I’d heard of PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) all along this journey, and I’d understood that it would take time to “feel better”, but for some reason, this time in particular I thought it kind of didn’t apply to me.
After quitting anti-depressants last year and then the ethanol this year (again) in July, I felt like after going through the immediate detoxing, I would be ok. Because I knew so much about what it felt like to go through withdrawals and I was trying or I don’t even know why now. I felt like I’d gone through it all so many times that I could think myself out of it.
I was doing very bad at 3 months, through October. I figured it was the change of season, my looming birthday (last of my 30’s…so so sad), or my period (and it’s usual shitty shenanigans). But it stretched out into our trip brief to Acadia – all I could see was the crappy food and service, the rushed end of the season, the expense, how our relationship and my sanity were hanging by a thread, the toll it must be taking on my husband’s psyche, who has his own issues too.
We sat with me paranoid, delusional or maybe just too intensely realistic, on the rock next to the water near a beach we have pictures at during our first trips there – happier, younger, far less jaded days. When there still seemed to be something to work towards and hope for, as hard as they were. We enjoyed our time together and would cry when we left to go back to the drudgery and anxiety that wracked my life and the hard physical work that filled his.
My extreme mental difficulties: anger, fury, rages, paranoia, total disinterest in everything, anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, loss of strength at the gym, irritability, crying jags, feelings of doom and disappointment, complete negativity – continued through the end of the month, when we went to Portland in an attempt by my poor husband to try to “make me smile again”. I remember all the “what’s the point” thoughts and how extreme they were. I came fairly close (mentally) to taking drinking again. The “f#$$ it’s” were strong and very alluring, beckoning me with their index fingers and promising me a break from my pain and consequently a good thing for my husband as well.
We talked on the way to Portland at length about it all and I asked him several times if I was “better off” not drinking or maybe I should just allow myself to do it? Was there a point in not drinking? And he said absolutely I should not go back to drinking, no. That I needed to give myself a chance once and for all, that I looked better, sounded better, lost weight, to not give up on myself and that drinking definitely had no value to it.
I was furious and disgusted the whole trip, terrified, anxious, paranoid, crying, confused, disappointed. I saw only the dirt, depression, the awfulness of the human condition. My poor husband was at his wit’s end.
We made it through to November, I was still dragging myself through the days, looking at the clock, but with no time that mattered exactly anyways. What was I waiting for.
Then the vegan life came to me and I am thankful for that. I am first and foremost thankful to the spirits looking out for me and for my husband trying so hard and staying with me through everything. We have stuck by each other and supported one another, but he has put up with an enormous amount of emotional drain from me over the years, I wish he hadn’t been doing this for his own sake. I can only imagine how hard it must have been and still it, to maintain his own life and thoughts, while being around someone prone to such disillusion, anger, sadness, suicidal thoughts and actions, self destructive behavior etc. But I am very thankful for finally seeing and listening to and incorporating veganism into my life. Finally I am no longer contributing to the torture, misery, fear and slaughter or animals and that is huge. Such an awakening.
And so I was doing very well. My husband said many times how that veganism seemed to be the missing link, along with not drinking, that I was having a spiritual awakening and it was my little soft gentle thing that I could hold and caress and enjoy in my life. He kept looking at me and was watching me. I noticed how our chickens reacted instantly different to me, how people out in the world did too. My energy had truly changed, overnight. Doors were opening and opening in a different way. I was stronger inside, things made sense in life a bit more, it was very clear cut on the foods and what I needed to do and not do.
But the drinking. I’d not thought about it. Then I heard on this podcast, that she went to a veggie fest and had a fun cocktail. Or this brewery that donated all it’s proceeds to animal sanctuaries. There was thankfully not a lot of this, but there was some. Across the board I would say vegan people are health conscious or wakened enough to not drink. I do not know first hard, but as far as historically or just plain sense, it seemed to go together.
The door was slightly opened though. It rather took me by surprise and though I wasn’t triggered per-se, I found myself wondering how that could be reconciled. It seemed like the reconciliation was generally – well they are not harming animals by drinking, so it’s ok. Well, so I would only be harming myself, so I can too. Since I don’t like myself anyways.
We got through a trip to MD in early December, it went pretty well and I recall feeling calm at various points. That I didn’t have to worry about anything at that moment. That I knew of things that were kind of stressful – like worrying about the chickens back home, traveling in general, work, where I was going in life, whether my husband was happy etc. But those worries kind of could come and then could drift away a little too and still leave me open to enjoy the visit and vacation, time away. To just kind of be and enjoy what was.
Then on the way home from MD, things rather fell apart yet again. I was paranoid, rushed, restless, angry, scared, worried, feeling of impending doom, feeling of hopelessness, lack of enjoyment in anything, disappointments, stress, little voice whispering hey, why not have some wine jerk-off? Maybe you’ll chill the #$%^ out for once. Just like a breath, the voice was. It was more of a feeling of those words than the actual words. It was faint, so faint. In and out along with the other thoughts and words and feelings and emotions that were spinning around in my head. I felt like I was drowning again.
There was also, I think as part of the drowning feeling, a feeling of extreme reaching. Reaching for food, for meditation, for books, for hugs, for talking, for driving, for mental stimulation – this very ADD reaching grasping NEEDING feeling. I noticed it very distinctly, it went over and above the usual PMS-grabbing-chocolates thing that many women are so delighted to have. It was this feeling of absolutely not achieving but still reaching.
A week or so ago I had a dream that I was in this big winter city and driving around and around looking for something. In the dream I was saying and woke up saying “I lost myself. I’m lost. I lost myself again”. And that is how it felt and feels.
Leading to when my husband came home the following weekend from MA, and had spent too much money at the store and not listened to me (I thought) and then told me how I was crazy and ruining his day over nothing, which escalated into just total awfulness and bizarre self destructive behavior. I was yelling about “gas-lighting” which I think both he and I do to each other and to ourselves. You can gas-light yourself right?
Screaming, running, depression, crying, feelings of total loss, him telling my that I was doing it all again and he’d thought I was doing better, ideas of divorce, moving – where when how, his telling me that I was “killing us” and of the scars I was making inside myself and him. I was physically harming myself and felt completely out of control and that I couldn’t trust myself. I hated hated hated myself. The next day I spent out of my mind some more, hitting and screaming at myself, punching and clawing and telling myself I wished I was dead, for hours, alone in the house on the floor. Desperately reaching, but finding absolutely nothing of comfort or ease, nothing to hang onto. I was groundless, all was air. Gone. Absent.
The week continued….snow, rain, ice, cold, worries….paranoia, anger, depression…
Then some odd blips.
I thought I was going to hear some disappointing type or scary type of news at work – instead, I received some nice news.
At the gym, I thought I was going to hear a complaint and have to tell someone off to the extreme, the situation in my head was on all alerts, instead, I heard a compliment. From someone who doesn’t give them out much and in the position to have an opinion (she is in exceptional shape herself).
Two times in two days that I was expecting something shitty but got something nice instead. It showed me how the shit in my head was destroying my life. I knew that, but it was dramatic these times.
Then on Friday, my father called at an inopportune moment and I said how I’m not doing well, not at all. And felt angry afterwards about what little was said, I was taking each word as an affront and almost called him back and got into this whole thing over it. But I didn’t and felt a bit better as the day went on. I’m tired of creating these issues and running with the, I’m tired of the drama, especially of my own creating or intensifying.
When would it end? What the HELL was wrong with me? Why was it that I could string no more than a few days of good and calm and reasonable together? No matter what I did or didn’t do. Why was I STILL dealing with this, why was I STILL harming my husband and I’d relationship?
Then a person who I follow mentioned PAWS and how hers lasted 18 months. She mentioned it rather casually, it was not the point of the post. I stopped reading the post. I looked up PAWS. This is what I found on wiki that hit me in the head like a flashlight while under the bed: Symptoms can sometimes come and go with wave-like reoccurrences or fluctuations in severity of symptoms. Common symptoms include impaired cognition, irritability, depressed mood, and anxiety; all of which may reach severe levels which can lead to relapse.
Let’s just say that again. “Wave-like recoccurrences…..[and} in severity of symptoms”. “All of which may reach severe levels which can lead to relapse”.
Then the list of symptoms:
Symptoms occur intermittently, but are not always present. They are made worse by stress or other triggers and may arise at unexpected times and for no apparent reason. They may last for a short while or longer. Any of the following may trigger a temporary return or worsening of the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome:
- Stressful and/or frustrating situations
- Feelings of anxiety, fearfulness or anger
- Social conflicts
- Unrealistic expectations of oneself
“Unrealistic expectations of oneself”.
I know lots of these symptoms can happen independently of PAWS. But this is WHAT IT IS. This is what it is.
When I read this and then this: PAWS I immediately went and had my husband listen about it. He was tired, it was late, we were both exhausted. But he listened and gave full attention and we were both taken aback.
It gave us both hope really. It was a light through the fog. Like, maybe I wasn’t actually losing my mind or stuck in a life of malcontent, insanity, depression, mania, bipolar? Maybe I wasn’t done for? Maybe I didn’t have to move again or get divorced or give up on everything and just isolate forever?
We talked at great length about it all. My husband said many times that in no uncertain terms, I could not not not go back to drinking. He wanted me to understand fully, that alcohol and me simply do not mix. That he noticed a difference between how I now spoke, acted, moved and looked – a better change. That if I did I would never ever be free of the cycle. That I had set myself back greatly by going drinking again in 2016. That I had been greatly harming my brain and that it needed time to recover, to fully recover. That I needed to give myself a real chance, for once and for all. That I would be completely in the wrong to go back to drinking, that I would never be out of the cycle.
I still feel raw and lost. But it does give me hope. Then the feeling is, well, the scars of mine and of his and of ours are too large. And I’m too old now. I used up all my chances and it’s too late.
We went to get lunch at Frontier yesterday and it was very nice. But people were annoying in the world. That will most likely never change, But my husband put on a happy face and we tried and the food was very nice. We had tofu rice bowl, spicy tomato ginger coconut milk soup, focaccia with oil and salt, sweet potato fries, (he had) scallops with he said were cooked perfectly, with beet fried rice and vegetables, and I had a pear mocktail and we shared the vegan chocolate mousse, and talked some. The table was right at the window, they had pine boughs on the window sills of the warehouse resturant. The server was curious that were would be hungry enough to finish everything, I said yes we would (people often are suprised we want and finish everything we order, because we are not obese? I don’t know why). And I said that yes, we are hungry and we always eat a lot on Saturdays. And we did.
After we went to the natural foods store in Brunswick, which is great but almost impossible to actually move around in. We made it through. We went to Nest and I got the notebook I’d been wanting and actually needed a new one, I stumbled upon and actually got a moonstone ring and he picked me out a pair of earrings – blue long triangles- which was interesting because I’d wanted to wear something blue while getting ready and almost wore a blue long triangle necklace but it didn’t go exactly, I got those too.
And we made it home and made it into comfortable clothes and listened to some Bing Crosby Christmas and Dean Martin on Alexa and fiddled around a bit. And had tea and Bubbie Bars and I was asleep on the couch by 7:30. I had a few panics here and there in my sleep, but slept. Woke up sad and raw and feeling very old and empty. But it is all out now and I must persevere for my husband’s sake if no one elses. I have to get better and get through the PAWS. Hopefully when I see a wave coming, I’ll know the wave for what it is an just let it pass over me and come up on the other side, no longer drowning.
I saw an eagle again at Ocean Point. My husband is still hugging me this morning.
There must be an other side.