Another Letter From A Suffering Alcoholic

“Sunrise” just wrote:

I am 2 1/2 months sober from alcohol. I found this article after sitting here at the computer, feeling horrible for my over reactions . I was sitting down crying feeling like a drink and scared I was actually going to go and get some wine. I was so shocked at my over reaction towards my husband being late taking my daughter to soccer practice , that I stood in stunned silence when they left the house. I prayed, and started to search the web and found this article about PAWS. I am a 44 year old women who is also dealing with early menopause, so I am not sure what is happening to me. my brain seams to be all jumbled and I cannot remember things. I get stressed over really anything extra in my life. So thank you for this article….I will continue to reread it and most importantly reach out to people and not isolate myself. I do not want to drink!
I guess this must be my “peak” time between the 3-6 month period?

I replied:

Good evening, Sunrise (how’s that for confusing?),

Sunrise is a good omen; it’s the name of the company I write for on my “real job.” Lots of folks first get sober there.

Let me point out a couple of things that you may not have thought of about early sobriety. What is alcohol? A depressant drug. What happens when we drink alcohol? It deadens the response of the central nervous system (CNS) in several different ways. Over time our brains adapt physically to the CNS depression and attempt to compensate for it. That causes us to need more alcohol, and so on and so forth.

The key words are depression and physical adaptation. The presence of alcohol in our body produces actual structural changes in our brain cells that make it possible for them cope more easily with the presence of ever-greater amounts of alcohol. (I’m not saying they cope well, just more easily than they would without the changes.) Other changes occur throughout our bodies. Alcohol affects every cell in the body in one way or another (it’s the only drug that does).

So, suddenly we stop drinking. Our bodies begin to react to the lack of alcohol. Over the first few days we react violently to having it removed. However, after detox, the changes in our brains and bodies remain. It takes months for them to return to something like normal, and complete recovery — if it is possible, depending on the amount of damage — can take a couple of years.

When we stop taking depressant drugs, the symptoms of withdrawal are the exact opposite: stimulation. Our brains and bodies rebound in a big way. We have the shakes, periods when we over-react to stimuli (including other people) and our feelings are all over the place. It’s no fun, but it’s perfectly normal. It’s just our body trying to adjust, with emotions and feelings and thoughts and physical activity and mental depression and manic phases sloshing around like water in a bucket. It takes quite a while for things to balance out and the water in the bucket to calm down. That’s where you are right now, and the hormonal changes of menopause are complicating the already complex readjustments.

The good news: it always gets better if we don’t drink. It doesn’t necessarily get perfect. Sometimes we have to address physical and mental issues that were masked by the drug. Sometimes we need a bit of help in areas other than simply not drinking. But things always do get better if we stay dry and find caring people to help us with the issues that arise. That can be a doctor who is familiar with addiction and recovery, a therapist, or other specialists — but the most important thing that we can do for ourselves is attend AA meetings. There we will find people who have been there and done that. We’ll get a sponsor who will get to know us and guide us in our recovery. Those folks will help us weather the storm, and when the bucket calms down they will help us in repairing the relationships and other areas that were harmed by our drinking.

I truly believe that it is nearly impossible for people to recover — really recover, in the sense of again becoming contributing members of society — without the support of a recovery program. The company that employs me deals mainly with the first week or so of clean time. I don’t work for AA. But I’ll tell you what: two weeks ago Wednesday I celebrated 22 years clean and sober.

AA worked for me.

Keep on keepin’ on,

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