late April – nearly a month ago.

 

With binge drinking all but conquered for the time being, I had to be honest with myself and realise that I was still drinking too much in a day, even though I wasn’t getting drunk.  I was drinking most days and I began to realise that it had taken its toll on me, most noticeably in that I have gained about ten kilos over the last couple of months.  Alcohol is a lot of empty calories, plus drinking makes me want to eat junk food.

 

So now my energy goes into losing weight.  I have realised that if that is going to happen, I have to stop drinking altogether which I have done as of last week.  I’m allowing myself a couple when I go out, but if I end up finding it hard to control myself then I will cut that out too.  I know I can lose the weight provided I am able to say no to drinking, I lost five kilos at the end of last year when my weight crept up once I started of seroquel.  I was on Antabuse at the time so obviously I was having no alcohol.

 

Staying sober without Antabuse is hard, it is really hard to say no.  Some people might say why not just go back on it?  I did say in one of my Youtube videos that I want to see if I can stay sober without a drug but truthfully I’m scared of the effects if you do drink.  I’m scared I might snap one day and have one of my binges which on Antabuse can kill you.

 

In my experience weight loss has more to do with what you eat than exercise but I am staying active.  I have thrown myself into roller derby fully, we are training on Wednesday night for two hours and on Friday night for three hours.  I go down to the local netball courts during the day and get on my skates when I have a day off.  I view learning the skills as a project, and I love having a project.

 

I have also started running.  Pea and I have registered for the city2surf again which for non Australians is a fourteen kilometre fun run from Sydney’s city centre to Bondi beach.  I know I have to train or it will be a struggle so I have been going running three days a week.

 

Work has picked up and I am now working a second shift a week.  Two days a week may not sound like much but increases in any activity is hard for me to get used to.  I have a lot of insecurities about work and feeling useless, worrying if I am making a useful contribution to the team but working a second day gives me a chance to develop into the role a bit.

 

Hopefully all these changes will make next month a better one

 

 

 

Mac

 

A Midnight Meltdown

 

Pea went away for the weekend on Friday and, knowing this holiday was coming up, I had gone off Antabuse and was basically looking forward to a weekend of alcohol and junk food binging.  I know that sounds bad, but it is what it is.

 

Before he even left however, the cracks started to show.  I tried to control his packing process from his sleeping arrangements to the food he was taking.  He went to a dirt bike event where around seven hundred dirt bike riders would bring their bikes to a camp site near Kowen in the ACT for two days of riding and camping.  A week before I was calling my parents to see if they had any suitable camping gear, urging Pea, who was rather laid back about the whole thing, to start packing.

 

Luckily there was a camping gear sale at Aldi so he got most of what he needed there.  After borrowing an eski from my parents, he was set.  He didn’t want to take any food – just wanted to fill that huge eski with beer – because he said there would be a food truck there.  At my insistence he took some sausages and bread because with one food truck for seven hundred people you don’t know if a) the food is any good and b) they might run out of food.

 

On Friday, I woke feeling off and called in sick to work.  I went with Pea to do his food shopping and nagged him unsuccessfully to buy more food.  Back home, I hovered around while he did his last minute packing, stressing that he was going to forget something.

 

He left around eleven, and my feelings of uneasiness continued.  I distracted myself by watching some youtube, until midday when I went to the pub for lunch as I do every Friday.  I surprised the lady in the restaurant by ordering “the usual, but only for me this week.”

 

I watched more tv that afternoon and was plagued by the overwhelming desire the have a drink.  The voice in my head kept saying “just have one” but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop at one, and then I wouldn’t be able to drive to roller derby training.  And even if I did manage to get there somehow, skating drunk is not advisable.

 

I got to roller derby early, and texted Pea to call me, knowing he’d be at Kowen by then.  He did, but the signal kept dropping out and eventually we gave up.  I accepted that I wouldn’t be able to talk to him until he came back.

 

Once training started I felt shaky, and it occurred to me with a pang of anxiety that if I got hurt there was no-one to come and get me.  I didn’t know who I would call.  Pea’s sister lives down the street but I don’t have her number.  My parents live nearly an hour away.  I held onto the wall for nearly fifteen minutes until I could be persuaded to join in.  Later another freshie broke her tailbone which did nothing to ease my feeling of discomfort.

 

After training we went to the pub and I told the girls that my partner had gone away.  They all started talking about how much they enjoyed their partners going away which left me wondering if I’m just tragic, or if we just haven’t been together long enough (I asked my mum this later and she told me in no uncertain terms that no, we haven’t.)

 

Finally I drove back home and the part of the weekend I had been apparently looking forward to could begin.  I started pouring drinks and watching funny shows.  But rather than relax me, the alcohol seemed to have the opposite effect.  Then at around midnight, my heart dropped into my stomach with a realisation.

 

What am I doing?  I don’t want to be doing this.

 

I was only doing this because I was alone.  And I was terrified to be alone.  I hate sleeping alone yet that is what I would have to do because I had drunk too much to drive anywhere.  I turned off the television, poured the rest of my drink down the sink and took my gabapentin.

 

The next day, I woke determined to do better.  I went to the supermarket and bought ingredients to make a healthy lunch.  Then I called my Mum so at least I would be talking to someone that day.

 

Over the phone Mum picked up that I sounded stressed.  She invited me to stay over for the weekend so, after a bit of thought, I decided that would be best.  At least that way I wouldn’t sleep in an empty house.  I took the ingredients for my healthy lunch and no alcohol.

 

It’s now Sunday and I’m sitting in my room at Mum and Dad’s typing this.  My messages to Pea don’t seem to be getting through so the first he’s going to know about this will probably be when he arrives home late tonight and finds me gone, though he will probably be able to figure out what happened.

 

Now that I know how Pea going away affects me I am better able to deal with it in the future, i.e with no drinking, healthy food and not isolating myself.  Once you know better, you do better.

 

I still miss him though.  I guess I’m just tragic.

 

 

 

Mac

 

A Very Sober Christmas

I got my antabuse script refilled for the first time the other day marking my first month on the drug.  That makes one month into my six month sobriety challenge.

My sleeping has been amazing.  I seem to need to do a lot of it, and will sleep between 11 – 13 hours a night.  When I was drinking I would go to bed around 8 and wake up around 1 in the morning.  Sometimes I would go to bed on my own, sometimes I would need to take the other half of my seroquel tablet.  I don’t get much of a hangover any more, but I was experiencing dry mouth.  That has stopped now.

My mood has been up and down.  I’ve been stressing out because of this time of year and all the things I need to do and I find I’m taking seroquel to sleep and to calm down.  I’ve also been skipping meals due to being busy and this has a major effect on my mood.  I cannot cope when I’m hungry.  I get edgy and light headed.  The other day I had a hair appointment at 11, which lasted until 3, and drove straight to Pea’s house which in holiday traffic took the best part of an hour.  On the freeway I started to feel lightheaded and was wondering why then it hit me – duh, I haven’t eaten today since having a protein bar at 8 in the morning.

To combat my low mood my doctor has increased my fluoxetine from 10mg to 20mg but I won’t start seeing the effects of that for a few weeks. This is done cautiously because some antidepressants can cause rapid mood cycling in bipolar patients.  So far it hasn’t done that to me, and has been a huge help with my anxiety but we’ll see what an increased dose will do.  The doctor says the detrimental effects of binge drinking on my mood can take up to six weeks to lift.

As for temptation, it’s hard to be sober at this time of year.  On one hand, the control has been taken away from me; it’s not really a matter of self control as there are real life threatening consequences stopping me from drinking.  If I were to stop taking the antabuse I would still have to wait a week to start drinking.

Alcohol is everywhere.  On Friday Pea and I went to his company Christmas party.  They had booked a restaurant with a bar that served a variety of cocktails that I would have been all over had I not been on Antabuse.  Instead I drank my mocktails and found I couldn’t have too many of them as they were so sugary.  As everyone at the party got drunker I found it hard to join in on the conversations and ended up retreating into the corner on my phone.

We had parties at my parent’s house on Christmas eve, Christmas day and boxing day.  There was and abundance of beer and my dad’s sangria.  And one thing the antabuse has done is made me suspicious of food.  I’m not sure to what extent that alcohol evaporates out of food when it cooks but I don’t want to take any chances.  But still I get caught out.  My sister passed out some rumballs on Christmas eve and I nearly ate one until mum stopped me.  Luckily I didn’t have to forgo trifle as my aunt doesn’t put alcohol in hers.

New year’s eve is approaching and that will be another challenge but I guess I have to pull out the mocktail recipes I amassed when I was in hospital for new years two years ago.

 

Mac

Centrelink Dramas

I would like to interrupt our scheduled programming of doom and alcoholism for something a bit different.  For the past few months I’ve had a…thing ongoing with Centrelink and it had really been weighing on my mind so I thought it would be best to share it here.

I had been meaning to make this post for over a week but I’ve been really busy what with Christmas chores including organising Pea’s house for my parents’ first ever visit last weekend.  In that time, the issue actually got resolved, but I’ll get to that.

I receive the disability support pension.  I do work, within the limits of what the DSP allows but it is my primary source of income.  Without it I would struggle to afford my various therapies.  I was put on it in 2010 after a lengthy assessment process which I have been told has gotten much worse.

One of the requirements of being on the DSP is regular assessments to ascertain whether you are still eligible to receive it.  Well, I say regular but I hadn’t had one for four years.  I had been assessed twice previously and been deemed still eligible for it.

However, in 2011 the eligibility tables for mental illness were re written to be much tougher, and since then many people on the DSP for a mental disability had been reassessed and deemed ineligible.  These people had been placed on Newstart instead, Centrelink’s jobseeker’s allowance which is $341 a fortnight less than the DSP.  After five years of this, this article claims that now 25% of people on Newstart have a disability.

I’ve heard all sorts of rumours about how the government is cracking down on people receiving the DSP for psychiatric conditions including one article I read that I haven’t been able to find that claimed Centrelink was targeting under 35s on DSP for mental illness.  Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Yet when enough people have been coming forward after having their payment changed from the DSP to Newstart, I did start to wonder about these changes and how they might affect me.  But I kept telling myself not to worry until I actually got reassessed.

Fast forward to August of this year and I got a letter from Centrelink saying I was being reassessed. Uh-oh.  The only instruction I was given was to get a medical report outlining all the conditions I had that reduced my capacity to work and return it to Centrelink in two weeks.

So I called my psychiatrist and asked for an emergency appointment.  And got told by the receptionist that she doesn’t do that (I know for a fact that she does, maybe not in this situation but still.) After a bit of back and forth we decided the best thing to do would be for the doctor to call me back.

She called about fifteen minutes later and I explained the situation.  She said she would dictate a report, send it to the dictophone office and the report should arrive back in a couple of days.  Easily done.

After a week of me calling the office every day to check if the report was in I called just as the postman delivered it.  So I dashed out there and took it to my local Centrelink and lined up for an hour to have one of the aides remind me that I can in fact upload medical reports using my phone.  Oops!

So that was done.  Or so I thought.

I thought that all I needed to do was provide my medical report and the assessment would be done in a matter of weeks but we were just getting started.  The next month, in mid September I received a letter from Centrelink telling me that as part of my ongoing case review I had to have an interview with one of Centrelink’s disability officers and an appointment was made for late September.

I was extremely nervous about this meeting and was expecting to be grilled about my condition but the disability officer I spoke to was pleasant and even though I didn’t express any concerns seemed to be trying to put me at ease.  He had with him my submitted medical report plus copies of all doctors letters I had ever submitted to Centrelink, plus some medical records and hospital discharge summaries.  He told me that the fact that I have seen so many doctors works well in my favour, because all these letters and reports serve as evidence that I actually have these conditions and they have been impacting my life significantly.  .

He asked me questions about my symptoms and the severity of them day to day, tying it back in with the kinds of behaviours that were caused by them.  We went through my medications and the doctors and other therapists that I see.  He said that the next step for him was to go to my doctors with what I had said about my symptoms to verify it.  I gave him the details of my psychiatrist and psychologist and that was it.  He ended the meeting by acknowledging that the tables of eligibility were tougher these days but he didn’t think I had any reason to stress.

Now I thought my part was over, that all I was waiting for was for Centrelink to reach out to my doctor and therapist and take their reports to an independent assessor. WRONG.  Fast forward another couple of months – in the mean time I was going mad with worry.  How long is it going to take?  I hear it takes forever to get on the DSP these days, but to get taken off it? What happens when I do get taken off it? Does my payment automatically transfer over to newstart or do I have to apply for that?  What am I going to do in the mean time if it’s the latter? – to late November.  I get a call from Centrelink telling me it’s time for an independent medical exam (their words.) Shortly after this phone call I get texted an address and a date which is in three days time.

So I show up there, for this ‘exam’ and am taken into a room and sat in front of an ipad which has a skype call set up on it.  The person on the other end asks me if I know what I’m here for and I parrot what I was told in the phone call – ‘an independent medical exam.’  She laughed and explained that she is a psychologist,  appointed by Centrelink as a neutral party to verify the information provided by my psychologist and psychiatrist.

Our interview was much like the one I had with the disability officer, she seemed to want to check that my story lined up.  I had to talk about some stuff that has happened since that meeting like my trouble sleeping and starting on seroquel, but really I was just telling the same story over again.

We had some technical issues and in the end our skype connection dropped out, so we had to finish the call by telephone call.  When I told my mum this she was horrified – this woman has to assess whether I am medically able to work based on a telephone conversation? – but I was just glad I wouldn’t have to make another trip into the city for another appointment.

That was two weeks ago, and I thought I was in for another lengthy waiting game.  I concentrated on getting my Christmas shopping done and saving for my car registration before I lost my income.

But then last Wednesday I received this text:

your medical review has been completed.  We have determined you are still eligible to receive Disability Support Pension

Wow.

All this worrying about having my income cut off has been for nothing.  It just goes to show that the system isn’t quite broken yet.

I don’t know when I’ll have to worry about it again, the disability officer said they try to get them done every two years but it’s been four years since my last one.  So at worst I’ll have to go through this again in two years time but who knows, I could be ready for full time work by then.

 

Mac

A Strange Episode

I woke up this morning to the familiar sound of my fan humming but something didn’t feel right.  I opened my eyes and sat to see that I was in fact in my sister’s room, in her little single bed, not my own.  I can’t remember how I got here.  Ominous.

My dad came in.  “oh you’re awake.  Do you remember what happened last night?”

“no…”

“I think you’re on too much seroquel.  I want to go with you to your doctor’s appointment tomorrow to talk about this.”

He left me, still feeling confused and I went into my room.  The sheets had been stripped off the bed and there was a towel on the floor.  I went to take my tablets…and found that was impossible because my whole medication drawer was missing.  Someone had taken it right out of the cabinet.

The presence of the kitchen scissors on top of the cabinet gave me pause for thought.  I used these scissors to cut my seroquel, but I remembered putting them away.  Yet I got them out again.  It looks like I might have accidentally taken a double dose of seroquel.

I went downstairs and found mum with my medication drawer sitting on the kitchen bench.  She told me what happened last night from her perspective.

Mum and dad got home to find me trying to get out of my bed room but the wardrobe doorknob was jammed under the door handle so my door wouldn’t open.  My dad fixed the door from the other side and opened it to see why I was unable to do it myself and realised that I was…not awake.  Mum said “Mac, go sit on the bed”  Which I apparently did, then Mum noticed where I was standing there was a puddle.  Of urine.  I pissed myself and now I was sitting on the bed in my wet pjs.

Due to all this activity in my room I started to wake up, but I was groggy and not talking sense.  Mum found some dry pjs and sent me into the bathroom to get changed which I did.  They decided to put me to sleep in my sisters room.  As they were taking me in there, Dad said something about me being on too much seroquel and I said “oh I need to go take my seroquel” to which they both said NO!

Mum took the medication drawer because she reached the same conclusion as I had; that I had taken and accidental overdose.  She wants to keep my meds with her until they can fix me up with a Webster pack or something.

I’m not sure why but I’m surprised my parents aren’t mad at me for peeing on the floor.  I guess it wasn’t really my fault – well it kind of was, if I was more on top of my medications that wouldn’t have happened.  But still, I’m a little old to be wetting myself.  I guess what I’m feeling is embarrassment.

I will see my doctor tomorrow and Dad is either going to come with me or write a note, he hasn’t decided yet.  I’m hoping he isn’t going to try and convince her to take me off it because apart from this episode I have been sleeping well on it.

I will be back tomorrow with more.

Mac

Seroquel Update

So I’ve been on seroquel for a couple of weeks now and this is what I’ve noticed.

The main thing I was worried about was increased appetite and weight gain but to counteract that we increased my Topamax to 50mg twice a day.  That seems to have worked to a point.  Most times of the day I don’t feel increased hunger but at meal times I find I’m feeling less satisfied after I eat.  I just use some CBT and tell myself that I won’t feel satisfied no matter how much I eat and the urge passes after a while.  So far I haven’t gained any weight, even though it’s been only two weeks.

I’ve taken seroquel before and it knocked me for six every time.  I would be out straight away and wake up groggy fourteen hours later and this was just on 25mg.  I’m taking 50 now, and it takes me a little while to get to sleep and I tend to sleep for eleven hours without much hangover effect.

Normally I take my regular tablets at about six thirty like I was before and take the seroquel at eight thirty and get into bed straight after.  The first few days on it I was on my phone in bed then I had a night where I didn’t sleep at all despite taking it so I had to come to terms with the fact that I had some shitty sleep hygiene so now I just get into bed and turn the lights off without doing anything to stimulate myself

It seems that 50mg is a good dose of seroquel for me, and I seem to be getting rest on it for now.  I only hope this lasts.