*Trigger warning. Mentions of self harm and suicide*
I remember receiving an email from my college tutor that said:
“Alcohol is a demon leading you away from the light”
He knew that I had started on the road to alcoholism. It was too late for me though; I was too far down that road.
It began with just 3 or 4 beers at night. I liked the feeling it gave me. The distance it took me away from my thoughts and feelings. I was smoking cannabis here and there at that time too. Mixing the two together took me to a completely different headspace. It was the start of my self-medication. If only it could’ve stopped there.
Borderline Personality Disorder (or EUPD) and addiction often occur concurrently. Many sufferers will find themselves engaging in substance misuse at some point in their lives. I think I was about 19 when I reached the point where it had evolved into an ‘addiction’ for me.
The number of beers I was drinking increased and I started needing to drink earlier and earlier in the day. Then before I knew it, I had moved away from beer and started drinking vodka instead. I would mix it with cranberry juice and grapefruit juice (a cocktail known as a ‘Sea breeze’). It disguised the taste of the vodka and I could down triple shots quite easily. Although I was pre-diagnosis for BPD, in retrospect, I was displaying all of the symptoms.
‘Chronic feelings of emptiness’
It’s difficult to describe how it feels to be completely empty. The only way I can explain it is a constant vacuous blankness, so intense that it’s incredibly painful – Oh, how it hurts. Other words I would use to describe it are meaninglessness and nothingness. I think the alcohol helped to stifle the pain a little and the cannabis provided creative, innovative thoughts that gave me some respite from the emptiness.
I started ordering my alcohol online from a supermarket. I remember being embarrassed when the delivery arrived containing 8 litres of vodka each week. It was the lesser of two evils though as it would’ve been more obvious and humiliating buying it direct from the shop. I was drinking almost a litre of vodka a day at this point. I spent many evenings falling asleep in the bathroom with my head on the toilet seat only waking up to vomit. ‘Praying to porcelain Percy’ as they say. The doctor told me that my liver was suffering- releasing toxins apparently. Not really surprising.
‘Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (eg, spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)’
‘Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour’
I was regularly suicidal and very impulsive on top of that. Alcohol would often play a big part in my behaviours. I jumped out of windows and broke my feet. I would climb buildings, run in front of cars, self harm by cutting or burning myself with cigarettes. I would take overdoses. These behaviours often led to me being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. There they would detox me; give me medication to help with the withdrawals. I wasn’t a good patient. I was constantly eloping and ending up in the intensive care unit. I was given numerous diagnoses including schizophrenia and bipolar, until they eventually settled with Borderline Personality Disorder (EUPD) and OCD. I think I was difficult to diagnose as I would often get to the point of psychosis which would manifest as paranoia and hearing voices at times. This can be a part of being Borderline though:
‘Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms’
The detoxes were tough, but each time when I was mentally well enough to leave hospital, I would immediately start drinking again. I wasn’t ready. The ‘demon drink’ had a firm hold. It was all I thought about whilst in hospital, and I fought for discharge just so I could get back to it. The final detox I did was the worst of all. I was literally sweating out vodka all over my body – I could smell it and feel it. It was like a poison seeping from every pore. My whole body shook and shook. I couldn’t carry anything. I had one on one attention as the doctors and nurses were worried that I would start having seizures. Despite all of the withdrawal medications, it was hellish. This time, after years and years of drinking, I was released from hospital and didn’t return to alcohol. I couldn’t get away from the feeling of being poisoned – I’d had it with the drink.
Of course, my mental health was still very unstable. BPD is a chronic condition for me (and is for most sufferers). So, I found myself craving something else to self medicate with. I found myself smoking cannabis more and more until I was smoking daily. Fast forward a few years and I was spending £220/wk on skunk. It served two purposes – to take me away from my emotional pain and to stimulate original and creative thoughts. I would get stoned and imagine I had discovered the key to creation and such. It was very exhilarating!
Looking back, I miss those intense, euphoric moments, but I do not miss being a slave to a substance. I had to have it daily or I wouldn’t be able to function at all. This meant when it was difficult to get hold of, it felt like my whole world was crumbling. I was resourceful with obtaining it though and only really missed a few days of it over the many years that I smoked, other than time spent in psychiatric hospital. Cannabis often made me very paranoid (obviously a common side effect). Sometimes that paranoia would persist and I would imagine people (even my own family) were against me or trying to poison me etc. When I would get admitted to hospital, they would try different antipsychotics until my thinking straightened out. I would eventually be discharged and I’d go right back to smoking. There was a period of time where I moved to a different town and got caught up with smoking crack. It gave me the best feeling I’d ever felt (and still have ever felt). I had lots of binges and spent thousands of pounds on it but my mum basically dragged me back to my home town when she found out. I hate to think what might have happened with that if I’d continued. I have an incredibly addictive character.
Anyhow, it was the paranoia and the debt I was in that ultimately made me have the desire to stop smoking weed. It might have been a compromise if I could’ve just reduced my intake but I’m an all or nothing type of person and I chose nothing. I had an awesome support worker at the time and with her encouragement, I managed to stop smoking. I didn’t reduce it, I literally just stopped. It was tough not to have that daily escape from myself. I still miss it and though I know it was the best choice for me, I’m not against cannabis as such. I acknowledge that it can have a negative impact on mental health. It can and does cause paranoia and psychosis in those who are susceptible. However it can also aid creativity and even help calm anxiety in some.
I’m actually in the fortunate position now where I am able to have a couple of drinks without feeling the need to drink in excess. However, ending this post at the point I began, alcohol really is a demon. I truly believe that. Also, if you find yourself controlled by any addiction, believe that it can be overcome. My story is a good example of this, and at certain points in my life I would never have thought it possible, but it was, and it is.
“Alcohol is a demon leading you away from the light”