Tuesday, 26 April 2016

40 days no alcohol....

As I move to day 40 without alcohol, is there any difference from day 30?

A few:
My weight has stopped dropping, stabilised at 13st 12lb and I know I'm eating less as a result of not drinking. I've improved my water intake, so don't feel as tired when I wake up, but I'd still like more improvement there. Best thing of all is my blood pressure which on average is around 115/70, bang in the middle of what is considered average. Two months ago I'd have come in around 135/85 which is not bad, but a little high.
I feel good in myself, which is surprising considering it hits nearly 40 every day in Bangkok and I'm still trying to fill my days with interesting stuff. I don't have the same desire for a beer/wine as I did, the BBC programme 'Drinking to Oblivion' from Louis Theroux helped cement that. If you haven't watched it then please do!

Can I answer the big question yet? Will I start drinking after the 90 day mark? No I can't, but I can say that I'll never go back to what I was. I've seen a clearer better life beyond the cloud; I'm enjoying it.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

I was 12 when I died...

I met Susan in Bangkok soon after I moved here, she's helped many people through transition at the end of life. It's not a job you see advertised anywhere, and I guess you're just lucky if you know someone like that when it's your turn. We started talking about death because we had both died and come back, and even though the circumstances were different, the experience had striking similarities. 

I was twelve when I died.

My Mother had sent me to the local swimming pool with Ena, a girl a few years older, who was going to look after me. I'd never seen a public swimming pool before or any large expanse of water with people in it. I got changed in the men's room, and Ena told me she'd meet me by the side of the pool. When I came out the pool was packed, chaotic, with people diving and splashing everywhere. I didn't know what it was to 'tread water', all I knew was that one end of the pool had a lot less people in, and it couldn't be very deep because smaller kids than me had their heads above water. 

I jumped in! I remember holding my breath as long as I could, and I could see all the feet kicking in the water above me, but the shock alone caused me to inhale very quickly. When you inhale water, it's not like when you drink water and it goes down the wrong way, and you cough and splutter until you're clear. You start to breath the water, like it's thick air, like you're back in the womb I guess. I wasn't panicking, it was really peaceful, but over several minutes, I was slowly drifting into unconsciousness. The feeling was serene, peaceful, beautiful and yes, even at 12, my life started to 'flash before me'. Maybe when you're older, it takes longer to drown? 

Drowning is a great way to go if you want to end it all, take my word, but be sure, because you don't want to go through revival, which is what happened next. Apparently, someone saw me, lifeless at the bottom of the pool, and everyone started screaming, like I was a shark! The lifeguard pulled me out, dumped me on the edge of the pool and then started what lifeguards are there for, saving my life, bringing me back. First he pumped as much water out as he could before starting on my heart, and at first there was no response. After what he described as 'ages', I exploded, gasping for air, filling my pants and struggling to fight everyone off until I could be calmed. Coming back was far worse than dying, that's for sure.

So it was when Susan said at the end of a recent article..."living is the tough stuff, dying is easier", I was prompted to share that experience.


I'd also like to share what Susan said, when describing being with someone who is nearing their end in this life...

"One thing I have learned is, you never know quite what you'd do until you get there. Plus, what your family, friends, or medics expect from you. Also, how you'd react if it were your loved one. For myself, I'd like to think that I'd take the least invasive route, meaning no intervention as much as possible, plus as much pain meds, comfort, whiskey, and irreverence, fun, and loving time together. The people I transition with are not all Christians, some have faith to go, others do not...we are all different. What I find very important is to respect people's rights to live and to die as they feel best. Also, supporting, loving, and caring as they make their choices, which often change along the way. There is loss, grief, even horror when you see people truly suffer. Life and death can be messy, but they can be more than equally beautiful. It's raw, it's real, it's amazing....you have no idea until you've cleaned up endless vomit, shit, body fluids, tears, fears, anger, pain, regrets, and come to a place of love, joy, peace and absolute beauty....but yes, myself, having died already, I know living is the tough stuff, dying is easier, or was for me. I long for that place again, but I love life, and hold onto it while I have the gift of it..."

Friday, 15 April 2016

No alcohol for 4 weeks...how's it going?

Before I started, I studied, even wrote down, how a drinker (me) feels at different points of the day. 
I never had a desire to drink during the day, as it made me sleepy, but evenings were different. Between 6-9 pm really, I guess I though of it as some sort of reward. For what? It didn't matter! If I'd had a good day, a bad day, there's always a reason to sit down and have that drink. Did I enjoy it? Yes! Can't say the taste of wine or beer ever appealed to me, and I rarely drank spirits, it was the buzz and the social habit that hooked me. Take any TV action thriller, courtroom drama, whatever, drink flows throughout; as it does through our culture. We grew up with it and it's traditionally used to celebrate every event, be that a wedding, christening or funeral. St Patrick's Day this year, I was a guest of the St Patrick's Society in Bangkok and what a great night out. It was 'normal' for people to be laying on the floor semi-conscious at the end, and they would be tomorrow's 'heroes' in the office. The Thai wait-on staff may have been traumatised, in a state of shock, but oh not I. I've been there, done that, felt the pain next day; haven't you?

4 weeks in, and it's a lot easier than the first two. Because I was addicted? No, because if I had been, I don't think I'd have made it past day two. I've never been an alcoholic, I think that some people are just more prone to that than others. I've known light drinkers who simply couldn't do without the daily fix, and heavy drinkers that could stop for weeks. There seems to be no fast rule. 

Physically I feel great, I've lost 6 pounds and that bloated feeling has gone. I'm sharper and have a clear head all day, not living in 'the cloud' that all drinkers are in, a mist that they're blissfully unaware of. 
How thick is that mist? After week one, I thought I could see the edge, the 'light', if you like. But as each week passes, I realise that there's always a bright edge and I look forward, probably nearer the end of my 90 days, to coming out into the clear and 'looking back at the cloud', as others have described. 
After initial constipation, my motions are fine and regular, with a consistency, smell and colour of the perfect poo! No getting up to the toilet and breaking my sleep anymore, the habitual glass of water by the bed no longer needed. No sweats at night, which in a Bangkok summer is a miracle in itself. An MRI scan a few years back showed a trapped nerve which caused back pain, but that's gone. A dental crown fell out, maybe unrelated, who knows. I don't wear reading glasses anymore, my hearing is sharper and I get massive erections, but that's all in my dreams.
Sleep is a worry! It's so heavy now, and I dream a lot, even remembering my dreams, which is new to me. When I wake in the morning I feel like I've been drugged, and it takes me 10 minutes to 'switch on'. I wonder if that'll change, it's not a big deal but I thought I might feel more alert first thing.

Mentally, I'm not sure! I need to swim further into the 90 days, then experience what others have before I decide if I'm a, 'non-drinker'.  Reading the stories and updates from One Year No Beer has been an amazing support on this journey, and where as I think I could have done it without them, it would have been a far lonelier place.

My guess is I will drink occasionally, but never go back to the daily ritual, which was always a health worry and I didn't enjoy. I don't miss going to the supermarket and handing over all that money, which often came to more than the cost of my food. I don't miss going to the weekly bottle bank, hearing all those empties screaming as they slid from my bag! I laugh watching films, noticing the importance given to drink in every day life, which of course it used to be with cigarettes. My earliest memories include my mother smoking and me thinking how stupid that was; she died of it! I don't look at drinkers that way yet, but will that change?

Why the 90 day challenge? Anyone can give up drink for a week, a bad hangover's good enough to keep you off the bottle for days, but I wanted to feel how a 'non-drinker' felt. 
I want to meet part of me, a part I haven't known for 50 years.