I have learnt a lot on the road to sobriety, many of these things I have learnt the hard way. One being that if you are heavily dependent on alcohol and have been drinking hard for a long period of time, it is very dangerous to just stop!
Going cold turkey can lead to severe withdrawals, which are called the DT’s (Delirium Tremens); these can be fatal. The thought of going through them again sends a shiver down my spine. I knew nothing about withdrawals until I experienced them. I had no idea you could have seizures, until I had my first one. And I had no idea you could hallucinate, until it happened to me.
I was 22 and very much dependent on alcohol. I had been drinking heavily every day for a long time and decided I needed to try my hardest to stop the rut. Without knowing how dangerous it was, I went cold turkey. For two days I was violently ill and constantly shaking from the withdrawal. I thought to myself, ‘I just need to get through this sickness and I can stop drinking from now on’. What I didn’t know was that I was about to temporarily lose my mind.
The hallucinations began small but were easily enough to make me think I was going mad. First, I was seeing tiny bits of coving fly off the wall towards me. Next, out of the corner of my I eye, I kept seeing heads popping around the doorway and windows then disappearing.
Soon my legs were being tied together with cobwebs and the floor had become a bed of insects and spiders. As if that wasn’t terrifying enough, I then began seeing the locks on the door and windows turning as if someone was trying to get in. So, I spent what felt like hours running between the door and windows to relock them.
This went on and on, and progressively got worse and worse. I was literally living a nightmare and I had no idea why it was happening. A tiny part of me must of knew that it was something to do with the drink, what else could it have been? But in that moment, I thought I had lost my sanity.
After hours of these hallucinations I ended up running (in just my trousers!) towards traffic on a main road in the middle of winter! I was trying to get someone to stop because I genuinely thought an 8ft man was trying to kill me. Eventually, someone stopped and took me to the police station where they called an ambulance straight away.
After describing all of the things I had seen to the paramedics and telling them someone was trying to kill me, they asked me if I had taken anything. At this point, I told them how ill I had been because I had stopped drinking. As soon as I had explained the quantity of drink I had been consuming daily and that it had been going on for months, they knew what was wrong with me. I had the DT’S from alcohol withdrawal, and I had them bad!
I spent another three days hallucinating in hospital whilst they detoxed me with medication. During that three days, one of doctors even told my parents they were not sure if I would regain my sanity.
That was the first time I learnt about alcohol withdrawals, which is crazy in itself, isn’t it? This stuff should be taught in schools. You can die from it. I know it’s not something that’s going to affect everyone in life, but surely it’s something worth knowing for the sakes of the thousands that will struggle with alcohol in later life.
I’m hoping to get the chance this year to start going into schools to talk to the students about alcohol addiction. A teacher friend has already approached me about the idea, so fingers crossed! I certainly wasn’t taught enough at school about the subject, so hopefully I can help better prepare some of the next generation.
If you think you may be vulnerable or high-risk to severe withdrawals (DT’S), speak to your doctor. The advice they gave me, was not to stop drinking, but to slowly reduce the amount each day. If you have stopped drinking and think you are experiencing the symptoms of the DT’S, call an ambulance.
Speaking to your doctor is a big step towards stopping drinking. Just remember you can beat this, you are strong enough!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Toby