Power of Humans newest blogger Tom Messplay shares the second in his multi-part series chronicling his battle with alcoholism. In this very candid unedited post, Tom describes this three days in detox. We thank him for bringing to light a disease that affects millions. For the first post in his series click HERE.
Detox by Tom Messplay
May 15, 2015 I checked into detox to begin the three day period to flush my body of alcohol. Going to a detox facility is crucial for the safety of the patient. The most serious symptom of withdrawal from alcohol is the possibility of seizures. More deaths are associated with alcohol withdrawal than any other substance. The experience proved to be a mental and emotional rollercoaster. I had some extreme highs, but mostly extreme lows. I suffered withdrawal symptoms that included high anxiety, depression, anger, hopelessness, fear, denial, and intense cravings. In addition to those were the physical withdrawal symptoms of nausea, sweating, tremors, and headaches. The nausea and headaches were every morning. The tremors were pretty constant the first two days and were less intense by the third day. The sweating was every night. I would wake in the morning drenched is sweat. The nurses told me that the first two nights I would thrash around in bed pretty severely. There were times when all or most of the symptoms were present at the same time. Those times were the worst. I would sit on my bed and just stare at the wall feeling paralyzed and hopeless. Many times I had thoughts of leaving. I thought if I left I could go home and be reunited with my whiskey and I could just continue with my life. Detox seemed like such a waste of time. Then the next thought would be that I couldn’t leave. I needed to be there in order to rid myself of my addiction. I did mental gymnastics countless times with those two thoughts.
Cravings were the worst symptom. Many times the cravings would bring on many of the others. The cravings were so strong that I could actually taste whiskey. The more the intensity of the craving the greater the anxiety, depression, anger, and hopelessness I would feel. All I could do was think about drinking when they occurred. There was nothing I could do to stop them from coming. They would come in waves. Just as I would start feeling better they would start again. I felt like I was going crazy. I doubted if I could go through rehab successfully. At those moment moments I would not have been able to resist the cravings and would have drank to my minds content; another great reason for going to detox. I do not know how anyone could detox at home or anywhere other than a secure facility. On the second day when my wife visited I told her that if there were two doors one labeled family and the other alcohol, I would choose the alcohol door. That must have been painful for her. But at that time it was how I felt. That was my alcoholic brain talking. If I had tried to detox at home I would have failed before the end of the first day. Cravings would continue to be a battle for a considerable period of time. There are so many triggers that can cause them. The second night I had my own meltdown. I was experiencing multiple symptoms at once and I could not take it. I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably for I don’t know how long. I was finally relieved when my anti-anxiety and sleeping meds kicked in.
The hospital was very depressing. I told the psychiatrist that if a person wasn’t depressed when they arrived they sure would have gotten depressed just being there. He just smiled, which angered me incredibly. I didn’t think much of him. The rooms were cinder blocks painted white. There was nothing on the wall. There were four pieces of furniture, a bed, a night stand, and a desk with a chair. There were three shelves built into the wall for personal belongings. The bathroom had tile walls, sink, toilet and a small shower. There wasn’t a mirror (I suppose that could be dangerous from breaking it) Instead there was a shiny piece of metal for a mirror. The widow had thick panes with wire mesh pressed between. Then for extra measure there were bars. Nobody was going to escape. I spent nearly all of my time in my room. I was not there to socialize or make new Face Book friends. I was there to fix the mess I had gotten into, as I would remind the nurses and therapists throughout my stay. I then understood why they confiscated all belts, shoes with laces, anything with draw strings. I’m sure it was for the protection of the staff and for the patient.
There was no place to go. There were two hallways, the nurse’s station, a room they used for group therapy, and a lounge. The lounge had 8 tables with 5 chairs at each one. There was a TV that some of my fellow patients watched. It was always turned to one of those intense murder shows. I thought it was only asking for trouble to let those be watched by already unstable people. I thought reruns of Gilligan’s Island would have been better suited for the audience. We weren’t allowed to take our meals to our rooms so that was the only time I went there. I was always the first in line when they made the meal call. That allowed me to get my tray grab a seat at the table closest to the door. I would eat as quickly as I could. I always kept my head down. I thought if I made eye contact with anyone they would sit with me. The last thing I wanted to do was get into a conversation with someone. It worked! I did not have one single conversation with any other patient.
Most of the patients were almost zombie like. They just shuffled up and down the hall. When I had to go to the dispensary for my meds, go for meals, or on the rare occasion that I would walk from one end of the hallway to the other just to get out of my room I would see them with blank looks on their faces. If they looked at me I would look away to avoid eye contact. Nobody ever said anything. The nurses and therapists kept encouraging me to get out of my room and meet people. It always made me angry. I would say I didn’t want to hang out with the losers I told them more than once. They would just look at me. Funny, I thought later that I was one of those losers too. I told my nurses and therapists that I didn’t belong there with the others, something that I would repeat several times in near future. I didn’t think I belonged there because I could carry on a coherent conversation, pick up my two feet and walk normally. I may have been different on the outside but on the inside I came to realize I was just the same.
I had one patient on the room next to me who was having a pretty hard time. He had several total meltdowns. He would suddenly start screaming, there would be furniture crashing and then the orderly’s and nurses came running. There would be some wrestling and screaming, eventually after they were able to pin him down a nurse with a syringe would go into the room. The wrestling continued and suddenly things started to calm down. He would then sleep for quite a long time. During one of his episodes they started taking the furniture out and putting it in the hall. Eventually, only his mattress was left. I thought they were only trying to keep him from hurting himself. I started to feel sorry for him. I thought I had it rough, but nothing as he was experiencing. This was the beginning of a rise in my level of compassion, but more on that later.
The nurse drew three vials of blood every morning. She said they checked on some key components of my blood that they needed to monitor. It was common those components required a boost, which was typical for alcoholics in withdrawal. They would then adjust my meds and add in some vitamins to counteract the physiological effects of withdrawal. She would also check my blood pressure which was consistently high, as was my temperature. Then of course was the “how are you feeling” question; something else that angered me greatly. I would respond with “how do you think I’m feeling? I’m in detox!” She would follow with “are you better today” and I would usually say yes but check back in 5 minutes and I may have a different answer.
The entire experience wasn’t all terrible. There were some moments that were pretty good. I had moments of mental clarity. I hadn’t started a day like that in I don’t how many years. Those brought on feelings of encouragement. There were also moments that I felt like I had taken the right step in spite of how I felt most of the time. Those moments gave me strength. I would try to focus on them during the rough periods.
The morning of the fourth day was going home day. I had gotten a good night sleep and felt better than I had in a long time. I was energetic, my mind was clear, my symptoms were mild, no cravings (although they were not gone) and my tremors were occasional and not severe. I had told a couple of my daughters to get all the alcohol out of the house and told them of some of my hiding places so it would be safe for me to go home. I felt ready and was excited about leaving. My wife picked me up and we were on our way.
When I got home I was greeted by some of my kids and grandkids. It was an unbelievable feeling to be home. I asked my daughters if they got everything out of the house and they said they did. I went to one of my hiding places and there was one they missed. I showed it to them and said I had years of hiding them and there was no way they found them all. Over a period of time I would find one now and then that I had forgotten. I would dispose of them, although greatly tempted.
It was Monday and I had until Wednesday before I began the next phase. The recovery (rehab) program was going to be another road I had to take to get to the next step in living my life without alcohol. I was excited, but very apprehensive. My cravings continued.