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2 Years Sober

By Raggamuffin · Dec 1, 2021 · ·
  1. Today marks 2 years alcohol free - time flies. I also lost the 2+ stone I gained from all those years being a drunk and living off takeaways. Haven't had a migraine since I quit drinking either. Whilst alcohol is a depressant, I'd say my depression has been worse since quitting alcohol. Progress is a slow burn, and whilst I've seen a lot of positive changes, being sober is no panacea. Still, I wouldn't ever want to go back.

    I didn't drink for a long time after my first experience drinking socially. Attending my first ever house party, getting blackout drunk, kicked out of the party within a few hours and ending the night with alcohol poisoning. Drinking has often seemed illogical to me: a short period of enjoyment followed by hangovers that lasted double what the initial buzz did. Also, a lot of people who were drinkers weren't the kind of personalities I was drawn towards. It can help introverts feel more extrovert, but it comes at a heavy price.

    I find people tend to be difficult to be around normally, let alone when alcohol is thrown into the mix. Crowded venues are also the complete opposite of where I want to be. Being in such an environment conjures up a similar intensity of emotions as you would experience when you've had a near miss whilst driving you car. I feel constantly on edge, and I'm always leaving social events early to go home, because it's just too much to process.

    Sound sensitivity is piercing too. The background noise of a busy room or being around loud people has me reaching for my noise cancelling headphones. Even then it's not enough - as I'm constantly vibing off people's emotions and absorbing all sorts of mixed emotions which leave me absolutely exhausted. A bit like how I feel about ready to end the day before it's began when I've been stuck in traffic on the drive into work. Fatigue never really goes away, because the brain constantly has the throttle stuck open. I don't really get a choice with being an empath though. Sure, I can try and calm myself down after the event, but any form of strong emotions from nearby people will crash into me like a tidal wave. If anything I'm becoming more sensitive the older I get.

    I used to drink on my own, and its as destructive as those health websites would suggest. In the final years I was at a point of planning my days around drinking. In a way I'm glad it got to the point it did, because it provided a stronger momentum to get away from it. Wasn't easy though, and I tried and failed innumerable times. I'm still very much an "all or nothing" type person. I tried and failed many times to approach drinking with a degree of moderation. Kidding myself with my supposed progress and restraint - when in reality I was just needlessly torturing myself pretending I was someone that I knew I wasn't.

    Substance abuse and addiction is common with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety and Depression. We all have coping strategies and mechanisms - some more healthy than others. My main coping strategy is rather stereotypical of the spectrum - I need a lot of alone time. I'm forever lost in thought, and being around lots of people often causes sensory overload. Alone time helps me calm down, but this year it seems I can't get enough respite and the fatigue continues to grow.

    Throughout the day I'm sat bottling up emotions, because if I didn't - I wouldn't be able to hold down jobs or friendships. Getting triggered constantly throughout the day over seemingly inconsequential events really does take it's toll. But outlets for stress only go so far. The stress continues to build and build, eventually leading to mental and physical burnouts. There's a reason people on the spectrum tend to have shorter lifespans and live with comorbidities - it's because of the amount of stress our minds put on our bodies. A stressed mind leads to a stressed body - and mine has been an aching wreck since 2012.

    There's quite a lot of inescapable situations that continue to set my brain off - although I rarely ever show just how angry and frustrated I am. It's funny how many people have called me "chilled out" in the past. Feels like someone pointing to a beautiful mountain, when little do they know it's an active volcano. A classic trigger is one shared by many on the spectreum - being disturbed whilst focusing on something. You might as well be holding a screaming baby up to my ears. Then you get told "there's no reason to get angry" after making a curt remark. Please don't poke the bear.

    My current job features a whole day of various disturbances whilst you're in the middle of doing something. The stop start nature has been poaching my brain for 2 years now. It's literal kryptonite to someone with ADHD and Autism, so it's no wonder my mental and physical health has been in a downward spiral. Office jobs are all my CV is good for though, and they're jobs and environments that are catastrophic for my mental health. It's no coincidence that substance abuse began within weeks of joining the rat race. Doesn't get any easier though. Another common theme on the spectrum is frequently being told "you're capable of so much more". Yes, we know, and that observation is painfully obvious to us as well.

    In public I have to mask and try and keep the stimming to a minimum, but it's an exhausting process and takes up a lot of energy and focus. Of course we all have social masks, but with Autism you try your hardest to avoid social faux pas - because there's traumas attached to the stigmas that begin in school, and don't really change all that much into adulthood either. It's as simple as "us and them" and when you're not "normal" you will start to have to try and act normal, or you will experience more stigma and trauma.

    The term "high functioning" feels a little too optimistic to me. After 2 years spent on this forum, I can safely say that people on the spectrum frequently seem to struggle and suffer in silence. Whilst I know it might have some good intentions behind it, you encounter a lot of ableism and toxic positivity on the spectrum as well. Then again, trying to view situations from other people's perspectives is a common issue in life, especially with the 'tism. I will say that having a name for why you've felt like you've never really fit into the world is quite a profound moment in your life though.
    Sometimes I wonder if it's worth trying so hard to be normal, when so many social norms seem highly unappealing or inplausible. Truth is, when you get confronted about your weird behaviour, it's belittling and deeply unsettling. Masking is the lesser of two evils, but it comes at a price. It's a neverending mental marathon and I've felt burnt out for a long time this year. It's been a struggle to maintain self care, work focus and just keeping things moving forwards.

    Lacking friends at work, having processes constantly changing, going through the breakup and house move etc. has tried my patience and resolve consistently throughout 2021. The burnout has caused the constant aching to start up once again. I'm several months into living with chronic pains, and I'm plagued by mental fog and a reduced capacity for handling my already poor emotional regulation. Starting to experience derealisation once again as my mind retreats in on itself to attempt some form of respite. I'm also stimming a lot more in a bid to ground myself. All the while I'm having more and more aggressive outbursts in my own company. Frequently finding myself wanting to scream, cry or just laugh at this ever-increasing internal tension.

    Starting therapy again this week. It's good to talk, and get a neutral parties opinions and advice. Friends and family can often be biased in their opinions, and I appreciate sharing thoughts and feelings with a therapist. I think the idea of quitting the rat race and doing my creative ventures full time is a bit of a salvation fantasy. At the end of the day I've had obsessive worries and anxieties from the age of 9. Twenty six years later and it's like anything else you put time into - it's highly astute these days. Then again, creative minds are often plagued by mental health issues. It's the darker side to your imagination. The one that creates the nightmares and takes you down the rabbit hole with your fears and anxieties.

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    Ed

    About Author

    Raggamuffin

Comments

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  1. RidgefieldRyno
    Thank you for writing this! So much of what you say resonates in a way that so few understand! I'm here, with you, brother! Continue writing; it's your gift to the rest of us. You float words like the best fly fisherman floats a fly... smooth... deliberate... and with a mastery that takes time. Keep writing brother! I will continue soaking up your words!
      Raggamuffin likes this.