Coping With The White Russians

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White Russian: old fashioned glass, add ice, 2oz vodka, 1oz Kahlua, finish with chilled 1% milk… glass size and ice optional, adjust alcohol to taste.

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Vodka is best stored in the freezer. Colder the better.

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Healthy alternative to pop: fill a glass to within an inch of the brim with club soda, then add your favourite juice.

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Some Rules To My Recovery:
1. Take the pills
2. Don’t drink, or use street drugs
3. Get decent sleep
4. See my doctor regularly

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I’ve been drunk everyday for the past ten days. I’ve been drinking just enough to get a decently warm buzz, generally just enough to shut my brain down for an evening, or to keep it shut down for a day.

There are two basic reasons why I’ve broken one of my few recovery rules: I’ve been having cravings for a specific drink for a month, and; I lost the ability to use this blog as a means to my recovery — I couldn’t find the time to write, so drinking made sense.

When I first moved back here, six years ago, I promised myself I wouldn’t drink. I’ve been a binge drinker for most of my adult life. I grew up in the poorest (non-reservation) region of Canada (illiteracy rate of 30%, unemployment rate of 40%), so drinking was just something we did in high school. When I started college, using the government support program, alcohol was my second largest expenditure after rent.

When I moved to Toronto in 1998 I was drunk every weekend, after a year it had spread to most weekdays. Basically my weekend binges spread to Thursday, with alternating Monday and Wednesday sessions.

At the time I never thought of my drinking as a crutch, but now I understand the only decent sleep I ever got during those years were the nights I was drunk, or the two days afterwards when I was hungover… this was years before I started my recovery.

I stopped drinking again in 2001, when I started my two year slide back into homelessness and abject poverty. No money, no drinking. I also ended up living in a “dry house” in 2002, it’s a safe place for recovering addicts. It was managed by a friend of mine, so if I wanted to keep living there, I had to be dry.

I’m not an addict. Which, of course, is exactly the kind of slogan addicts carry like a shield. But I’ve done a pretty decent impression of one over the years.

When I moved back to my home town, after hitting rock bottom for a number of reasons — none of which directly involving alcohol — I just accepted the fact that drinking and prescription pills are a stupid combination. So I said “no thanks” when my step-father (repeatedly) offered me wine at dinner. Or when a friend took me out someplace.

After three years without a drop, I finally walked up to my parents’ liquor cart and made myself a drink at Christmas. Basically it was just two fingers of Bailey’s over ice, and it nearly knocked me out.

Over the couple of years since then I’ve had the occasional drink, but this year has been different. On Christmas Eve I plowed back six drinks, at my brothers wedding in February I had eight — all White Russians, by the way. It’s my weapon of choice. Six weeks ago, at my mom’s birthday dinner, I had three more.

I’ve been craving them almost everyday since then. It got so bad that last week I finally bought the ingredients for a White Russian from the liquor store, and I’ve pretty much been drunk ever since.

Alcohol allows me to be distracted easily, but at the same time to concentrate on things which really don’t matter. And I’ve needed some distractions lately.

The need to find a release makes sense to my psychiatrist, even though he totally disapproves of my using the one generally associated with manic depression — those of us with this disease self-medicate more than those without it. He reads this blog, he knows how important a tool it is in my recovery, so he has also noticed the significant drop in my involvement in this blog.

It’s not just the drop in postings, but also the lack of responses to comments which started over a month ago.

So, when your primary recovery tool craps out as an option, the old standbys are always there, ready to take over.

Basically two weeks ago I was ready to explode. My shoulders, lower back, left hip and ankles were in constant pain from stress. I was exhausted from travelling to see my girlfriend in the hospital, and from missing so much sleep from the stress of making sure my girlfriend, and our unborn son, were safe.

That weekend I finally managed to talk to some friends about what was going on, and a lot of the stress was relieved. But I had already made the decision to buy the ingredients. And when my disability cheque came in three days later, I made a trip to the liquor store.

The next day I wrote, for really the first time, about the stress I had been under, and posted it to my blog. A few hours later, just before my Friday appointment with my psychiatrist, I poured everything out to my mother. Then, later on, I did it again with my psychiatrist.

So, after going several months gathering all of this stress unto myself without any serious release, I had poured it out to two friends, to the people who read this blog, to my mother — who was holding back tears from watching me force my life out of my head — and then to my shrink.

So most of the stress, and reason for my wanting to drink, were gone… but I’ve continued to drink.

Because the stress isn’t gone. I’ve just released my brain from having to carry it all by writing and talking about it all. It’s the same as talking things out… we never know if there’s one issue screaming around our head, or a thousand, until we actually take the time to make sense of it all.

But the stress doesn’t go away when we’ve gained some understanding of what’s going on, that’s just the first step. Now we have to actually do things to make the stress stop. Or lessen. Of course drinking a White Russian once I wake up, then another two to six during the day, isn’t going to do anything to help me confront the stress in my life.

Without even knowing about the drinking, my psychiatrist, during our appointment last week, decided I needed to have weekly appointments again. We’ve been on twice monthly visits for a few years now… the last time we were seeing each other weekly was back at the beginning of my recovery.

That’s how screwed up I was… am. I told him about the drinking during today’s appointment. It makes sense to him I’d be searching for alternative recovery tools, since I basically lost the use of this blog. But, again, it’s not a method of dealing with my life that he particularly approves of.

…the problem with having to deal with stress, is finding the time to deal with the stress. And every time I think I’ve dealt with something, some other thing pops up. My girlfriend decided staying in the hospital would be the right thing. But only after I yelled at her. I don’t yell. I cannot remember the last time I ever yelled at anyone.

But yelling worked. My psychiatrist thinks, because her entire family yells at each other all the fucking time, it’s because I was finally speaking in a language she understood. So that stress was gone. But I still had to travel to Ottawa three times last week, and another three times this week.

That’s fifteen hours and 720km in a car, being awake at 5am, getting home after 7pm and spending all day standing around a hospital.

Plus my landlord, way back in September, handed me $550 worth of hydro and gas bills he’d been hoarding since last March. So, after cutting him three cheques (Oct: $150, Nov: $250, Dec: $150), I’ve been broke like I used to be when I was on social assistance.

And now my girlfriend is home… on a “twenty-four hour pass” from the hospital. She’s here for an overnight stay so she can attend her son’s fourth birthday party. I don’t like that she’s here, but I understand why she needed to be here, and I even support it. But it’s an additional stress.

She got here just after dinner on Friday, and she’s going back up on Saturday night. I spent most of the evening doing what I could for her. We had pizza and watched a zombie movie. But she told me her father had driven like a lunatic coming here from the hospital, which stressed her out. Then they stopped at a Toy’s R Us, to buy her son a present, and she ended up walking for half an hour… which is exactly fifteen minutes more than the doctor told her it was safe to walk.

Of course they also told her not to drive anywhere.

And when she got here she got into a phone fight with her mother, and her ex-husband about her son’s party. After she got off the phone with one of them I told her no more phone calls while she was home. The party is being organized by other people, all she has to do is show up at 2pm and hug her son.

So maybe it’s best to just keep up with the drinking… my alcohol will run out by Monday anyway, and I can’t afford a refill. Which is probably for the best.

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...thanks.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Intervention, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Coping With The White Russians

  1. exactscience says:

    Dude, sorry I’ve not been commenting, I’ve not really been doing the blogging thing.

    It’s crap that things have been stressful but your current distraction technique hinders your recovery which is more stressful and we all know the downward spiral line.

    Don’t screw up your recovery. You know my email address.

  2. Bromac says:

    I can’t sit here and tell you not to do what you’re doing, I understand it too well. And you’re too intelligent, you know the ramifications.

    Be careful.

  3. melanie says:

    You’ve got me worried too. You know that I am no stanger to stress and over the years I have used my own coping mechanisms but when you have kids you can’t avoid stress by drinking it away. Believe me, when your son arrives he’s going to be a blessing but one that comes with an enormous amount of stress especially if you don’t know how things are going to turn out with his mother. You won’t be able to raise a son if you are raising a glass. Concentrate on your recovery again. Your girlfriend is being taken care of while in hospital and it’s up to you to take care of yourself now until the baby comes so that you can take care of him later. I’m always just an email away and after all the years, (can you believe it’s been 20?) that we’ve known eachother you should know that I’ll always be here for you for anything from an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on or even future parenting advice. For now, here’s an oldie but a goodie…”Don’t forget your meds and the people who love you!”

  4. Lydia says:

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. My two cents are 1 – in my experience, someone who goes through all that trouble to explain why he doesn’t have a problem with alcohol, has a problem with alcohol and 2 – being alcoholic is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve developed coping skills for life in AA, and I’d stay even if I didn’t have a problem with alcohol.

  5. megan says:

    Gabriel, I just wanted to say hi and please, to keep writing us when you have time, even if it’s just a paragraph or two.

  6. Detached says:

    What a terrible place to be in…take care of yourself the best that you can. You are in my thoughts.

  7. Yo is Me says:

    take care of yourself. i’m glad you have people to talk to. i’m glad you vented to your mom and friends. it seems like you trust your psychiatrist, and i’m glad for that too.

    i’m glad you’re aware of so many things. and i’m glad you’ll be out of booze soon 🙂

    thank you for venting to us. i hope you get something out of the comments, that’s why we comment. not for ourselves. comment when you can. or don’t comment back. whatev.

    sending you good vibes.

  8. Gabriel... says:

    …a few hours ago I started to write a reply to everyone, but then it got out of hand, and a little weird, and turned into a post. So I’m going to sleep on it, then probably post it later Monday afternoon or evening.

    Thanks to all of you for your concern. I think I’m at least a little better now… I also think I managed to figure a few things out.

    • bats0711 says:

      I’m definately not one that is going to tell you to watch out for those white Russians, I mean heck I’d be dealing with all of this in the exact same way. I don’t always say anything BUT I am ‘reading’ you and feeling your emotions. Sometimes I feel so powerless, wishing I could do something, anything to make it all go away for just a moment so you could breathe normally again but I can’t.
      Don’t forget that YOU also matter, you matter a lot to a lot of people that are reading even though you don’t know us or can’t see us, you matter a lot!

  9. bitter guy says:

    One percent? Jesus. It’s supposed to be cream, man. Preferably that crack laced stuff you get at Tim’s.

    Can we assume the drinking is stopped for good, once the booze is gone?

  10. Gabriel... says:

    I prefer the 1%, especially if I’m drinking a lot of them — have to watch my figure. I’ve only been served a White Russian properly made with cream once. I have to admit, it was better than I thought it’d be.

    I don’t know if I’m off the sauce again for health reasons, or financial ones. I don’t think I’ll be restocking the bar when I get my next disability cheque…

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