WHEN I go and take my antabuse every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I am breathalysed - and I pass. No health professional wants to poison a patient of course so that's understandable - I do smile at the nonchalant "Avoid Alcohol" warning on the tablets, like the warnings I've been so gaily avoiding these past twenty odd years, seeking out in fact in the hope that there might even be an extra buzz in the interaction.
They also check the tablets; seeing that they come out of an official looking bottle and looking to see that the logo on the tablet itself is the real deal. I asked one week why that was.
"Does anyone ever fake it?" I asked.
Well, it turns out someone once did and that is why they now check the tablets.
"I wonder why?" I asked, "it seems pretty pointless."
The answer the nurse gave me though was quite simple and immediately I recognised the same symptoms in myself.
"They wanted people to think they were doing well," she told me.
This patient had been doing enough to get through the breath test, coming in and then getting drunk on Monday night, then stopping and being clean again on Wednesday and clean again on Friday. Until, maybe inevitably they failed a test and their subterfuge was revealed.
We're all like that I would imagine. I want people to think I'm doing well, that I'm being successful in my new life and my treatment is going well, to the extent that I have probably, if not exactly lied, then gone out of my way to accentuate the positive even on this blog - anonymously! To people I will never meet and who don't know me from David Beckham (to whom, of course, I bear a striking resemblance, we are the proverbial peas in the proverbial pod).
I think staying positive, is a good and important thing and part of getting better. I enjoy the praise I get, which I even get in my local pub - 'we're very proud of you' a couple of people have told me. But, beneath the super-happy, all is progress mask, it is a struggle and some days are more struggly than others.
Yesterday is the first time I can say I really had a bad day. When I really got depressed and upset. And it's days like those that make the yearning for drink stronger and stronger.
I always knew I was drinking to treat anxiety and depression, and it works let me tell you, in its own way and in the short term if there's a better courage than dutch courage I don't think I've found it - not even when I was shoving gramme after gramme of amphetamine up my nose. So, now I'm a sober anxious person. I have my skills, my toolkit I've been taught - question the anxiety, deal with the physical symptoms and remember that what you fear is almost certainly not as bad as the possibility of a full-blown panic attack. I try to use my skills. It doesn't always work and then I start to remember the foolproof 5% proof anxiety medicine.
I've managed to get myself extremely anxious this week. The local kids - some of whom, and their families, I flat out fear and despise - are on holiday and screaming obscenities up and down the streets all day every day. My terror is that they will see me, they will mock me, they will see my weakness and prey upon it. Some of this fear is, by the way, entirely rational - I've seen some of them do it to others. They live lives entirely free of discipline or control and seem to fear nothing - children of about six are out on the streets playing at 11pm. We've got a friend staying - he's working at Mrs CD's work this week - and he's brought his 11-year-old son and I fear (not for him, don't go thinking I'm altruistic) he'll go out and about and have some sort of trouble with these nasty kids and it will come back on us, actually even that's too altruistic, it will come back on me.
However, the local kids haven't bothered me - not at all, not once, not ever. And some of the fear is irrational - most of them are just what I was when I was their age, a bit noisy, a bit unconcerned about upsetting other people, a bit into themselves and their game and nothing else.
I also do it to myself (I do and that's what makes it worse) - the best anxiety treatment I had I wrote about at length and the lovely psychologist who provided it was unequivocal on one point: caffeine is like amphetamine and it is terrible for anxiety. Cigarettes are too. So what am I doing? Yes indeed, every day a pot of the stuff, nice and strong too; add to that a paranoia inducing joint and there you go, the perfect recipe for a quaking Cardiff Drunk hiding behind closed curtains and looking for incoming attacks from every angle.
However. I AM NOT DRUNK. My physical health is MUCH MUCH BETTER, my eczema (which was making me so miserable and paranoid in itself) IS UNDER CONTROL. I am not working and that causes me a great deal of pain some days - BUT I AM DOING VOLUNTARY WORK AND DOING A GOOD JOB HELPING OUT AT A WEBSITE. I haven't got round to doing all the exciting physical things I was going to do, martial arts to help my fitness and confidence BUT I WALK SOMEWHERE EVERY DAY AND I EAR THREE MEALS EVERY DAY.
Is that overly accentuating the positive? I don't know. It feels more honest to admit that, yes, this is hard and may be harder as time passes - maybe it'll be easier, who knows?
If you spent it, thank you for your time.