I’ve lost track of time, 2020 seems to have done that. In winter 2018, I stopped drinking for about 40-45 days. The idea was that it would be the miracle cure to my depression. It was the only thing left I could thinks of.
Over the previous 18 months I’d lost 70 pounds in weight (I thought being fat was why I was depressed), I’d dialled in my nutrition (again, overeating was why I was depressed, surely). Neither of these things had worked.
One Year No Beer
It must be the booze then. I joined the One Year No Beer programme and it was working. I kicked booze for 40 days (I was only a weekend drinker anyway). It wasn’t about being an alcoholic, it was all about trying to break a bad habit that had been with me since I was 18 (I was 44 when I tried to kick it that time). It wasn’t only getting in the way of my mental health goals, but also my fitness goals. Hard to workout when you have a hangover – I couldn’t give it 100%.
But things got worse. I was even more depressed than before. I had a fuck it moment and started drinking again. The slide downwards was gradual. It started with eating crap. Real crap food. I put a little weight back on, but in my mind I was in control.
Then I wasn’t only drinking Friday and Saturday night, I’d also added Thursday and Sunday.
Before long Monday was the only night I wasn’t drinking. Instead of getting better by giving up the booze, I’d got worse.
Many things were happening in my head and in life.
Mr Smith – The Slayer of Dreams and Self Esteem
In the September of 2018 I was promoted. WIN? Not in my brain. Low self esteem kicked in. Even thought I’d worked hard for it, I didn’t feel like I’d deserved it. All the shit I’d been told about myself, by others, kept coming to mind.
Here’s one particular gem of a story, which pretty much made me hate our education system for life.
In our third year of comprehensive schooling we started careers classes. We were about 12-13 years old. We sat in the first class and the teacher, Mr Smith, walked in.
The school I went to was a good one, doctors and solicitors from surrounding villages used to bus their kids in to it.
Mr Smith stood at the front of the class and split the group of kids in two. It was obvious what he’d done. The kids in my group were all the kids of coal miners. The other group were the “rich kids”.
Mr Smith looked at my group and told us that the boys would be coal miners and the girls house wives or shop assistants. That was it, that was our careers advice. Written off before we’d started.
Things like this weren’t uncommon and did a lot of damage to my self esteem. All I was good for in life was manual labour, in a dead industry. It must be true, the teacher said so. So, when I had success beyond that my brain worked against it.
From Promotion To Unemployed?
In September 2019, I was told my job was at risk. There was no role for me at the site I was on. The only option was London (the reasons why that wasn’t an option for me are for a whole different blog post).
This only helped reinforce the feeling I was useless. I know it wasn’t a personal thing, but the brain isn”t always ruled by the intelligent side.
Depression deepened, drinking got worse.
Out of sheer desperation and at the suggestion of my boss, I applied for a job in the company which would be a promotion.
In a weird twist, I got it.
At this point my emotional state felt like it was on the worlds worst roller coaster.
Within a year, I’d been promoted twice and faced redundancy. My head was a shed.
2020 Kicked The World In The Balls
Then 2020 hit. I started it with a mental breakdown, at the end of January (there was about three months of physical illness leading up to it). My brain had decided it had had enough. I don’t do change at the best of times and the last year was more than it could cope with apparently.
I spent six weeks not leaving the house. The day I went back to work, I was told I’d be working somewhere else. More change.
By the lunchtime the same day, we were told the country was going in to lockdown. I’d just done six weeks of self imposed lockdown.
I’m not sure if I returned to work after 4, 5 or 6 months of official lockdown. This year has been a blur. But by the time I returned to the office (I’d been working from home) I was 70 pounds heavier and was drinking more than ever.
I’d stopped working out. Stopped eating right. I’d stopped living – like so many other people this year.
Why 40 Days Sober Triggered All This
I’m not going to use my own words for this but. Someone else recently did a much better job of it:
“The sticking point for me was between days 40 and 90. I would challenge you if you’re listening to this, just do it for 30 days. You can do that. It’s the middle bit because then, the novelties wore off, and that’s when for me the emotional wave started happening. I felt for the first time, I was living life in technicolor and it was like, whoa, I need to turn the contrast down. I don’t know how to deal with this.”Clare Freeman on the One Year No Beer Podcast
That emotional wave, no longer numbed by alcohol or food, was crippling to me. Clare and I were in the same OYNB group. She went on to thrive and is doing amazing work. I crashed and burned.
Why Do It Again, What’s Changed?
I need to change. I am seriously worried I’ll end up losing everything if this carries on.
The difference this time is that I am already planning for the 40 day technicolour nightmare. I have a counsellor. So when shit gets rough, I have someone to help guide me.
I’m also not trying to do everything at once. I tend to overload myself, then burn out.
I’ve also prepared in other ways. I’ve been reading a lot, in particular about ways to navigate change and improve life one step at a time.
This isn’t meant as a woe is me blog. It’s more a “get your shit together, Mark” blog. Trying to make sense of the things that are happening. I could do this in private, and many people do, but I’m tired of hiding and pretending its all ok. Plus, not many people read this blog so its almost private anyway.