Today is a very special day for me.
On this day, four years ago, I stopped contributing to a personal debilitating and destructive addiction, alcohol. Until then…I had never gone more than a very few days without drinking since I was 12 years old. Yes, you read right…12 years old. And I never drank just a little…I drank a-motherfuckin-lot. By my last days, I was consuming a average of a liter of Brandy a day. I’ve missed much living because of the blackouts, hangovers and not going places because there wouldn’t be any alcohol. I’ve missed 40 years.
Now…mix that addiction with my Bipolar Disease and I was a powder keg (<–no pun, honest~!) The amount of alcohol I consumed directly corresponded with my Bipolar highs and lows. When I was becoming very manic, I drank to bring me back to a more ‘normal’ place…and when I was headed towards a dark depression, alcohol and the Bipolar LOVED each other. The isolation, the crying, the Oh-Woe-Is-Me crap was duly fed and comforted like an old friend.
There were actually only one or two events when I would not drink…1) whenever I was performing (theater, including rehearsals — but not including my other aspects of theater involvement, like directing) or 2) whenever I was working with teens…including many years back, at the Lane House, teaching, leading and being creative. Those events alone had the ability to fill that thing inside of me that otherwise could only be filled with alcohol.
These last four years without alcohol have been spent just learning how to walk, talk, breath and understand how to truly feel, emotionally. Additionally, learning about this Bipolar thing…without the self-medication of alcohol…whoa~!…it’s been a fucking trip.
But, with perseverance, I’m learning how my brain works. I had no idea how deeply the Bipolar goes…how real, how prevalent the suicide tendencies are, how angry I can truly get, how paranoid I am, and how the years of taking medications (the doctor ordered kind) were basically a waste…the alcohol nullified them. So now (or actually, four years ago) I began the process of finding the right meds. On average this can take up to two years to achieve for my type of Bipolar (yes, there are different types.)
Last year I had a fucked up alarm go off, which physically slammed me into a wall. I developed Tardive Dyskinesia (mini strokes) from one of the Bipolar meds I’d been taking and also began having ‘absence’ seizures. As treatment, all of the meds I was on at the time had to be cleared out of my system. Eventually, I was left with just me. Another first.
Both alcohol addiction and Bipolar Disease are alike in that they are progressive…whether they are being treated or not. Example, if a drinker stops for a year, and then starts up again…that person will quickly escalate to right where they left off, and usually the need has even increased. With Bipolar the similarity lays in the fact that left untreated (or removed from medication) causes the disease to escalate exponentially.
When my time came to begin the treatment cycle again…we knew it was going to be a long haul. The medications I was once taking didn’t work on the second go around. It was time for trial and error where new meds take up to six weeks to judge their affect.
It’s during this half time show I got slammed by a full blown psychotic episode. The beast grew for a couple of months…which read on the surface as if I was really doing well. That ‘well’ was actually hypomania, the lower, beginning stages of a good old fashioned manic attack. Unfortunately, I was not being medicated…and I started spiraling up.
But I hid these facts from everyone…I just wasn’t sure, I had never been through an episode without my alcohol or drugs. It was a whole new feeling. Without the alcohol to help me suppress the mania…it grew and grew and grew…in the early stages it mimicked my bouts of Tardive Dyskinesia and the seizures. I was confused. It wasn’t until I started ‘seeing’ shit and hearing the voices that it became clear I was experiencing psychosis. I shook all of the time. I didn’t sleep for days…or just barely. My paranoia was huge. I disengaged from all of my closest friends. Spewing hate so they wouldn’t try to contact me. I covered my windows because I knew people where looking in to see what I was doing. I stopped answering the phone. I didn’t trust anyone. No one.
Okay, all of that was a process, blahblah…and I’m okay today, I made it…but I began writing this not to focus on the Bipolar…but, for one reason…to celebrate. That’s right, celebrate~! No alcohol for FOUR FUCKING YEARS…and damn, it feels so very good. This is huge for me, friends. Huge. And I’ve got to let this post dangle a bit because I just got all weepy and need to go hug my mom. Wow. Four years.