Liquid Courage and Tablet Saviors : 30 Days of Truth

Day 20 : Your views on drugs and alcohol.

“Drugs are bad, m’kay?”

Or are they?

There is this long, Nancy Reagan-induced diatribe about the dangers and evil of illegal drugsSay no to drugs.  This is your brain on drugs.  The war on drugs.  Above the influence.  Don’t drink and drive.  Prom promise.  Those of us that are Reagan babies and older, through the boomers, are well aware of the presence and negative consequences of drugs and alcohol.   And despite the heavy dialogue, many people have personally experienced their own battle with substance abuse and dependence.

Alcohol had torn my life apart at the seams.  As with any addiction, it starts off as a recreational activity.  It’s a part of popular culture, especially in the younger age groups.  In my youth, drinking was cool.  Truthfully, it was a fun escape from the drudgery of daily life.  That was at seventeen.  Within a year, I started to find solace at the bottom of a bottle.  Coincidentally, that was the same year Smile Empty Soul sang:

I do it for the drugs.

I do it just to feel alive.

I do it for the love that I get from the bottom of a bottle.

Bottom of a Bottle – Smile Empty Soul

By the time I was in college, I was seeking out opportunities and excuses to drink.  A set of rules existed which meant to separate alcoholics, the loathsome bunch that we perceived people like our own parents to be, and recreational drinkers.

  1. Never drink before 5PM.
  2. Never drink alone.
  3. Never drink without occasion.
  4. Don’t drink before or during work or school.

As I gained my own freedom with my own apartment, the rules started to change.  In private, I could do what I liked.  I could deny everything and anything when I failed to be under the limelight of public scrutiny.  I began to use alcohol as more than a crutch; I started to abuse it completely as a coping mechanism.  That’s when alcohol and I started our sordid love affair.

The environment in my private life began to change.  I have spoken about it many times in various posts like Decent into Hell where I described my addiction as:

The last days of that relationship are blurry; my memories are obscured by the drugs and alcohol intoxicating my mind.  The days blended together in a ritualistic, self-medicated loop, work.drink.sleep.work.drink.sleep.sleep.drink.sleep… suspended in agonizing slow motion.  The silence was deafening in the deep, dark hours of night, still, cold, indifferent.

I had become a functional alcoholic.  I never drank before 5PM.  There was always an occasion, even if it was a day ending in “Y”.  And I certainly was not without company to share in my intoxicated merriment.  But there is a solid difference.  Every waking moment I did not spend at work was with a glass or a bottle in my fist.  I had gone far beyond the point of mixers, and mostly beyond the need for glasses.  It was me, a bottle of Bacardi 151 sans the filter, and a bottle of Gatorade to chase.

I wrote in Love the Way You Lie:

At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root.  I violated my own rules of drinking.  It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!  I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend.  Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover.  If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.

Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.

It has always been my vice, and holds the looming, unending threat to assume control and ruin my life. In another 30 Days of Truth piece entitled, Control, or Lack Thereof, I went into a full exploration of recent recreational alcohol use and the negative impact it created in my life.

Flip that coin.

Drugs have revolutionized my life.

People neglect to realize that they are consuming legal drugs daily.  It becomes painfully obvious when you sigh over exorbitant copays at the pharmacy counter, like many people with mental health disorders often do.  But, instead of calling them “drugs”, we call them “medications”.  Did you know that Wellbutrin technically has the same chemical composition of a methamphetamine?  And that benzodiazepines work on the same receptors in the brain as alcohol?

So here I am, with my uppers to wake me in the morning, and my downers to put me to bed at night.  It would be illegal and detestable if I were using meth and boozing away.  Instead, it’s under the supervision of a doctor, as a controlled substance, in a convenient little pill.  Don’t get the wrong idea.  I am only likening the effects.  The supervision of the doctor is safer, and the medications are regulated by the FDA.  And as a result, I have most of my functioning back.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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With or Without You : 30 Days of Truth

Day 15 : Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.

Most people would prefer to choose a certain special someone or an object to contain all of their affections.  Though my relationship with this is troubled, I have found it to be impossible to live without it.  Even if it’s so hard to live with it.

Medication.

I have made the attempt several times in my life to live without psychiatric medication.  My first was a psychiatric evaluation when I was thirteen, and I refused treatment.  What thirteen year old has the intense desire for repeated therapy visits and pesky medicine?  As a direct result, my symptoms progressed, and I wound up my own cutting board.  When it became concerning, no one was willing to take me back for actual treatment.  Instead, I unnecessarily suffered until I humiliatingly revealed myself and my wounds to an outsider.

The next time was in my late teens.  After being medicated for nearly five years with no result, I was ready to give up on $60 co-pays for a medication that just gave me heroin-like withdrawal symptoms when I forgot to take it.  (That was also the first time I became strongly inclined to start carrying medication on me in clever, cute containers).  I spent a gratuitous amount of time on weekends in a different county, an hour away from my home.  The bus services were shoddy at best, and if I forgot to take my medicine on Friday, then by Sunday morning, I was violently shaking and vomiting in front of my relatively new boyfriend.

This new boyfriend, Avi, convinced me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.  The medication was doing more damage to me than good.  It was a waste of time and money.  Psychiatry was a joke and a con for cash.  It would be in my best interest to get off of the medication.

The funniest thing about that was the fact that I became irreconcilably depressed when I weaned myself from the Lexapro, an SSRI.  I required way more than my typical six hours of sleep.  I could no longer party until dawn.  And mostly, my only desire was to scream and cry my eyes out.  After you’ve been hypomanic for so many years, having a crash like that was epic.  Coincidentally, it coincided with the very first cliff fall in our torturous relationship.

And resulting in that choice, I developed functional alcoholism prior to the legal drinking age in the United States.  It took several abusers, victimization, abject poverty, and becoming an abuser to take me down into the depths of a bottle.

I found that I had even given up on self-medication.  When Xan and I got together, it became obvious that he suspected I suffered from addiction.  Though our relationship was certainly not new, our courtship was brand new.  In order to not put him off, and make a show of my own self-control, I slowly ditched the bottle.  I was so addicted that I found I had to be intoxicated to make love to him.  At least a little.

A few years later, I started treatment.  I had managed to remain sober, however, I had completely lost control of myself.  Several months into treatment, I ran into every medicated person’s greatest fear.  My medical coverage was eliminated.  Every pharmacy reported the same thing; Lamictal costs a fortune, and if I can’t afford COBRA, then I sure as hell cannot pay for it from pocket.  I found myself soliciting every pharmacy within a 10 mile radius for assistance.  Finally, one came through for me.  But, not before I suffered cruel withdrawal symptoms.

A similar withdrawal happened over a holiday.  I was unable to see my Pdoc before Christmas, and he had taken vacation through the New Year.  The office had a policy not to call in medications, so I had to make an appointment to go in.  Catch 22.  For four days, I laid there writhing in bed.  Xan took charge, and I had a refill that same day.

The very last time was one of my own poor choices.  That is exactly what mania does – it gets your hooks into you and tells you dirty little lies.  I had decided to attempt to wean myself from medication slowly so that I could prepare to attempt pregnancy.  I did so alone.  Instead of consulting a doctor, I went ahead.  And instead of getting off of medications, I had psychotic breaks the likes of which I have never been remotely acquainted with.  The result was more medication and a lesser likelihood of having a second child.

I have been without by force, by accident, by coercion, and of my own volition.  Like it or not, I cannot live without medication.

Control, or Lack Thereof : 30 Days of Truth

Day 12 : Something you never get compliments on.

One of my more recent posts eluded to a crisis in my life.  I haven’t revealed it yet, because in all truth, I am rather ashamed of some of the realities of my life.  In personal writing lately, a rambling piece entitled “Write it Out, Right it Out“, I went on say:

I’ve always been caught in my own world of the mindf***, you know? And when I’m drunk, I am more susceptible to mindf***ery. I don’t like it. I start to lose grasp on my reality, and sometimes it disappears completely – my grasp, that is.

I have made references to my alcoholism in the past, but never with much detail or emphasis.  I neglected to mention that alcoholism is a real part of my present, mainly because I didn’t consider recreational drinking to fall under that category.  I was sorely mistaken.  I wrote to a friend:

Somewhere along the way, I stopped taking substance abuse seriously, like it wasn’t a fact in my life. I’m going to guess that mania had a little to do with it. Like I was above it all because I had gotten away with it.

And another in the same piece, “Write it Out, Right it Out”:

I don’t think I actually believed myself when I have described the seriousness of my alcoholism in my past. Or maybe I thought that it was somehow different, because this is a different situation. Or maybe I thought I was just too young and immature to handle myself.

The fact of the matter is this.  I have been suffering from terrible alcoholism from the age of 19.  At the age of 17, I took up drinking as a recreational activity.  When life events sent me into a tailspin, I spent the last six months of my 18th year in a state of perpetual intoxication.  By the time I was 19, alcohol was a regular fixture in my life, and was a part of every recreational activity.  Finally, it progressed the point of functional alcoholism by the time I was 21.  I described it to a friend as:

Except, I know that there was two years that I spent drunk every single night. I made excuses, like friends and parties, but I would drink by myself. I remember there were nights I’d drink until 4am, and have my boss call me at 6:30am to ask where the hell I was.

During the two years, I had a solid schedule. Wake up at 2pm, leave for work at 2:30pm, work three to nine, drink and eat nine thirty to four or six in the morning, and do it again. I had even devised strategies to avoid vicious hangovers and physical withdrawal. Occasionally, I would venture out with a bottle in my purse, just in case there wasn’t any alcohol where I was going.

Since my son was born, there have only been a handful of what I consider to be benders, which were periods of time where I would invent a reason to have friends over for drinks.  I never intended on getting wasted, and I usually didn’t.  But, there were occasions.  Some relatively benign, ending with me waking up with a vicious hangover and swearing off alcohol entirely for awhile.  Others, they ended disastrously with an altercation, and I would find myself resolving the situation by dumping all of the booze down the drain, with a certain satisfaction at my self-restraint and determination.

Here’s the truth.  I never get complimented on my resolve.  Because, everyone knows that I will always go back to the same old, same old.  No matter how much I appear to change.

I am not always forthcoming about my weaknesses, especially the ones that spark shame.  I am embarrassed by my lack of self-control, especially in matters that are extremely frowned upon.  There are a lot of bad character traits that I can identify, and openly and honestly admit to.  However, lack of self-control is not one of them.  I’ve never considered myself as impulsive, and people often view it as immature and juvenile.  I have always considered myself to be mature and responsible, with certain exceptions, like during college, because impulsive actions and lack of restraint were commonplace, and socially accepted.

Many can argue that impulsivity is not necessarily a character trait of mine, rather, a feature of Bipolar Disorder.  Maybe that is true, because there really was a brief period in my childhood that I recall being very responsible, consistent, and mindful.  And yet, there are still incidents that I recall as being not well thought out before execution.  A condition of childhood?  Maybe.  Facet of personality or symptom of psychological disorder, it stands as probably the weakest trait I have.

Love the Way You Lie : 30 Days of Truth

Day 3 : Something you have to forgive yourself for.

Mutually Abusive Relationships
There is practically no literature on the subject of mutually abusive relationships, as this is only a recently recognized phenomenon.  While professionals, such as Dawn Bradley Berry, J. D. acknowledge that it occurs, few can agree on whether it was mutual in nature.

The dynamics of abusive relationships are significantly more complex than professionals seem to think.  In decades prior, society bred women to be docile, obedient, and complacent.  Most research reflects that in abusive relationships.  The man “attacks”, and the woman is “victimized”.

Unquestionably, that is precisely the manner abuse presented itself in my relationship prior to this one.  It began innocuously with casual criticisms and negative remarks.  A person is inclined to believe that a loved one only means the best, even if the words sting.  There was hardly a second thought toward the words.  Eventually, they grew into berating remarks, lambasting lectures, and generalized nitpicking over every action, behavior, expression, inaction, word, thought, emotion . . .

By then, I was already convinced that these heinous contortions were the embodiment of what I truly was.  I was already manipulated into believing I had been delusional about my own nature to begin with.  It was like being in a house of mirrors.  Every reflection revealed a new flaw.

But, a miniscule portion of my consciousness spotted the cracks all along.  It seemed I was not entirely convinced that this was the absolute truth.  Contradictions existed at everywhere in this fun house.  How was it possible that I was so stupid when my grade point average was far above his?  If I was such a flawed, inadequate, and vile person, why did I have so many faithful, loving friends?

At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root.  I violated my own rules of drinking.  It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!  I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend.  Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover.  If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.

Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.

Naturally, I engaged the fire breathing dragon with my own fire.  Raw throat from screaming for hours, until one of us locked the other out, or I started packing a bag.  I was attempting to turn his own game right around on him.  The problem is that he was the gamemaster, and I was just a pawn.  I was always the pawn.  He could play me against me, and change the rules at will.

It was common knowledge. I would never leave.  I was already too terrified of the potential consequences.  Besides, all of my money was tied up in that apartment.  We had acquired a sizable amount of mutual property.  I was unwilling to sacrifice all of my gains, my gains, because I paid for them, to someone else.

Next, we moved into the isolation stage.  Suddenly, all of my girl friends were whores and my male friends wanted to get into my pants.  Your friends are a reflection of who you are.  No wonder you’re a completely stupid whore.  A drop of truth existed.  One of my closest friends was a teen mom, a stripper, and into drugs.  I didn’t see a whole lot wrong there.  She had a good heart, despite her mistakes.  But. . . maybe I was wrong.

We graduated college, lost our apartment, and moved onto some family property.  This was the turning point.  Here, we were completely alone.

I was a victim as much as I was an abuser.

It is one of the most difficult realities I have to face.

Prior to that point, I had never laid my hands on anyone with malicious intent.  And truthfully, I can’t pinpoint where it began.  Being in a perpetual state of inebriation has likely damaged that portion of my memory to beyond retrievable.  I can only recall certain events.  But, my mind will never be able to purge itself of the horror, guilt, rage, terror, hurt, and animosity I felt.

He started abusing me first.  Again, it started innocently enough with playful roughhousing that usually got out of hand.  Eventually, it turned into vulgar, degrading, often coerced, dangerously rough sex.  Then, it finally graduated to domestic life.  The transitions were so smooth that it was too hard to distinguish in the house of mirrors.  Sometimes you need to be put in your place.  You don’t know what’s good for you.

I became the monster that I loathed.  I was an animal, trapped in a cage, and emotionally, verbally, and now physically beaten for mistakes.  Sometimes, it was events that were beyond my control.  And, I gave in to my natural instincts.  I started fighting back.

I wanted him to feel the pain he inflicted upon me.

I recall a specific incident, the worst of them all.  We were drinking and playing World of Warcraft.  He was highly competitive, and I was entirely defensive.  As usual, he had remarks on my lack of skill and inadequacy in the team.  I started back in on him.  There was a back and forth that eventually provoked me to get up in his face.  He saw me coming and hit me in the face with a CAT5 cord.  The cord slashed my face and the connector rendered my right eye useless.

I pounced, but he knocked me flat on my back, with his foot on my chest.  He commanded, “You stay down there!”  I wrested myself free and attempted to get on my feet, only to be knocked flat and pinned again.  “Stay on the f***ing floor!“  Once more.  “I thought I f***ing told you to lay on the f***ing floor!”

I couldn’t free myself this time, and I angrily searched the floor for something, anything.  I grabbed a discarded vodka bottle and hurled with all of my strength at his head.  He jerked to dodge the impact, and I got to my feet.  I stared at him defiantly with my mouth twisted into a snarl.

“What the f*** do you think you’re doing?!  You could have f***ing killed me, you stupid b****!”

“I’m sorry I didn’t!”

He came at me, but I lunged for him, tackling him to the floor. I began mercilessly wailing on him as he antagonized me, “Is that all you got?! A fly could do more damage!” I slapped him across the face so hard that my red handprint swelled on his cheek.

He threw me off of him, but I was still in pursuit. My cheek burned, my eye puffed shut, and my rage incinerated every last shred of humanity that remained. I grabbed him by his shirt before he made it to the front door. He shoved me, but I remained latched to him.

“I’m leaving you, you crazy b****!”

“Take this with you!”, I spit at him and sunk my teeth into the flesh over his heart. He picked me up by my throat, viciously thrust me to the floor, and slammed the door. I laid there, coughing and gasping to regain my breath.

That wasn’t the end. The end didn’t come for nearly another year. And in that year, incidents such as these were commonplace. I could not legitimately claim victimization. I shared equal fault for the escalation of the abuse that occurred. Despite any trauma I have suffered, I am responsible for another person’s trauma.

That alone hinders healing.  Most of the world will never see themselves in that light.  I have more than glanced at the monster in the mirror.  I became it.  I abhor all parties involved in each and every single last act.  Including myself.  How could I possible forgive myself for such atrocities that I committed when I have personally felt the pain they inflict?