‘Squiffy’ No More: Jessica’s Story (Part Two)
Trigger warning: Please consider the following trigger warning before reading this post. Mentions of addiction, alcoholism, alcohol, time in detention, and suicidal thoughts.
I’ve grown to love the stability not drinking gives me
Although I didn’t stop drinking straight away, ending up in a police cell after a night out was a cataclysmically low moment for me and part of my long stumbling journey towards rock bottom.
Hitting rock bottom, and then falling a bit further…
When I was fined for drunk and disorderly behaviour, I thought I had reached rock bottom, but unfortunately, I was wrong. There was further still to fall.
I went through a hugely stressful period at work with a long commute and an unfathomably huge workload. It was then that I started to lose my grip on reality. Little did I know, that I was experiencing psychosis, a mental health condition which is characterised by symptoms such as delusions and/or hallucinations.
I was seeing signs in the world around me, thought the TV was taking to me and that people were following me. I was acting erratically and had no idea that I was ill. Luckily, I managed to get the mental health support I so desperately needed and I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and treated for psychosis.
Although the psychosis was caused by an incredibly stressful period at work rather than my alcohol consumption, I imagine that my drinking didn’t help things. It’s common for people experiencing psychosis to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to help soothe the distressing symptoms they’re experiencing. For me, when my mental health plummeted, I tried to lose myself in alcohol. During psychosis I thought strange things such as that people were out to get me and that there were messages in music which I needed to decode. To manage these surreal feelings, I simply drank more.
Facing the truth
I’d tried to cut back on drinking more times than I could count but when I finally realised the truth, it changed everything. I was incapable of just having a few drinks and so to give up drinking, I needed to stop completely. Not a single drop would pass my lips. And so, as part of my recovery from psychosis, I went ‘cold turkey’.
Although this was fine for me personally, heavy drinkers can experience withdrawal symptoms when they give up alcohol, so if you are a heavy drinker you should talk to your GP before you give up alcohol.
I’ve read that people feel great after they give up alcohol, but I didn’t notice any major changes. It was the things that were missing that I noticed and which made me committed to giving up ‘the sauce’. I no longer had to worry that I would lose my phone or my keys or my cards. I no longer had to worry about hangovers steeped in paranoia. I no longer had to worry about friendships or relationships falling apart in one night – I had lost alcohol, but I had gained stability.
How I ‘quit the sauce’
I started reading books about getting sober long before I gave up alcohol. I read all the ones I could get my hands on and jealously flicked through the pages, wishing I could find a way to ditch the ‘booze’.
We had a rule that we would never drink in the house so this was a huge factor in helping me quit when lockdown came along. Although I understand that for many people, lockdown increased problem drinking, stopping going to the pub meant I barely drank at all.
I managed to cut down to one or two beers a week during lockdown. By this point I was desperate for stability. So I decided on March 11th to stop drinking. I marked the date on the calendar, and when I felt like having a glass of white wine or a cheeky beer, I bought fizzy drinks and sweets instead.
It’s been around eight months now since I had my last sip of alcohol. I do get cravings and we always have alcohol-free beer in the fridge for when I feel like I want a drink. I’m obsessed with soft drinks and we often have half a dozen different types in the fridge.
I’m not meant to take my antipsychotics with alcohol and relapse rates are worse for people with substance abuse issues so I’m grateful that I’ve managed to give up alcohol. When I make it to one year sober we’re going to celebrate with a cake. It’s a big milestone for me and a few years ago I would never have imagined it was possible. If you’d have told me a few years ago that I would give up alcohol, I wouldn’t have even laughed – I would have thought you had lost touch with reality!
I do sometimes feel like I’m missing out, we spend our Friday nights in front of the TV now instead of at a bar. But I’ve grown to love the stability not drinking gives me. As an added bonus, my sleep pattern is more stable now too.
Finding the silver lining
In a way psychosis, which was a truly terrible thing to go through, and the change in lifestyle I went through as part of recovery, helped me giving up drinking altogether. So even through it was an awful experience, I’m so grateful that I was able to give up alcohol and hope I manage to get through the rest of my life without touching a drop.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to cut down or stop drinking it would be that you can do it! I believe in you! It’s definitely worth it in the long run. Plus, alcohol-free beer tastes divine with a slice of lime.
This blog is part of a two-part series. Don’t forget to read part one.
A huge thank you to Jessica for her thoughtful, emotive and incredibly personable piece on psychosis and giving up alcohol.
Posted on: 20th December 2021