"This is the first part of an article published in the South African Mens Health magazine. Possible Family Addiction and Alcohol and those Symptoms of Anxiety Depression nearly caused my total disentegration. It caused quite a stir. It has been some time since I posted it on the blog. Have a read and it will give you an idea of my motivation in writing this blog. Not pretty but true."
How much abuse can your body take? Drunk and Depressed this is one man's journey to the depths of alcohol addiction, and what it took for him to overcome it.
Friday, 17 March 2000. D-day and the sun was shining in Margate. My bedside clock said 5.15am and I was fully awake. Addiction of the mind and body was killing me slowly. The night had passed like so many others in the last few months. Hours had gone by with me tossing and turning, waiting for dawn. I must've fallen into a deep sleep at some stage though, and was awoken with the sounds of the neighbourhood coming to life. Anxiety Depression Symptoms were taking their toll. To say that I felt shit would be an understatement. My head, stomach and body in general seemed to be on their own mission, outside of my control. Experience had taught me to let the new day slowly sink in as I was in no state to do anything else. Margate was in the middle of a hot and balmy summer and my body was covered in sweat. Nausea overwhelmed me and my vision blurred. Like everyone I had suffered illness in my lifetime, but this took the cake. How could one man feel so bad and yet still be alive? All I knew was that I had another day to get through as best as I could. Closing my eyes it took a lot of mental strength to bring myself to face up to the reality of the position I had ended up in on this day. Today was the BIG day: a day which, according to everybody in my life, was going to end all this hassle. The only thing was, I wasn't so convinced. Margate Private Hospital awaited me at 5pm and 12 hours was a long time for somebody like me.
Luckily relief was only an arm's length away in the form of beer. An alkie always makes a plan. Rows and rows of empty beer bottles filled the space between my bed and the window, the evidence of weeks of drinking. There must have been 200 to 300 empty dops (drinks) neatly lined up. Retreating to my bedroom was one of my actions to try and cover up the problem. More importantly though, I always had access to the stuff at any time, day or night. Next to the bed were a few unopened ones which would see me through until I had to make my way to the office attached to my house. I reached over and grabbed a bottle and in a swift, practiced motion twisted off the top. Sitting up in the bed I put the beer to my lips and started to drink. It tasted like mother's milk and two long gulps made short work of it. The effect was immediate. It had only been a couple of hours since my last drink, but even that short period of time had devastated my body. The very act of using alcohol seemed to relax both my body and troubled spirit. This was my own miracle cure. Not a popular choice, but bloody effective in my opinion. Putting the empty bottle back on the floor I returned to my resting position on the bed. The booze surged through my entire body I closed my eyes and savoured the moment. The power of this damn stuff never failed to amaze me. A few minutes were all I needed to start to feel almost human again. The nausea and terrible weakness that had gripped me from the instant I awoke lessened and my mind responded with silent and grateful thanks. Breakfast for Alan with a capital B!My room alone was enough to drive anybody to drink. I called it the Hole in Hell. The stench of human filth and stale beer was overwhelming. Who could blame Mary, my wife, for moving out. I spent my time alone on a double bed, King of a castle that nobody in their right mind would be caught in, made tolerable for me by a habit that had driven me here to start with. Was I bitter, angry, resentful? Not any more. Those were questions for which I had no answers. Could I blame somebody or something for this? Probably. My mother, my wife, my boss, my neighbour. What the heck how about the guy in the bottle store? Now there was a good target. A few more drinks and maybe I'd storm in and punch his lights out. That made me smile.Anyway, enough pondering and time for another beer. If I was going to make it to the hospital I had to get seriously tanked up. The second beer went down like the first, quickly and gratefully received.
A few weeks earlier I would have got up after a couple of dops and gone through to the office. At least then I had access to cold beers from the fridge. Even an alcoholic is fussy and I drank warm ones only as a matter of convenience or desperation. Unfortunately I now had to pace myself during the day as I was feeling extremely weak all the time. My business only opened at 8am and I had only 20 metres to stumble to work. I tried to stay out of the way in the bedroom until I ran out of liquor and was forced to replenish my supplies from the fridge.For some reason the third beer of the day had lately taken on its own life and had become my 'Head in the Toilet Bowl' beer. My body had reached the end of its tolerance to the huge amount of booze that I was pouring into it. The third beer would force me to the toilet where I'd throw up everything I'd consumed. This normally left me lifeless on the floor, wondering what had hit me. Addiction of the mind and my anxiety depression symptoms were squeezing the life out of me. Drunk and disorientated I was like a child. Sometimes Mary would hear the noise and come to help me. Alcohol and a potential Family Addiction had reduced me to the lowest form of life. She invariably found a broken man lying on the floor.
The Doc had spelt it out: "You're killing yourself Alan. Read my lips: your liver has had enough." Lying on the bed waiting for the third beer to not let me down, it occurred to me that a lot of well-meaning people had expressed their views about me and I had ignored all of them. Mary, my parents, brother, sister, friends, business colleagues, doctors, psychologists. Even strangers had had their say. The anger welled up inside. This was one part of Alan Butterworth gone horribly wrong. I never asked to be awake at six on a lovely Margate morning, waiting to be sick and craving something other people took for granted. It happened. I was not looking to blame, only to survive. I wanted to scream out loud that I was not that bad. I wanted to tell the world to forgive me, not condemn me all the time. For God's sake, I could be you. Or worse, you could be me.My pity-party was interrupted by a sudden need to rush to the toilet. I made it in time for once and vomited into the bowl. It was definitely getting worse and once again I ended up sitting on the bathroom floor wiping my face.
Many times I didn't make it and had to throw up wherever I was standing. I struggled back to the bed and waited for the attack to pass.I was in no doubt that the average alkie spent a lot more time dwelling on the problem than was apparent to an outsider. We've all passed the guy in the street motherless on booze, or we know some guy in the office who seems drunk all the time.
Let me tell you a secret: those very same people probably spend a whole lot of their day scheming and dreaming a way out of their living hell. But as much as I would have liked to lie on my bed and scheme the day away, my personal demon was not going to allow that. It was time to get up. Getting dressed was no problem simply because I had not changed my clothes for six weeks, and slept in them as well. My shoes were old slip-ons which presented no hassles. The trick was to get up and get moving. Twenty metres to the office with a quick stop-over at the fridge for a cold beer, then into my seat in the office. Once there the world was my oyster.My days of secret drinking had ended months earlier so I wasn't worried about Mary surprising me. I drank as necessary now and piled the empties on my desk.
Only later would the thought occur to me about the damage I was doing the business. No doubt countless people had wandered in and been horrified at the sight of pile of empty bottles and the wreck slumped in his chair. Not that the wreck gave a damn. There were more important things to attend to, like keeping the demon happy and the beers flowing.The fourth beer broke my chain of thought and I polished it off in one long gulp. What a great invention the fridge was. I was safe and satisfied as the liquid surged through me and calmed my mind and body. Mother's milk with a 5.5 percent alcohol content. My very own prescription, repeated whenever I felt the need. I even had my own barometer of how I felt. When I woke up this morning I would be at about two out of 10. Now I think I had hit about five. The best deal was sleep. It gave me a six or seven. The average? Probably about four.This part of the day was my best time, alone in the office for at least an hour. In my bedroom I was always asleep or feeling bad. Here, after a few drinks I could sit back and relax with no pressure. No contact with people meant no hassles. No questions and no answers to be given. Only me, my thoughts and my beers.
All that would change at 8am as Alan Butterworth Estates kicked into life. On a busy day a number of people could pass through the doors. For weeks I had been unable to cope with demands and requests that had not been a problem before. Paranoia had crept into my psyche and I could feel people looking through me. To those who had known me for some time I must have been a real shock. The downfall of a respectable and well-known local businessman before their very eyes.
Mary and I had started in 1994 with absolutely nothing and built up a good business. The office was full of the memories of those days. The walls were covered in house plans, advertising, signs etc, all portraying a thriving and interesting profession. How the hell was I able to put that all together and yet fall so far? I had no idea how the business was doing. We appeared busy every day but I had zero interest in it. I found more solace from the beer in my hand and those moments when I was alone with my thoughts. Those times gave me my lift in life. I needed it. Addiction of my mind and body had brought me to the end of the road. The background noises in the office seemed to intensify and as usual I was beginning to feel that the walls were closing in on me. There was half a beer left and I lit another smoke. I was more or less sure that I had talked to Mary about going out to get some clothes for the hospital for my grand entrance. I had worn out all my clothes. I had also developed severe fears about washing them, as well as myself, and the drinking problem had not made that any easier to treat. I was finally reaching a stage where Alcohol and my Symptoms of Anxiety Depression had reduced me to Psychotic and Drunk and out of control. I once heard that my Grandfathers took to the devil Alcohol and maybe I was following in that great Family Addiction Tradition.
The conclusion to this saga of despair can be found at my posting Unhappy Hour-A Story of Alcohol and Alcoholism.
Also please have a look at these Posts relating to My Own Alcoholism/Depression and Addiction Recovery -
Drug Rehabs/Alcoholic Treatment Centers.....or Not??????
My 1 to 10 Scale of Misery for Alcoholism and Depression