My psychiatrist is a smart doctor. But she—as many in mental health care—tends to see some afflictions through textbook training.
It is rather difficult to get into the deep places of those suffering from mental disorders or addiction. How can a doctor get to really know a patient over, what, a year or two of treatment?
I have been in and out of treatment for over a dozen years—hospitals, psych-wards, detoxes, one-on-one therapy, group therapy, generic and specialized therapy, neuro-feedback and electro-shock. A few doctors I have met over the years were very good—a few. Most were mediocre. And a few were really bad (ultimately doing more harm than good).
When a sufferer—alcoholic, addict, dual-diag, whatever—starts seeing a doctor, that doctor can only use her education & training and experiences with other patients to evaluate and get to know the sufferer.
“An alcoholic,” my doctor was saying to me last week, “has this ‘anticipation’ when passing a bar, liquor store—an addict is similar when nearing a dealer. And this anticipation, the contemplation of using, making the steps toward using, is exciting and sometimes more of a rush than actually using—as using can tend to make you sick.”
This may be true for many—hence this is a textbook definition. (And as someone who was hooked on the needle for quite some time, I can attest to this ‘anticipatory rush’ every time I see a needle.)
However, as an alcoholic, I never had a feeling of excitement before use. Alcohol was—by the time I started drinking excessively in isolation for years—and still is, and ends to a means, in that alcohol is to me a medication, not a “high.”
The urge to drink is an urge to calm down, to still my brain, to stop my mind, to lessen my pain that is my panic disorder. Alcohol does what no other medication has ever done—it makes my fear go away.
As an alcoholic, though, whenever my intoxication level passes a certain point, I lose control, I black out, I do stupid, asshole things—I hurt myself, I hurt my friends, I crash my car, I wake up in jail. Alcohol has wreaked havoc in my life—I have lost all friends and family, I have lost tens of thousands of dollars. I am disabled and can not work.
Yet, I still drink.
A few days after hearing my doctor speak of “excitement” of walking into liquor store, I did just that—I walked into a liquor store. I walked past the long shelves of bottles and bottles of booze of all kinds. I felt sick to my stomach. I was nauseous. I was scared.
I was scared as I thought about going into the store. I was scared as I opened the door to the store. I was shaking, my heart pounding. And then I was sick to my stomach as I was barely able to speak to the worker saying that I wanted “a pint—half-pint, of… um… tequila… Cuervo…” I stuttered the words.
That half-pint stuck in my back pack gurgled all the way home on the bus. I was sure everyone could hear it, knowing that I was an alcoholic with the poison in my pack. I could not look anyone in the eye. I scurried home like I was some degenerate—and I was.
It took a while before I had the courage to drink. The pain and fear was overwhelming before I drank from the bottle. And I immediately gagged. Not even able to swallow it fully, I puked. I knew this might happen so I was standing over the kitchen sink.
The entire time from thought to puking was a horror show. There is no excitement in any of this. No pleasure at all. It is all suffering.
But if I can keep the booze down!
Like I said, alcohol lessens my body’s panic-pain, stills my paranoid thoughts and the dark visions in my head.
But it is a double edged sword, this medicine, for it has awful side-effects.
And it is the remembering of those side-effects that makes the thinking and going for alcohol a horrible journey, not an exciting one.