In July 2011, I weighed 278 lbs. On Mar 12, 2013 I made the decision to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This was my journey. Now I'm a recovering alcoholic, this is my new journey. I'm still running a marathon, just a different type.
As I write this blog I’m still going through changes with my new life of sobriety. I don’t know if anyone in the blogosphere have had any experience with this change, but thought I’d relate mine to you.
My biggest problem is sleep. Probably because I’d use alcohol to put me to sleep for many years. My issue is I wake up 6 – 8 times a night. I can’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time and sometimes much less.
There’s and app for that
I created an app so I could track the amount of times I wake up as by morning I don’t want to “feel” I woke up a lot during the night and perhaps it was just a perception. Below is last night’s sleep and wake times. The hours on the right are the amount of hours from when I woke the last time to the point I woke the next time.
As you can see, I didn’t have good sleep last night.
I wonder if this is due to my drinking at night for 6 years straight or something else. My family doctor prescribed me some sleep meds, but as you can see, they didn’t seem to help last night.
Sleep isn’t everything, but it is important, it also is needed for a productive day.
Know that I have no complaints, but just some questions. I have a great life and leave soon for a trip to visit a friend for a few days. I probably won’t write while there, but if I have time I will.
What can I say! I was not even closely prepared for what I was about to experience. I assume others might have been better prepared; but I had to just run into this head first, so that I wouldn’t change my mind. It was shocking to me at the beginning, and such a blessing to me at the end.
6:00am – My friend and coworker picked me up to make the 3.5 hour drive to the hospital. Fortunately, we had an office nearby the hospital and he had some work to do there, so it worked out well. It was an uneventful drive.
10:45am – We arrived at the hospital. People from work had gotten me 2 bags full of things like games, puzzles, toys, food, etc to help me get through the days. I was told I’d be at a hospital for 5 days detoxing and basically sitting in a room with nothing to do, so they tried to help me through that time with tons of things to pass my time. Needless to say, I never even opened the bags and I was so wrong on what I was about to go through. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone.
My friend left and I was in a small entryway and told them I was there for detox. They took all my bags through a small window. They then told me to give them my wallet, phone and anything else in my pockets. They then let me into the lobby to fill out the paperwork. I then asked for my phone back and they said I wouldn’t get it back until I left the facility. Wait, what? No phone, no laptop, nothing.
What have I gotten myself into?
The next six hours were spent sitting in a 6 x 6 room with three chairs. From time to time people came in. Once to do a Breathalyzer, once to give me lunch, once to interview me and then to deal with insurance. Finally at around 4:00, I get to go to my unit.
What came next rocked my world. I was brought onto the unit and asked to sit while they brought my bags from the front. Then they had me give them my belt. Then the strip search. Once again, what was happening? I’m not a thief. Am I in prison? Then it came to me, I’m in a mental hospital! Next they went through every item of my suitcase and removed everything I couldn’t have. Nothing with a rope or string. No shoe laces (fortunately I had on sandals). My razor, gone. My pillow, gone. My Mom’s cross neckless that I’ve worn since she died, gone. No phone, no watch no laptop, no iPad. My room had no shower curtain, no door for the toilet. It had two beds, two shelves and a sink.
My life was about to change dramatically and I knew it.
My day started at 6:00am the next morning. I got up off of my 2″ thick mattress on a wooden bed and a 2″ pillow and got my toiletries from the nurses station along with towels. Showers, morning meds distributed by a nurse, then breakfast. Doors locked to the rooms at 7:45am and didn’t open until 8:00pm. They had us line up and did a roll call. “Here” each person yelled when their name was called out. We then went single file to the cafeteria with a tech in the front and in the back of the line. The cafeteria was at 60 degrees. The food was very good, and then back to the unit – single file. Four outdoor breaks a day. Group meetings with lunch and more meetings, dinner, showers, meds, and finally bed at 10:00pm. Darkness. No TV, no media, no phone. Just alone with my thoughts. Would I fall asleep or just lay there in the dark? A woman there told me of 8x4x8. Count up to 8 breathing in, count to 4 and then count to 8 as you exhale. It is an amazing way to fall asleep.
The first 24 hours were shock. Going from full freedom to prison was a very difficult experience. However, after I got with the routine and expectations, things went much smoother. There was a nurse there, I’ll call her Meg. She was awesome. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have made it through. She was kind but stern at the same time. She really seemed to trust me and I trusted her. Have you ever seen someone for the first time and felt like you knew them forever? That was Meg. She worked the evenings and that was when I needed help most, especially at the beginning. I was lost and she knew it. She got me an extra blanket that no one else would approve. Why was this so important to me? My pillow was 2″ thick and basically non-existent once I laid my head on it. I took the second blanket and put it under my pillow to raise my head (I have a pinched nerve in my neck). It was hard, but at least I had my head raised. One day they were calling names for evening meds. It was late and I was tired. I mentioned to someone that I wish they would start with the “T’s” rather than the A’s. A few minutes later, Meg called out the people to get meds, and she started with the T’s (it’s the small things).
The people I met were just normal people. From a grandmotherly woman to a woman who looked like she was 15, but was 24. Black, white, and people with 2 legs, 1 leg and no legs. From very shy to VERY extroverted. Few men and many women. Smokers, non-smokers. Happy, sad, and vacant and everything in-between. I really liked everyone there. They were real and just like me, had issues with alcohol and or depression.
I came in scared, I left confident and happy. I detoxed from alcohol. I had been drinking about 13 drinks a day and other than my hands shaking, I had no symptoms of detoxing the whole time. I also detoxed from my phone and computer. I detoxed from the news. I detoxed from having to have the TV on to go to sleep.
I’ve been home 2 days now. Interestingly enough, everyday at 4:00, even without looking at the clock, I hit a wall. I get depressed and anxious. I figure that is because I would drink my first drink around then each day. Yesterday my Lovely Wife said, let’s listen to Christian music and you do your Sudoku and read your Bible and relax. Next things I knew it was 6pm and I was past the difficulty.
My life with my Lovely Wife has gotten so much better. We talk and laugh and enjoy each other. Last night we stayed up till midnight talking (not a great idea as I had an 8:00 meeting this morning, but TOTALLY worth it).
Shock and awe. Awe stands for Awesome, which is what God is. He can turn the worst circumstances into the best life, if we let Him.
I start my detox from alcohol on Monday. Totally not looking forward to it, but at least it is medically supervised. However nothing is going to be supervised in my mind and half of my addiction is mental. I drink because I’m bored, I drink because I need to go to sleep and I drink because I need to turn my brain off from the stress of the day.
That said, I have already started a type of detox. I took Thursday and Friday off from work to get my affairs in order before I leave. As part of this process I had my coworker remove me from all company group emails. I also deleted all my work apps on my phone, including Zendesk and Teams. I then removed myself from all miscellaneous emails I get from our work databases. Finally, I have begun unsubscribing from various email lists that I don’t really care about anymore. It is amazing how many emails I get and just delete and never went to the bottom of the email and found that tiny “unsubscribe” link.
So this is my first detox and honestly it has be freeing and hard at the same time. I am always connected to work and even more connected than I thought. Yesterday I was unconnected. I sat in my living room and tried to think of things to do and move beyond my work. No emails, no texts, no messages, no phone calls. The silence is deafening. I woke up this morning to 3 emails in my inbox. You did read that correctly, THREE emails.
#2 – Detoxing from alcohol
Obviously this is going to happen. From what I know, I head to the hospital 3.5 hours away on Monday morning and checkin. There is no specific time to checkin, it is like an emergency room, you just walk in and get started. From there I’m in the dark. I know I’ll be there for 5 days and I will be in a room, but that is all I know. It is like starting a journey looking down a very long, dark tunnel where you can’t see the light at the other end. I know nothing of what I’m getting myself into. I do know there is light at the end of the tunnel and I know I’ll be so much happier, healthier and will enjoy life so much more when I get out the other side.
#3 – Detoxing from the internet
My goal when I finally get to rehab will be to detox from the world wide web (such a 90’s term). I wasn’t even going to open my laptop (which I found out I can bring with me). But, since I decided to write this blog daily as a journal, I will have to do that. Other than that, I plan on removing myself from all technology. I won’t look at email, I won’t google, I won’t look at the news. Total technological blackout. This is the first, and probably the only time, I will get to do this. Free my mind from the world of the internet. With things changing daily in the world these days, what will I see when I get back?
I want to change. I need to change. I am beyond done with my current life. My lovely wife’s current “mantra” is, “I will not go die easily”. This has really changed her life. She doesn’t give in to the depression or the struggles of her life. She has become stronger and can handle life much better than ever before. She is the reason I can move down this new direction in my life. My “mantra” has been, “God will not leave you in prison forever”. There are many “prisons” I have been freed from lately. A prisons to me is something from which I have no hope of ever getting free. Alcohol is a prison that I had no hope of getting out. I tried many times, but to no avail. Even a few weeks ago, I had no hope of getting out of this prison. Now I do and I never want to go back. This is my chance to live a victorious life and hopefully help others in the process.