Morning comes around like an unwelcome guest. The familiar shaking and sweating has come back, I ride it out and try to watch some tv.
My nurse appears in my room, gives me my meds and leaves. The shaking begins to subside and I lay back and try to relax. Today, my friend Isaac is coming to see me. Isaac has been my best friend since I was young, he is a musician in a very talented punk band from my area and has had a lot of success in this. We don’t see us much as each other as we both would like, but it feels like no time has passed when we greet each other.
I am so elated that he is here. I am sorry he has to see me in such a way, but beyond grateful for the visit. He sits down next to my bed, my mum sitting also in the room, and we catch up.
I tell him how I have been seeing hallucinations. I explain excitedly about “super alex”, and how I have been seeing what feel like ghosts. He smiles and tells me how mental that must be, to see such things. I agree and we both laugh.
My mum is explaining to Isaac what has been happening, as I don’t think my state of mind is granting me much sanity in this moment. I am still hallucinating, but not to a degree that it is scaring me.
I tell my friend I love him, and I appreciate his visit. He smiles and says how good it is to see me doing better.
My mum takes a picture of us (just so I can look back on it when im better).
We say our goodbyes and he leaves.
I feel so much love from my friends and family. I feel so lucky.
The weather outside is starting to open up. Mist is dissipating giving way to beams of sunlight, streaming across my bed. It feels warm, I feel safe.
My doctor strides into my room, a nurse on his tail, talking fast and checking my chart.
He is a tall man, dark skin, dark hair and glasses. He approaches me and I realize this is really the first time I have properly met him.
On every other occasion I have been extremely doped up or just unable to focus on anything but the strange things I am seeing.
“How are we feeling, Mr Mackey” he looks up from my chart that he has retrieved from the foot of my bed, eyebrows raised.
I look back at him vulnerable and anxious.
“Fine, getting better I think. Still shaking and sweating, keep seeing things still”
“Yes well, its been a tough few days for you so far. You have been very lucky to have such a supportive family around you, your mother hasn’t left your side..”.
He looks at my mum with a smile, she smiles back gratefully.
“Are you still having visual hallucinations? The nurses say you have been a lot calmer than when we first had you in here?”
The nurse nods and smiles in agreement
“I am still seeing things, mostly in the corner of my eyes but yesterday was worse. I saw what felt like ghosts in the halls of the hospital. One even followed me back to my room…”
he raises his eyebrows again, this time skeptical and dismissing
“well yes the alcohol withdrawal has been in a acute stage for a number of days. You have been receiving vitamins in the form of the Pabrinex drip, and the Librium has been doing its job so these hallucinations should subside any time now.”
“I am still shaking quite a lot, will this go completely aswell?”
“yes this will go too, as will the sweating. Have you been eating? How is your appetite?”
He studies the chart
“I have managed to eat, yes. It feels very strange to be able to eat properly. But I’m glad I can.”
He looks up and places my chart back on my bed.
“Good, that’s good. We are looking at discharging you in a couple of days, Depending on how you are coming along. The way things are looking at the moment 2 days time seems probable.”
I look at my mum and I smile
“okay, thankyou so much. You guys have literally saved my life. I cant thank you enough”
“yes really, thankyou” My mum says, standing up and shaking the doctors hand
“that’s quite alright” he says, smiling appreciatively “just stay off the alcohol and hopefully we wont meet again”
“I will thankyou” I say as he exits the room, nurse following frantically behind.
I turn to my mum and smile. I still have a feeling inside me that I want to drink. Even after all of this, I don’t want to stop forever. Day to day life isn’t exciting or fun. I feel I have taken it too far but now I feel better and that I can control it. I mention this to my mum, she says maybe non alcoholic beers but not alcohol. She looks at me deeply worried, as if she already knows im going to drink again.
The terrifying thing is that even after this, all these things ive seen and how lucky I am to get better, there is still part of me inside that just wants to be normal like everyone else. Im young, im too young to be not drinking when that is literally all everyone does when they go out. I am already planning, im still in bed recovering and already im plotting my next drink.
It’s the day im being discharged. I am feeling better, not a hundred percent but a hell of a lot better than when I walked into hospital. My mum and my sister are here to take me home.
I am extremely nervous. I feel very anxious about being back in the environment where is witnessed such horrific hallucinations, and where I, in a way, lost my mind.
I think my mum knows this. She has tried her best to change my room around at home, and make it welcoming for my return.
I have thought a lot about drinking again. I am going to try to just drink non alcoholic beers ect, to try and see if that helps. I have a horrible feeling it wont, but I am also scared I will end up back here.
I gather my things up with my mum and head towards the nurses desk to get discharged. They all say their goodbyes and wish me well, and all are very sweet. I am taken through too a separate room where I am given a bag full of my medication. Inside are a mixture of beta blockers and vitamins that I will have to take for my anxiety and to get my body back to feeling strong and healthy again.
No one has really explained to me what the protocol is now. How susceptible am I to this happening again? Will I be ale to drink normally from now on? Will I become addicted to alcohol like before or now I am better will I be able to drink like a normal person. So many questions I never ask.
I take my new medication with me as I walk out the door and head towards the staircase leading to the lower corridor. The same corridor that not two days ago was bustling with ghostly figures, staring at me, looking lost and confused.
I feel strangely alone now they are not here, There was a feeling of comfort when I could see them, and now that has gone.
My family are excited for me, they talk to me of all the opportunities I will have now. Of how I can do anything I want to do. Apart from the ONE thing I want to.
I feel like my brain is the problem. There is something deeply wrong inside. Something that is never satisfied, a thirst that is never quenched, that gnaws at my sanity. The more I try to think of something else, the bigger the feeling becomes inside. Like attempting to quiet the feeling makes the obsession worse.
I don’t even realize we have reached the car.
I feel the familiar leather on my skin. I was sat here 5 days ago, in a very different state of mind. I feel anxiety seeping into my gut. I feel nauseous, every move of the car is too much. I want to be still, I feel things are moving too quick for me to keep up. I am starting to realize that I cannot drink when I return home. This feeling makes me scared and confused.
We pull up to our house, and park in the drive way. My mum turns to me and smiles.
“new start jacko”
I smile back nervously.
Hiding in plain sight
I wake up from possibly one of the best night’s sleep I have ever had.
The same bed that I became so used to yielding nothing but sleeplessness and irritation was now a haven. I lay staring up at the ceiling collecting my thoughts, day dreaming into the canvas of white plaster. I stretch out and turn to my phone to check my messages.
One from my gran asking how I slept after my first night home, and another from my friend Isaac asking me if I would like to go to his house for dinner that week.
The messages make me smile. I jump off my bed, feeling very lucky and happy to have people in my life like them.
My brother is downstairs having breakfast. I walk into the kitchen and say good morning. He approaches me and gives me a tight hug.
“missed you buddy”
he says mid hug
“missed you too man” I say, releasing him and leaning against the kitchen counter.
I flip on the kettle and stand patiently waiting for its familiar bubbling.
We catch up as I wait, asking him how school is, whether anything has happened while I have been in hospital and just talking in general about how fucked up the whole experience was. He tells me he is proud of me and that he is glad that I am doing better, and walks out of the room and heads upstairs.
I put 4 teaspoons of coffee in a large mug and hold my face up to the brim. I inhale the rich aroma and close my eyes. It smells great.
I pour the boiling water into the mug and take a long drink.
The burning feeling reminds me of the warm sensation alcohol would make hitting my stomach, I always loved that feeling.
I roll a cigarette and head outside.
As quickly as the happiness came, an emptiness fills me. This isn’t a surprise as I am often feeling happy and sad moments apart, no one has been able to explain why that is to me yet.
I feel so lost. I am happy that I survived such a mad experience, but I am not ready to think to hard into it. I smoke my cigarette and loose myself in a daydream.
The next few days come and go, I go to my friend’s house and I have dinner with his family, all of who are extremely supportive and make me feel even more lucky that I have such people in my life.
It is still there though. I still want a drink. I still want to feel nothing. I go home and go to sleep, trying to silence the cravings in my head.
I get a message from my friend asking me if I would like to come and watch him perform in London at a very large well known venue. I say yes immediately. His band is a two piece punk band and they have found success with their debut album recently released.
I tell my mum and she looks worried.
“what about drinking, wont there be drinking there?”
I think about this for a second.
“there will be but I will drink non alcoholic beers there, I wont drink anything else”
She looks at me extremely worried, I assure her I wont drink.
The day comes around and I am given a lift up there with a few other friends and I drink non alcoholic beers in the car ride up.
I catch up with a few of the guys in the car with me. I have known them for a while and they ask me countless questions about hospital, whether or not I can drink again (to this I answer I can but not to the degree I was) and how I am doing now. I lie and tell them I am fine. Honestly, I am anything but fine. I am shitting myself. Being in this environment so soon I feel is really throwing me and not drinking feels completely unnatural.
Why did I lie when they asked me if I can drink again? I mean I don’t know the rules, but im pretty sure that the advice from the doctor would be firmly not to drink again. I mean maybe I can drink? Maybe I can have a few, get drunk and then not wake up and drink. Maybe things can go back to normal?
The guys are talking and I am just staring out of the car window, asking myself these questions and filling my head with maybes.
We arrive and it is really busy. The air is thick with mist and the murmur of people in the distance queuing for the gig brings a jolt of adrenaline through my veins. I hope we don’t have to queue.
We obviously do end up queuing and I find it difficult being around so many people. I am sober, the non alcoholic drinks are doing absolutely nothing, and I am anxious and awkward.
I go on my phone and pretend to text. I always find this helps take my mind off where I am when I am overwhelmed. The queue begins to move and we reach the door. There is a attractive tattooed woman with a headset sitting at a desk with two others next to her taking tickets. Two large looking gentlemen standing behind her are checking peoples bags.
I give my name. She motions that she can’t hear me.
I lean over and say my name into her ear. She acknowledges this and checks the list. My name is there and she stamps my forearm so I can enter.
We go into the venue and it is huge. The hall we walk into is staggering. Ceilings, that feel like a mile high, and what feels like thousands of people bustling about excitedly.
I want to stand near the back. I love my friend but I am claustrophobic and the thought of being jammed between others, sweating and jumping around is my idea of a nightmare. I stand at the back on my own.
I see the bar. My friends see the bar. They motion for me to come with them and I follow.
I order myself another zero percent and take a long swig of it. It tastes like dirt.
I feel like an idiot. I feel like I’m wounded and every single person in the room knows it because Im not drinking. I start to seriously consider having a cider.
My friend’s band comes on and they are amazing. I guess ive been so wrapped up in my own stuff for so long and haven’t been to see them since they started out. The music is loud and the vibrations ricochet throughout my body. I stand at the bar the whole gig, as I feel like im safe there. Far away from the moshing fans and in my own secure bubble.
I know I should be enjoying myself more? I know I should be like my old self and be the life and soul of the party and get involved with smashing into others, drunk an d carefree, going mental to the music.
I turn to the bar tender.
“do you have cider?” I shout over the music
“yeah, what do you want?
“your cheapest!” I say as a jokingly but very much meaning it.
The bar tender pulls me a pint of ice cold cider and places it on the side.
I am almost expecting him to say I cant have it. To say “ahhhh hang on you’re not meant to be drinking are you jack?” and for me to cower away in humiliation.
I am on my own in this. My friends are busy having a good time, and I am stood alone with my pint of crazy juice.
I pay, I pick up, I sink it.
That warm feeling is back. That tingling in my stomach. That smile inducing euphoria is here and I fucking love it. I order two more pints before I have even finished the first.
I stand against the bar, I shut my eyes and I stay with that feeling. I realize I am shaking. Not through withdrawal, but through pure excitement. This is forbidden fruit, this is wrong, so wrong but feels so fucking right.
I am smiling, I am happy. I drink all three pints in the space of five minutes and head out the hall for a cigarette.
I am not thinking right now. Im not thinking of the repercussions of the move I just made. I am not thinking of the past weeks that were the worst of my life, I am just not thinking, and it feels fantastic.
I reach the top of some stairs outside the venue and I spark my cigarette. Jesus even smoking feels so much better. I stand swaying slightly, taking in drags and staring off into the distance.
I am finding myself already coming up with excuses and easy rational reasons why it will be fine this time.
‘I just wont drink in the mornings this time! That’s it! As long as I keep it to just weekends and make sure im eating well itll be fine! I can do that! It was that way before things got bad so things can be that easy again!’
I now don’t feel guilty or bad about the move I have made. I feel calm, I feel normal, finally.
I head back inside and I go back to the bar.
I order a shot of whiskey and another pint of cider. One of my friends spots me and comes over, out of breath and red faced.
“where were you man! We were all in the mosh pit!” he says panting
“that’s not my kind of thing dude, I just feel relaxed over here!”
He looks down at the drink in my hand and raises his eyebrows.
“should you really be…? I thought you couldn’t..?”
“They just said if I don’t do what I did before then I can drink normally”
He looks concerned but shrugs and comes and joins me leaning on the bar.
I have been drinking for around half an hour and Ive already started to lie. When I lie I don’t feel bad, if anything it makes me feel more safe in what im doing. I feel its just easier to tell a truth that I want to hear.
My friends band is finishing their set with a fan favorite and the audience is going crazy. Everybody is singing along and the set is ending with a bang. I polish off my drinks and order another.
We head to the backstage area, which is down some stairs next to the stage. There is security on the door and everything is very official. We reach the bottom of the stairs and the floor opens up into a large room with a bar, sofas and music.
It feels like a trendy nightclub really. I look around for my friend to congratulate him on his set, and as I am scanning the room I notice more than a few famous musicians.
Its very exciting to be in a room where some of the people who inspired me to pick up an instrument are standing around chatting. I have never experienced being star struck before but this must be it.
I find my friend and go over to him and congratulate him on his performance. He thanks me and we hug. He asks how I am and almost immediately spots the drink I’m holding.
He came and visited me in hospital, and knows how bad things were, so to say he looks concerned is an understatement.
“mate, should you be drinking?”
I go red and embarrassed. He doesn’t mean to embarrass me and no one is near us to over hear the conversation.
“ I know man I shouldn’t really, the doctor said as long as I don’t go as mad and heavy as before I should be okay, plus this is my first drink”
Lie after lie after lie. I am already lying to my best friend, but again, its easier than admitting the truth. This is neither the time nor place for me to get into it.
“okay brother”he says cautiously and hugs me again “ I only say it because I care mate, im glad you came!” I agree and say how wonderful it was to watch him play.
We stay at the bar for a while. I have a good time catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while and feel like a normal person for the first time in a long time.
I loose track of how many drinks I have had. I know its a lot.
We leave around 12 midnight and start driving back. On the way home I drink in the car, I also stop off at a garage to pick up a bottle of wine and some cans on cider for when I get home.
We laugh and sing along to music in the car and I am dropped off outside my house.
I wave goodbye to my friends and thank them for taking me to and from the gig.
I didn’t think about this part. This is where it does matter that im drinking. If my mum sees me drunk she will be devastated. I bunch up the bottle and cans together in the plastic bag to stop them knocking together and making noise. I place them on the floor and lift the pot outside my front door looking for the key.
I find it and enter the house. I have a strong feeling of guilt overwhelming me. I want another drink. I head into the front room of our house and I fill up a pint glass with white wine. I drain the glass and switch on the tv. I drink and I watch. I shut my eyes. I sleep.
I wake up early morning. My head is splitting, mouth is dry and anxiety pulsing through my body. I am still in the living room of my house and I have wine soaked into my shirt. I am shaking violently as I try to stand up.
I try not to panic. I try to focus on rolling a cigarette and keep my breathing steady. I keep telling myself I cant be withdrawing, This cant happen? I left hospital not long ago and I was fixed? My body was back to normal?
Before I can even make it to the toilet I am sick violently, clasping my hand over my mouth to try and stop it but it just keeps coming. I make it to the toilet and I throw my head into its cold interior. I am loudly vomiting and I hear my mum rush downstairs.
“oh my god jack…”
I feel he hurt in her voice.
“OH my GOD, you said you weren’t going to drink!!”
I cannot reply. I am gasping for air between heaving violently, retching so hard I experience what feels like my chest muscles ripping. I manage to catch my breath and I wail hard. I cry and I say im sorry, im so sorry mum.
She kneels next to me and rubs my back, fighting back tears of her own.
“This is it, no more jack, you are going to end up back in hospital”
I cry and I reach over my shoulder for her hand and I hold it tight.
“I don’t know why I cant stop mum.” I say breathlessly “something inside me is broken, I cant fight it, there is something wrong with me, I don’t know what to do”
I cry hard. I cry like a child. My mum, as she has always been, by my side comforting me. She tells me it will be okay, I just need to stop. I need to stop now.
“I cant mum, I just feel like I cant stop”
“you CAN jack!” she yells, gripping my hand tighter. “You know you can! You just need to want it”