Some of my more loyal readers may recall one of the earliest entries to the alcoholism series named "The year of hell". That one dealt with the every day horrors of being in the deepest depths of the last stages of alcohol addiction, and I hope it portrayed quite well just how bad you can feel when entangled in said addiction. However, I feel that post isn't enough.
Over the past one and a half years I have been in a relationship with a very sensitive and very self-critical woman, and I can't count the number of times she was crippled by guilt over how she "makes me miserable" whenever a crisis in our relationship temporarily upsets or depresses me. I am in part writing this post for her, because whenever she believes she is making me miserable, even when I am genuinely upset, it just never qualifies for my definition of misery. It's a minor, temporary thing. I know she loves me, she knows I love her, and those are just the every day bumps on the road when two mentally ill people embark on a relationship that both hope will last until the end of days. Making me miserable is just something that does not happen. Because I have been miserable. In ways that almost defy description. I have charted depths of misery no human being should ever begin to approach. And that is the dubious beauty of alcoholism, there's no other thing but misery you'll learn all about, in all its shapes and facets.
In the post I linked in the opening paragraph I told you all about the wonders of withdrawal. There have been a lot of comparisons made between alcohol withdrawal and the kind of shit heroin junkies face when they're out of stuff, and I know from many sources who have been through both that there are two major differences. The first one is that heroin withdrawal can least weeks or even months, while alcohol withdrawal is over in a handful of days. The second one is that that handful of days is so abysmal that going through it, you wish you were on heroin withdrawal. It's the worst you can imagine feeling multiplied by a factor of ten. It's like everything in your mind and body is going wrong all at the same time. I have gone into more detail in the "year of hell"-post, so please refer to that one for all the ugliness this stage of alcoholism can bring to your life.
Because this post is not simply about withdrawal, it's about ALL the hell alcoholism brings to your life. So there's a lot more.
One thing that was my permanent companion was that I was permanently sick. Alcohol, consumed regularly in large amounts over a long period of time, seriously messes up your stomach. I generally couldn't eat because I was too sick. And when I got to eat, which was excruciating, a lot of the time it wouldn't stay in very long. So, at my respectable 1.85 meters height, I weighed around 56 kilos most of the time. There may be anorexics out there that can beat that, but it surely is significantly below the medical limit for underweight. This again brings its own issues, because in addition to your stomach being sick constantly, the consequence of that sickness is that you are left with a body that isn't fit for any task other than sitting and maybe going to the bathroom. Going to the grocery store for new booze was already a major issue that cost a lot of strength, so at the height at my alcoholism I had to convince my parents to supply me. They didn't like it, but they knew what withdrawal meant, so they figured they could at least avoid that by helping me.
The beautiful set of shiny, healthy teeth you may see on Facebook pictures of myself also isn't real. Those are dentures. All my teeth rotted away during my heavy alcoholic phase. I just couldn't spend the energy to take care of myself. I was too depressed by the everyday misery of being a heavy alcoholic, and I generally avoided tasks that would mean having to stop drinking for a few minutes. It was that bad. Of course it meant constant abscesses, which are pretty much the most painful thing you can possibly imagine this side of giving birth. You know it's bad when you take the max dose of ibuprofen together with the max dose of paracetamol, and it has absolutely no effect. This was pretty much a monthly occurence on average, sometimes more. Recurring excruciating pain, to the point that it is at times near chronic, is by itself enough to drive anyone insane. And for me it was just one of many things. Add that to the fact that the few times I went out in public everyone would stare at my rotten, incomplete set of teeth, which just makes you want to die out of shame.
There were more physical issues which were a burden by themselves, but the ones described in the previous two paragraphs were the main ones, and they're enough to cause an unimaginable level of misery. But even that is surpassed by the psychological damage alcoholism does to you. Pretty much everything in your brain is messed up by it. Obviously your self-esteem is at zero, below zero. You're a drinker, you're a piece of shit. What really gets to me though is that alcohol makes you do and say all those completely stupid things, and every day you have to feel guilty beyond description for the shit you did the day before, and all the days before that. Even worse is the worry about all the shit you might have done that you have forgotten about. It is suffocating to live with the certainty that you did a lot of stuff that made yourself look like a jackass and other people miserable, and you don't even remember them. You never know what you did. But you know you did something. I simply couldn't live with that, I suffered unimaginable misery because of it. And the more you drink, the more screwed up your brain is, so the more stupid things you do and say, and the less you remember it. It's a vicious cycle of hell.
Those four last paragraphs are just the four things I remember the most, and they were probably the most miserable, suffocating, hellish, unbearable. But I know there were many more things that made every minute of every day a nightmare. The list just doesn't end, but I'm putting a full-stop here, because I think these four things are enough to make my point. I hope it will help some people to think about what they are doing when they think it is a good idea to go down that road (though I am not anti-alcohol, it's something that can be done without problem when done responsibly), and I hope that people, including the lovely woman I mentioned earlier, who think they have done or said things that made me feel bad will read this and know that I have been through far worse and am not easily made miserable these days anymore. I have suffered through things few people can imagine. It is not better or worse than suffering some of the horrendous violent crimes that are out there, so don't tell me you've had it worse because you are a victim until you've had a bottle of hard liquor every day for years. But it is something that gives you a protective shield of sorts once you have successfully kicked it out of your life, because you know pretty much anything anyone can do or say to you can ever bring you back to that point.