My battle with alcoholism…
I’ve done a lot of good things over the years and plenty of bad — stupid, selfish, downright wrong — but things are on the mend. Just as they should be in any life worth living. We all start out in this world with big, bright eyes, but most times in life you have to experience the darkness in order to appreciate the light.
I fell in love with the suds back in 2012, when unbeknownst to me, I was suffering with hypothyroidism and uncontrolled blood sugar (diabetes). Unfortunately, while my problem with alcoholism started with self-treating an unknown, underlying problem — as it turned out a problem with a simple fix — booze was a constant problem for me until very recently…
I actually bought this domain back in 2014, with the intention of documenting my life and fitness knowledge, along with my recovery from drinking far too often. However, that goal was delayed for no other reason than a resistance to change. Like so many of you out there reading this, I often unconsciously force myself to learn life’s most valuable lessons the old fashioned way (Ie., the hard way!)
The beginning: Quit my crappy job and learn how to make money online. (2009)
I quit what I felt like was going to be my last “crappy” job ever in late 2009. I loved the people I worked with, but hated dealing with the customers that came into the quicky-lube for oil changes. My heart just wasn’t in it because of the low pay, and years as a competent backyard mechanic had taught me most of the junk we were selling to people wasn’t at all helpful or necessary.
Anyhow, I got out of there after two years with the dream of writing my own checks on the Internet and using it to fund a life of traveling the world. I soon started working as a content writer. Days consisted of 16 hour days, fuelled with 5 or so espressos, then chased with several strong cups of coffee. I also got really fat eating pizzas, burgers, entire cheesecakes, and 2-kilo bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs a day!
The reality of my mortality hits fast and hard! (2010)
The first symptom of the thyroid problem hit me after waking up one morning in late August 2010, almost a year after my foray into making money on the Interwebs. My throat felt swollen and there was a pronounced “gulp” sensation every single time I swallowed. I really couldn’t figure it out. After a couple of weeks dealing with this, I decided to call my family doctor. A man I hadn’t visited in 8 years at that point.
Unfortunately, over the years a massive doctor shortage took place throughout the country, and I was told the soonest I could be in would be after Christmas! I made the appointment and resolved to suffer through the problem until then. Like most of you reading this, I had taken the act of swallowing, which we all do around 600 times a day, for granted my whole life…
Life’s no fun when it feels like you have a lump in your throat from the moment you wake up until sleep finally gives you sweat reprieve. Even the toughest Green Beret on the planet is going to start listening to the voice in their head whispering “You have throat cancer and you’re gonna die!” I had also become basically allergic to caffeine of any kind at this point, along with anything else that had a stimulatory effect of any kind.
Not to mention the fact that the world felt much different than it did before…
Everything seemed blurry, like I was dizzy and on the verge of losing consciousness all the time. This could have been from the hypothyroidism or the extreme amounts of sugary foods and other junk I was eating. I still don’t know to this day and to be honest, it’s best not to spend too much time looking backward anyway. I’ll largely be leaving these memories behind with the conclusion of this post, and encourage you to do the same with any demons lurking in your past.
I ended up going to the hospital a couple of months later when the tenth or so massive panic attack hit me, as the feeling in my throat started to push me over the edge after a couple months. Heart was racing — dizzy, freezing, sweating, vision blurred, muscles convulsing, couldn’t catch my breath.
Then there was that relentless crushing pain in my chest! They checked my heart out and ran a bunch of blood tests. Ended up that I was actually fine (their words) and that I needed to learn how to control my stress levels better. After repeated visits, this was advice I was to be told again and again over 5 or 6 visits before I eventually gave up.
Of course, a lump-in-throat feeling is pretty much the first thing on the list of symptoms when it comes to panic. The docs just refused to recognise that the lump was the origin of my anxiety and not simply a byproduct. Anyway, in the throes of panic, you sound crazy and look crazy, so it’s hard to blame them for jumping to conclusions.
Moral of this part of the story:
Doctors aren’t always right, but neither is your plumber or financial adviser — we’re all fallible. It’s still hard to rationalise how several different doctors wouldn’t think to order a thyroid panel just to rule it out, but I digress, dwelling on the past doesn’t change it…
One thing that does haunt me though, is that my eleven year old dog had to suffer through this time with me, watching me start balling for no reason. I could see the age in him and our hours-long walks through the woods was the only thing that kept my sanity manageable. He would lick me on the face if we were in the car and I freaked out. A great non-judgemental companion in a world where everyone was telling me I was going nuts.
A devastating loss and anxiety cure no doctor would ever prescribe. (2012)
One thing you’ll often hear from people with thyroid problems is how isolated they feel from the world, often brought on because people who don’t have it don’t understand how it affects you. The way I dealt was by obsessively lifting weights two hours every night, and eating everything but the kitchen sink. I got crazy strong after a year of solitary lifting in my backyard.
A lot of the fat I’d gained eating and not moving during my first year as a content writer had been replaced by a lot of big muscles, with only a big fat gut remaining. I was 5’11 and 250+ pounds. Cujo died in October that year. He’d been sick for a couple of weeks after hurting his hip on the first cold day of the year.
Damn near killed me with grief as that day was the only day he ever looked at me, walked back to the car and waited for me to open the door for him to get in. He barely ate during the following days, but I held on hope he’d snap out of it, but time gets us all in the end.
Flash forward to April 2012, after several more visits to the hospital emergency room, I ended up drinking with my younger brother and some of his friends on Easter weekend. He had came home from college for a visit, and I figured “what the hell?” I abhorred drinking for the most part up until then, passing it off as an extremely expensive indulgence.
But, for a 30-something guy who had been dealing with two years of anxiety symptoms — who still had that lump in his throat — a nervous system depressant is exactly the break my mind needed. I immediately felt better and drank my way hard into 2013, drinking sometimes 18 beers a night.
I also had a new bushy tailed puppy who loved to run and chase anything that moved, so my days were filled with work, lots of fun, and the anxiety was something I could now bare. As soon as the clock struck 6:00 every night, I had chugged my first beer and was starting on the second. The lump in my throat was still bothering me until I was well into my nightly drinking sessions, but subsided as the booze made me forget about it…
Part 2 of this story can be found here.
Check it out, if you have the time.
I really hope you’ll follow along with me and be inspired to change your life and figure out a thing or two about this thing called life with me.
Leave a comment and let’s start a conversation.
Main Image Credit: Beau Lebens/Flickr