Sunday, June 30, 2013

A sobriety update

Life's funny.  I will honestly admit I do miss drinking.  I suspected that I would and I was warned that I would.  I am however drinking my body weight in tea and lemonade - I can expect this to happen for a little while longer apparently.  I learnt something that basically there is two parts to this - one is the physical act of holding something in your hand and "drinking", the other particularly with the lemonade is to fulfill the sugar addiction.  Considering alcohol is basically empty calories and sugar - your body ends up craving the sugar.  I'm not sure if switching to lemonade is the best idea though - it's still empty calories.  Although I did have a friend suggest yesterday that I switch to soda water with a splash of cordial so that seems like a pretty good idea if you ask me.  And why the tea?  Our Nespresso machine is broken - there's a capsule stuck in it and I still haven't been able to work out how to get the damn thing out although to be honest I think if drank as much coffee as I do tea, I would be seriously bouncing off the walls.

So yes anyway - I'm not drinking, I'm thinking clearer (which is no great surprise), although I have managed to find out again that even sober I am a ditz.  So maybe that's natural... I'm naturally a ditz.

The other bit I find quite surprising is that I'm actually getting quite tired.  I told my psychiatrist and he was quite surprised - I'm more used to falling out on the couch.  Dozing off on the couch is a bit of a new experience.

One experience from the weekend was amazing though.  I invited my brother along to see Man of Steel at IMAX.  And when he was leaving yesterday he actually hugged me and told me he was proud of me for doing the right thing by Larry, Louise and Olivia.  My brother and I very, very rarely hug.  The last time he hugged me was at our commitment ceremony in 2008 - so that was kind of a big deal.

So there you go a bit of a nothing blog post ;)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Notes from Detox (from my Moleskin)

I told my GP that I was going into detox and she suggested that I should get into something like blogging to help pass the time I would normally spend drinking...

So I decided to take my moleskin into detox with me, considering I hardly ever use it!

So some notes:

  • Hospital food blows
  • Detox is easier than expected.  Although the hallucinations are starting to creep me out.  There always seems to be something at the corner of my eye.
  • Time actually seems to passing reasonably quickly.
  • Some of the psychologists are SO cute!
  • All the staff have been really wonderful (apart from one nurse who was a bit dour and the catering staff are all a bit nasty - although there is a rather nice, friendly and handsome ginger beardo).
  • Not drinking.  Yes well... so far so good - physically I miss it, mentally I miss it - but I seem to be doing ok.  That may change when they let me out though.
  • Valium tastes awful.
  • I've been drinking so much tea and apple juice.
  • Surviving on 3G isn't that much fun - I miss the online interaction but in part I'm also happy not to have it.
  • I miss my babies.  I know I am doing the right thing for them but I just miss them so much.  I miss the laughter, the joy, even hell the whining.  I just want to give them massive cuddles.
  • Anxiety is up - maybe I used alcohol to control my anxiety.
  • Valium stops today which means I am expecting an increase in anxiety.
  • My best friend Matt has helped maintain my sense of humour.
  • Feels a bit weird not having the alcohol withdrawal scale done anymore.
  • I'm still worried about my blood pressure though.
  • I'm really quite upset that I have to miss the girls first parent teacher meeting.
  • I thought I had low-esteem but how much the teenagers here hate themselves is truly heart-breaking.  I have to ensure this doesn't happy to Louise and Olivia.
  • I'm still anxious - not sure if it's related to being away from home or that I suffer anxiety.
  • I feel depressed and lonely but that was my choice.
  • I honestly can not believe that I spent two days without listening to music - there must be something wrong with me!

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Experience of Detox

I suppose I should explain a lot of people confuse detox with rehab.  They are not the same.  The idea of rehab in the US does include detox.  Here it can do but it depends on your level of addiction and I guess also your personal strength etc...  I went for the straight detox option - I had to - Larry and I had too many other commitments for me to be out of action for that long.

I guess also my idea of what detox was going to be like was completely different to the reality.  I ended up in a private clinic - which I know sounds swanky but trust me it wasn't it really, really wasn't.

It's funny my pscychiatrist actually recommended that I read Augusten Burroughs' Dry while I was in detox and I actually felt like I got in trouble because I was busy reading George R R Martin's Dances with Dragons.  So anyway I ended up reading it - first time in god only knows how long I've read a book in less than a day...  I think Augusten had similar expectations as to what detox/rehab in a private clinic is meant to be about.  It's also funny I normally treat books with respect - I don't mark them or dog ear them.  This one I did.  There's actually a lot that I could relate to and I think I will be keeping it close to me for a while.

"And I feel like, that's the reason to go to gay rehab.  People appreciate the drama."

It's a funny, poignant and moving memoir and one that I can really quite relate to in a lot of ways.

So anyway back to me and the misery that was detox.

Let's start with the room.  Simple, basic, depressing.  For some reason psychiatric hospitals are depressing and they are decorated in the most depressing fashion possible.  I guess maybe it's encourage people to get out as fast as possible - something I was quite happy to try to achieve.  I didn't want to be there and the room really wasn't helping... The bed was a king single.  Now I'm a big man - I'm 6"3' so yeah that's not even that comfortable for me and they give you some threadbare cotton blanket that barely keeps you warm and you're in comfort city - JOY!  And of course the tasteful bedspread doesn't help - that's thinner than the blanket.  And of course the decor is rather 1970s institutional.  And the ensuite was just as bad.  I know it's all rather minor stuff but hey this is a private hospital so I was a bit surprised.  The view was also very inspiring and motivating.  Don't get me wrong I love Melbourne - it's a beautiful city.  Just not when you have to stare at a hole in the ground and the back of some office buildings.  Ah yet beautiful Melbourne.  Funny especially considering how close to Albert Park Lake I was.  Anyway I guess beautiful views aren't the point really are they? But it would have been nice.

So there's that... so I get checked in downstairs by someone who smokes and in a tiny little office so it's just me, her and the lingering smell of her last cigarette.  Probably not the best introduction to detox.  So I get checked in, sign my life away, get a bad photo taken so the nurses know that I am the right person to give the right drugs too.  I'm taken back outside to wait for a nurse to take me up to my room.  So I'm waiting for 5 minutes and the nurse comes down.  She shows me the dining room (WAIT WHAT!?!?!?!), takes me up to the 3rd floor, shows me the TV room (WAIT WHAT?!?!?!?!) and the kitchen which is right next to my room (which that one was a bonus).  She gives me time to settle in... and I am left pondering the whole notion of communal dining and communal tv viewing.  Yes a private hospital and you have to go downstairs and eat with the rest of the patients (or crazies as I dubbed them) and if you want to watch tv you have to go do that with with the adult patients.  I chose to not watch TV.  5 days no TV - I did pretty well - although I did Misfits on my iPad so strictly I didn't not watch TV.

It's funny - you check in and on the first day someone is there every half hour to make sure you're ok.  And now the even funnier thing is on day 1 of detox - you don't have most of the withdrawals.  Although I do have to admit that the psychologist who finished my admission was quite cute.  There apparently are benefits to being admitted to a nuthouse.  So basically after a while I got a bit sick of the constant knock on the door and someone asking me if I was ok.  I understand that during the first 24 hours is when people are the biggest flight risk.  I do get that... The other thing too which I was warned about was getting an alcohol withdrawal scale done every 4 hours so that was ok too.  Although the fact that my blood pressure and anxiety were through the roof slightly worried me.  But I guess also a bonus on day 1, I was allowed to start taking Valium.

A brief segue.  Those people who know me know that I love music.  I am quite literally lost without it.  I spent the first two days in detox without listening to anything - no music - nothing...

So one of the funnier moments was when the cute psychologist came back to talk to me about my "treatment plan."  From my understanding I didn't have a treatment plan and I told him so - "I'm just here to detox and that's it."  The poor dear looked a little confused.  So he trotted off to ring my psychiatrist to see if this was in fact that case.  I wasn't probably that unusual but I was just a get in - dry out - get out case.  No group therapy etc... I think that kind of threw him out of his routine.  I got checked up by the GP that's on staff.  She was surprised that I hadn't done more damage to my body (I've been drinking heavily for 17 years pretty much - I'm surprised I haven't done more damage to my body).

So I get settled in and start reading, play games on my iPad.  Dinner is at 5pm... oh goodie!  Um yeah the food... For someone who loves food and cooking as much as I do.  I could have cried.  It quite literally was slop and all the choices were basically just slop, slop, more slop.  And it was oily slop and large amounts of oil and my digestion don't really agree.

So we move onto night one.  I take my anti-depression medication and my valium.  Try to sleep to then only be woken up at 12:30am by the night nurse shining a torch right into my eyes.  At this point I think I decided that detox wasn't going to be much fun.  Apart from the valium.  I couldn't get back to sleep and the night nurse did tell me that I could take more valium.  Now as I learnt later the following day apparently there is not an endless supply of valium *gasp* - so the nurses had to ring my psychiatrist to have the maximum amount I could take upped.  Which he did - just not as much was requested by the nurse which was cool too.

So anyway we're on day 2.  Breakfast is passable - it's toast and jam - which I make myself.  That's about all that's on offer apart from porridge and cereal.  Neither of which are on my hit-list.  It's funny I'm not a big eater (funny when you consider my size - but then again alcohol is basically just sugar) but during my entire time in detox regardless of how awful the food was - I had 3 meals a day.  So I'm still getting the withdrawal scale done - anxiety is still through the roof - valium is still helping.  I'm being checked up on every hour.  And the nurses come in for a chat which pretty much becomes standard - go through my life story, go through what I am going to do when I get released, shock over the fact that there's no plan in place for me coming off the valium [i'm only on it for 3 days in total]).  Pretty much all of them were surprised that I didn't have any visitors coming in to see me - I decided that it was probably best for my mental state of mind and for Louise in Olivia that they didn't come in to see me.  I think in all honesty I wouldn't have been able to handle it.  I've now started drinking my body weight in tea and apple juice and I also keep taking the little blocks of cheese and packets of 3 crackers out of the kitchen next to my room - scurry back into my room - consume said goodies and get more!  I do have addictive behaviours... I also snack when I get bored.

Day 3 - my psychiatrist pops in for a visit - pretty impressive that he visits on Sundays to be honest.  My hallucinations have started, its just ghosting in my peripheral vision but its giving me the willies.  So I get three pieces of news, I'm allowed to leave the clinic and go for a walk or whatever, he's stopping the valium and the withdrawal scales also stop.  Apparently my detox has been a "textbook" case.  I was fine with all that.  Although the bit that cracks me up is that when in an alcohol detox - day 3 is meant to be the worst day and that's the day they stop everything.  Go figure.  Something a bit weird about that if you ask me.  And I get through most of the day without seeing anyone.  One of the nurses finally comes in to chat to me before dinner (more slop - goodie!!!).

Day 4 - SO FREAKING BORED!!!! And the cheese ran out in the kitchen next to my room.  I barely see any staff at all.  I did get a visit from a really nice nurse after dinner and we chatted for about an hour as to what I was going to do once I was discharged and how I was going to manage and cope without drinking.  She also thought it was a bit sad that I decided to not have Larry or the girls visit - but as I explained that was my choice.  I didn't want to make it any harder on them then it already was.  I'm still consuming my bodyweight in tea and apple juice.

Day 5 - I go have breakfast, back to my room and pack.  I was literally pacing... to see when I could go.  My psychiatrist popped in to see me told me I was free to go - he just had to tidy up some paperwork and one of the nurses would come get me.  Half an hour later I was FREE!!!!

I know I have probably made this sound worse than it is.  It did it's job.  I got over the physical addiction of alcohol.  I spent 5 days in a clinic where I could get over the physical stuff.  Now I need to work on the mental stuff.  It probably is a little bit sad that I did keep to myself and that I didn't have Larry and the girls visit.  But I needed my own strength and I needed to focus on myself which is something that I haven't been able to do for a very long time.  So yes I came out the other side.

All the staff were really wonderful and supportive - the catering staff were a bit sour though but I can understand why - I would be too.

One of the things that really kind made me feel sad.   There's an adolescent unit at the clinic (I was on the same floor) and the kitchen next to my room had some of the their group artwork and these kids have such low self-esteem, I thought mine was bad but there's was just really heart-breaking - about feeling unloved, about people loving them more if they were skinnier, not wanting to be alive and so on.  It was quite shocking and it made me realise that somehow Larry and I have to ensure that Louise and Olivia are raised in an environment where I hope they never have to feel like that.

So there you go a rather long and rambling post...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thinking about something in relation to equality (USA vs OZ)

Actually thinking about it now that my own personal giddiness has died down somewhat (hey I'm still happy I get to marry the man I love for real!) and we get the chance to start an entirely new chapter of our lives.

It saddens me though that Australia which is meant to be progressive can't afford people the same level of dignity and respect.  Where is Tony Abbott or (now) Kevin Rudd saying this:

"I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

Whilst I am happy for myself and my family (like for us this really is a big deal), I am actually deeply saddened that unfortunately in Australia - we still have discrimination enshrined in our laws.

Some Dreams Come True

Larry and I have been trying to find a way to get me to the US since we met.  So for nearly 8 years I have been blocked from entering on the sheer basis that we're a same-sex couple.  Now we have tried to find ways around it (me trying to find work in the US, studying in the US etc...).

It's been hard.  Really hard.  Larry loves his country and he wants to go home.  Like a lot of people who are part of a bi-national couple he has has had to choose between the country he loves and his family.  Up until now, he's chosen me.  I would and will go to the end of the Earth for this man - he has for me, so it's the least I can do for him.

So at roughly 2:30am this morning when Olivia decided to climb up into bed with us.  I checked my email and there was an email from the HRC saying that Section 3 of DOMA had been ruled unconstitutional.  I slapped Larry on the rump (he wasn't particularly impressed with that to be honest) to tell him.  We can go to the US finally - after 8 years of trying, hoping and even to the point of almost giving up.

Although there is one minor glitch - we have to get married for real this time...  We had a commitment ceremony in 2008 but I'm not sure if that would be counted.  We can prove our relationship though.  May mean a quickie wedding in New Zealand though.

I'm not sure if the people who have fought for this will see this but honestly from the bottom of my heart thank you so much - this means so much to me and my family.

Hi my name is Michael and I'm an alcoholic...

"It's about being an alcoholic.
It's about me being an alcoholic.
My lips move when I whisper the words out loud. I'm an alcoholic."

Augusten Burroughs - Dry

Probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to say in my life.  Admitting to a (massive) problem is never easy.  It's funny since I've admitted to it - I've had so many people tell me that I am brave and they are so proud of me.  I don't see why.  I have made such a complete and absolute cock-up of my life - I almost lost everything - the man who loves me, my gorgeous children.  I don't feel particularly brave - I feel if anything rather foolish - I let something take control of me...

I guess the other funny thing is when I "came out" as an alcoholic having people tell me that they didn't realise it was that bad.  I'm what's classified as a high-functioning alcoholic;

"high-functioning alcoholic (HFA) is a form of alcoholism where the alcoholic is able to maintain their outside life such as jobs, academics, relationships, etc. – all while drinking alcoholically."

Now like a lot of HFAs I was in denial about how bad the problem actually was.  My psychiatrist and I had been talking about possible "solutions" for over 6 months and I'd always find an excuse to not do it.  It took an intervention between Larry and my psychiatrist for me to finally admit that yes - I was in a dire situation.  If I didn't fix my drinking that I would lose everything - the man I love, my gorgeous children and eventually my life.  So I checked into detox on Friday the 21st of June.  I was scared, petrified.

It's harrowing releasing just how much control alcohol has actually had over my life.  I have been a drinker pretty much since I was 23 and a heavy drinker since my late 20s.  Also both my parents were alcoholics but mother wasn't around long enough for that to have an impact.  Dad on the other hand - normalised drinking for me - to me it seemed perfectly that people drank from as soon as they got up to when they went to bed.  I did hate when I was growing up but it was also the person I turned into and would have would up as.

So I went into detox for 5 days.
Apparently I was a textbook case.

More posts to follow as this is only the start of my journey and I have to relay the comedy that actually is detox =P

The photo is actually from a 365 photo project I was doing when I originally met Larry and I was diagnosed with depression and bi-polar.