Dry July day 9: On reputation

Short one tonight, and possibly not entirely well thought out. It’s on reputation. There was probably a time when being described as a vice was devastating. Standing in the church carpark after service on Sunday morning, and nattering about that Joe Bloggs who you don’t see about much these days and how he’s gone all alcoholic which was a pity because he was such a fine young man and wasn’t Father Dennis’ sermon a good one…(etc)

In another direction, a few years ago I was talking to a friend who said he wore his mental illness like a badge of honour. To this end, everyone knew about it, but he never actually seemed to do anything about it.

Buddhist talk often about The Third Way, and I tend to picture it as a subtle blend of what seems to be the only two options. In this case I would hope, dear reader, that the Third Way was bloody obvious.

A couple of years back, a senior writer named Jill Stark for The Age had a year without alcohol. She wrote a book about it, High Sobriety, where she documents her experience, including people’s reactions around her, which tended to be indignant amazement. She identified her problem, and she took steps to do something about it. And then declared to the world she had a problem and what she did about it.

Speaking of Starks, when Tony Stark revealed to the world that he was Iron Man, he also admitted he was an alcoholic.

Iron Man alcoholic

There is no shame in having a problem if I am taking steps to address the problem. And in doing so, other people with the same problem may 1) admit they have the problem, and 2) start to combat the problem. Bring it out of the shadows, and maybe it might just die in the sunlight.

Not so short after all.

Dry July day 8: 3am is demon hour

Nightmare
From the nightmare I wake up hot. The clocks struck 3pm when the Nazarene was killed. After the world has turned a half rotation, it becomes the exact opposite hour of 3am. Demons own this time, and my mind is possessed with thoughts; of my life torn from the continuity of the world, and made to play upon a stage of twisted tree roots and the moldering bricks of forgotten empires; to become a perverse marionette, with, instead of strings, monstrous flagella connecting me to the eldritch puppetmaster who makes me dance and cavort in time to a music that can only be heard inside my heavy skull.

Or my liver has just turned on.

A few years back I was learning about the body’s response to jetlag. It appears that not only does our sleep become disturbed when we change time zones, all of our internal processes need to change their rhythms as well. The idea that my internal organs had optimal times of the day for working was a new one for me.

My liver gears up as I fall asleep, reaching optimal efficiency around 3am. As the alcohol I drink is processed by the liver, heavy drinking means the liver is working very hard to process what it considers a toxin.

For the last week I’ve stopped waking at 3am, possibly indicating that my liver is more relaxed. At last, maybe I can now stop leaving demonic offering of small animals and pack away the tiny altar under my bed.

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This month I’m doing Dry July, and would love your support! Money raised will go to cancer health programs. Head to my Dry July page to make a donation. https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/seanmelliott

Dry July day 7: The DTs

Clockwork Orange
Today I was wondering if my general not-feeling-so-crash-hot was due to recent colds and tummy infections, or was it possible to get alcohol withdrawal while going cold-turkey. I decided to consult Dr Internet. Clicking the first link that came up while searching “alcohol withdrawal” I got the following helpful advice (emphasis mine):

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a POTENTIALLY LIFE-THREATENING CONDITION…

I’m not sure what it said after that because my hypochondriac-prevention response kicked in, and I lost the ability to read for a few minutes until I calmed down a bit.

In essence: yes, there is such thing as alcohol withdrawal. These are the famous DTs I had heard about, and they effect heavy drinkers. Their central nervous system going into a hyper-excited mode because their bodies have been compensating for the shear amount of alcohol they have been saturating in. By way of compensation and to maintain equilibrium, their bodies have been mass-producing an amino acid that gives the feeling of excitability. No more alcohol means that the body is now has excessive amounts of this amino acid, and the body goes on an excitement bender. Symptoms include shakes, sweating, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, and headaches. And hallucinations.

I haven’t had any hallucinations (except for that creepy rabbit who keeps telling me the world is going to end, but he’s always hanging around), but I’ve had some form of the others for the past week or so.

Incidentally, the DTs stands for delirium tremens, which is apparently Latin for “shaking frenzy.” As a friend used to say to me: if you’re going to say something, say it in Latin. It make everything sound better.

Final note: Wikipedia also includes a bunch of colloquial names for the DTs, including: “the horrors”, “the bottleache”, “quart mania”, “ork orks”, “gallon distemper”, “barrel fever”,”the shakes”, and “the fear”.

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This month I’m doing Dry July, and would love your support! Money raised will go to cancer health programs. Head to my Dry July page to make a donation. https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/seanmelliott

Dry July Day 6: Body fauna

1gHu0E3
It occurred to me today after my stomach started doing flips again that my internal fauna may not be very happy.

I was always vaguely aware that our bodies have things living on them and in them, but it wasn’t until someone I dated at uni made me start to think about the microbes that call me home. She called them “body fauna”, and pointed out that my happily living fauna would be introduced to hers, and vice versa, by us smooshing our mouths together for long periods, which we were doing a lot of at the time. As such, the newly introduced fauna will duke it out with the already established fauna, conducting a turf war in our bodies. After a time, a new equilibrium emerges, and everything calms down until the next major incursion. That’s why, she told me, most people come down sick after hooking up, until both parties have shared enough new fauna that they have similar ecosystems.

That’s nice, I said, and we went back to smooshing mouths for a bit.

My thinking today runs along these lines: my internal microbes have been very happily adapted to living in a gut that has a pH (acidity level) of a certain amount. That pH in no small part was due to about 750 millilitres of, say, clean skin Cab Merlot flooding through every evening. Now that the routine has been interrupted (6 days and counting) my internal microbes are getting a bit uncomfortable and kicking around the furniture.

To that end I drank about four Yakults today.

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This month I’m doing Dry July, and would love your support! Money raised will go to cancer health programs. Head to my Dry July page to make a donation. https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/seanmelliott

Dry July day 5: Hitch

Christopher Hitchens

I like the writings and speeches of Christopher Hitchens (except when he diverges starkly from my views, like his support for the invasion of Iraq, and his piece entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny”.) Whatever he is espousing, whether in writing or speaking, he is erudite, witty, and incisive to the point of being surgical in debates. And he drank like a fish. (If that fish happened to be alcoholic and had the capability to pour from a bottle.)

Hitchens was famously a heavy drink and heavy smoker, something that caught up with him in the end, as he contracted esophageal cancer then died from pneumonia several years ago.

Many speeches, presentations and debates I saw (only ever online) he would have a slight sway in his stance and the hint of a slur in his voice. He would write thousands of words with a emptying bottle of scotch on the table.

I thought it was cool and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t at all influence my behaviour. Bohemian writer stringing together sentences while drinking through a bottle of Shiraz.

And here’s where reality catches up with the myth: I can’t drink and write. I thump the keyboard with my fist for a few moments before giving up and fading out on the couch. Drinking has the seizing effect of pouring treacle onto the fine clockwork of my mind.

Five days in, and writing of a sort is happening. At very least I am stringing sentences together again.

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This month I’m doing Dry July, and would love your support! Money raised will go to cancer health programs. Head to my Dry July page to make a donation. https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/seanmelliott

Dry July day 4: Who needs sleep?

Can't Sleep

It occurs to me as I stare at the shadows on my bedroom wall forming shapes and dancing on the ceiling, that I’ve been awake for a while. Much longer than usual. Actually, I don’t think I can get to sleep…

My night cap was usually finishing the bottle of wine I started that evening, and it was an effective muscle relaxant. And mind relaxant. And anything that needed relaxing relaxant.

Sleep will come, and I relax considering an emerging, and somehow disturbing thought: Four days is actually the longest I’ve gone without a drink for quite, quite some time.

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This month I’m doing Dry July, and would love your support! Money raised will go to cancer health programs. Head to my Dry July page to make a donation. https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/seanmelliott

Dry July day 3: Cravings came tonight

A slow, low, unscratchable itch ebbed into my conscious mind tonight. Kind of like when you’re walking alone down the street, and you blink, and then there is a man there, standing as if he has been there all along, just out the corner of your eye, on the very verge of your perception. He wears a tan jacket and though he isn’t smiling there is something bemused about his face, as if there is a colossal joke that you’re the butt of and he’s the only one in on it. Beware this man and his briefcase of empty promises. Ignore him and he might go away. For now.
Man in the Tan Jacket
This month I’m doing Dry July, and would love your support! Money raised will go to cancer health programs. Head to my Dry July page to make a donation. https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/seanmelliott

Dry July day 2: It helps to be sick.

I came over all nauseous two days ago, and simply the thought of a glass of something wet and red still sends my stomach into turbulent flips. In a day or two the craving will return with gusto, but for now I will ride the waves of flowing sick with abandon!

This month I’m doing Dry July, and would love your support! Money raised will go to cancer health programs. Head to my Dry July page to make a donation.

Dry July Day 1: An die Freude!

Pouring Out Wine
I poured the rest of a bottle of wine down the sink this morning and felt a glorious sense of relief. I found Ode To Joy playing in my head. No, not that version we sang from the pews on Sunday mornings, all broken notes and missed beats from a congregation who were a bit embarrassed to be singing in front of each other. I mean the chest-swelling, ball-tearing version with a chorus of German singers belting out Schiller’s words in Ludwig Van’s Ninth. Und tschüss, cab merlot! Und tschüss!
This month I’m doing Dry July, and would love your support! Money raised will go to cancer health programs. Head to my Dry July page to make a donation.