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Recovery diaries: the first shaky days of sobriety

Antabuse*. That beautiful little tablet which promised to make me deathly ill if I took a mere whiff of alcohol, was finally in my hands.

Getting from the point of, 'I-need-to-stop-drinking-so-I'm-going-to-the-doctor', to actually having the tablets in my possession, had taken weeks.

I needed the chemical muzzle of Antabuse to stop what I couldn't stop myself

First, I'd had to convince my GP that I had a dangerous alcohol habit that I'd tried everything to unsuccessfully kick, and next, I was referred to the local alcohol and drug counsellor, who had to confirm the extent of my booze problem. About a month later, I'd managed to convince these two health professionals that I had absolutely no control over my drinking and needed the chemical muzzle of Antabuse to stop what I couldn't stop myself.

That last few weeks of drinking just about did me in. I desperately wanted to stop but knew I couldn't, without serious support. Until then, I was told it wasn't safe for me to stop because I was physically dependent on alcohol and if I stopped suddenly, I was at risk of having seizures, which could be fatal.

I was on track to safely getting alcohol out of my body, and out of my life.

About a week before I was given the Antabuse, I had what is called a medical detox. This involved being given a few prescribed tranquilisers at my doctor's surgery every day. My blood pressure and heart were checked and I answered a lot of health questions. At home, I slept and mooched, feeling very sorry for myself. Chocolate, chicken soup and Netflix reality shows were what kept me going between my nightmare-filled naps. I didn't feel well - it was kind of like having a flu with aches, pains and sweating - but I was on track to safely getting alcohol out of my body, and out of my life.

I was resolute but any alcoholic will tell you this: you can loathe and detest the thought of having a drink and at the same time, want it so desperately you would walk over hot coals to get to it. As fast as I could feel alcohol leaving my body, I wanted it even more. For me, this was the definition of misery.

But here I was with this chance of staying stopped, cupped in the palm of my hand. Should I take it? If I did, any alcohol I drank would act like water did on mogwai - I would turn into a spewing, exploding gremlin. I'd probably end up in hospital and I certainly wouldn't be getting a buzz off it.

I almost tossed the tablet aside as I felt another craving for wine sweep over me but the sliver of sanity I had left moved my hand to my mouth. A gulp of water and it was gone. And so was the choice of drinking, at least for the next two weeks.

That night, I drifted off to sleep realising that besides alcohol, there was something major missing from my life: an incessant voice plaguing me with the 'will I drink or won't I drink?' question. Every day, that argument churned in my head, dominating every thought.

For now, it was quiet and right then, I knew I had a chance of finally stopping drinking, for good.

*Antabuse, also known as disulfiram, blocks an enzyme that is involved in processing alcohol. If the person taking it drinks, they could experience symptoms such as a fast heartbeat, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, flushing, and thirst. Please note alcohol is present in other substances, for example perfumes and some food, this may also cause a reaction. Antabuse must be prescribed by a medical practitioner. Always consult your medical practitioner to discuss if this medication is right for you, to discuss when you should start or stop this medication, to identify possible side effects and for ongoing monitoring. Seek medical assessment if you experience any side effects or if you drink while taking Antabuse.

Recovery Diaries is written by an Ocean Hills staffer, who kindly provides extracts from their recovery journal they wrote in as part of getting and staying sober.

If you're worried about your drinking or that of someone you love, call Elaine on 027 573 7744 for a confidential and compassionate chat. You're never alone.

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