In this week’s blog Club Soda member Rosa tells us the story of how stopping drinking has helped prevent her panic attacks and reduce anxiety.
It’s Day 115 without booze.
115 days without the dull headache of a ‘couple of glasses with dinner’.
115 days without 3am ‘wake up call’ of a pounding heart and sweaty forehead.
115 days without a single diazepam.
I never thought I’d feel so. Damn. Good.
It was only meant to be ‘one year no beer’. Possibly because I like a challenge. Probably because I like the rhyme too. Subconsciously because I knew it was the right thing to do.
Don’t get me wrong. I like booze. Boozy afternoons in beer gardens, boozy breakfasts for celebrations, boozy lunches with colleagues and boozy brunches after boozy nights out to try and take away the awful hangover symptoms.
I like booze and never thought I’d be rolling the words ‘I’m T-total’ around in my mouth to try them on for size. So why, after 115 days, am I suddenly waking up to the fact that I need to give up for good? Because my poor body has been screaming at me for years that it doesn’t like booze. And it’s taken complete abstinence for me to finally hear it.
If you’ve never had a panic attack before, it’s probably pretty hard to understand why people talk about them as if they are a near death experience. Truth is. That’s what they feel like.
It’s not like the panic that you feel when you leave your phone on the tube and realise as it leaves the platform. Ok, yeah, that’ll make your stomach drop and your pits tingle with sweat… but it doesn’t make you feel like you need to call a paramedic.
Panic attacks are sneaky. They don’t give you a reason to feel panic. In fact, it doesn’t even feel like panic, well certainly not to me anyway. For me, the attacks would mostly happen in the early hours of the morning, say between 3am and 5am. Firstly I’d be awoken with a loud BANG of silence – my body flushed with adrenalin out of nowhere. I wake as if a lorry had just come through my bedroom wall and stopped within an inch of my bed. Then a white, cold, sparkling feeling of sweat would drain through me, taking my ability to move with it. My heart would be pounding in my ears by now, so loud I could hear it through the vessels in my head, and every single sense in my body would start to tune up the sensitivity. My limbs would start to feel as if they weren’t even part of my own body – I don’t even know how to describe this another way. The voice in my head that I recognise as my own would become scared. “Ok, this isn’t right, we should wake someone, call someone, something isn’t right and we don’t know how to make it stop, you need help, now, now, why are you still lying here?”. And the silence outside my head would be deafening. An animal instinct tells you to run, you need to get up and run away from this situation, so it kicks your body into a state of ‘ready to run from a rabid wolf’. Sweating, vision clearer than ever before, heart pounding swells of adrenalin through your poor chest and lungs making it hard to breathe and all the while, you’re trying to tell yourself, nothing is happening, this isn’t real. This would go on for hours. Usually until the world starts waking up around you and you don’t feel so alone. I’d lie for hours trying to calm my breathing and my heart rate, telling myself I wasn’t going to die. I could go on, but unless you’ve experienced a panic attack, I don’t think there are enough words to truly describe how life-threatening they feel.
I had them once a week at first, then twice a week, then when I separated from my husband it was probably every night. And every time, I would tell myself, ‘Ok, it’s happening again, let’s try to stay calm’. And I couldn’t.
And then I started taking diazepam. And yeah, sure, it helped. It would calm me down and send me back to sleep. But then I’d wake with the awful anxiety in a softer form a few hours later. A nagging ‘hey, you’re not really worth this glorious day, why bother getting up, you’re not doing your best at work anyway so why go in?’. And the dread was like a stale argument with a coworker, hanging in the air, no one wanting to acknowledge it, and no one knowing how to move past it. So I became needy. I needed people to reassure me constantly, I questioned my worth and my work. I talked myself out of promotions and opportunities because the dread monster was making me wait for someone else to tell me ‘you deserve this, take it’. Or worse still, ‘you don’t deserve this – walk away!’.
No medication truly moved me away from the panic and the dread that drinking caused me. And only now can I see it.
115 days in, and yeah, I guess it’s going to be damn hard to get through my first summer without booze. Yeah, I know I’m going to struggle and feel like I’m missing out. But will it be worth it? More than I could ever imagine!
I wake up and my head is clear. And it’s not 3am, it’s 7am.
I feel awake and the dread monster is nowhere to be seen.
I don’t feel dead inside, and desperate to be told ‘You’re good enough’.
No lorry is parked inches from my nose and my pajamas aren’t ringing with sweat.
My skin is clear and my eyes are bright – or so everyone keeps telling me (“what diet are you on? You look amazing?”)
I’ve lost half a stone without trying.
I feel loved and confident.
I feel brave and excited about life.
I don’t have to carry diazepam in a secret pocket in my wallet anymore.
Win/win as far as I can see.