The Insanity of Alcoholism
Eventually I went onto an out-patient program with SANCA. Some law enforcement types suggested this because of my continual brushes with the law. For the uninitiated, let me explain. In order to enforce discipline on a condition which they believe is caused by lack of discipline in alcoholics, my learned brethren have invented something they call “Antabus”. This delightful substance causes anyone who is on it to have major repercussions should they be undisciplined enough to consume alcohol. As you will see, I have some first-hand experience with the effects, which are not pretty.
The program that I was put on worked something like this: I was to report every morning to the offices of SANCA. I had signed, under duress I might add, that I willingly would do this. If I failed to comply I would be locked up in a government-run rehabilitation centre. The admin people explained how everything worked, mainly to Charmaine, as most people assume that if you are a drunkard you are also a moron. The rest of the program was to attend a minimum of X number (I forget how many, thus proving I am a moron) of group therapy sessions. These were run by a trained social worker – with a degree in psychology, no doubt.
Charmaine was invited to join one or two of these sessions, the ones designed for couples: one substance abuser and one long-suffering spouse. An observation I made over the next six or seven years is that the partner who is the substance abuser is by default the one solely responsible for all the problems in the relationship. Funny enough, it is a rule of thumb that once the abuser gets his head straightened out and finds out what he or she is married to, the substance abuser usually files for divorce. I did not like group therapy, but it was a minor inconvenience compared to the consequences suffered by my early morning visits.
The first morning was purely a recce mission. I had a few ideas about trying to dodge taking what I thought would be a pill. I assured the mean-looking nurse that I had not had a drink during the past 12 hours and she told me that if I was lying I would get very sick and perhaps even die once I had taken the Antabus. I was shaking like a leaf, and as nervous as the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof, from the lack of alcohol, and thought that it should be pretty obvious that I had not had my fix. To my dismay she dissolved the pill in a tiny cup of water and watched like a hawk that it all went down. I had seen a friend of a friend once go into convulsions in a pub, and was told that he was on this shit and had taken a drink. This happened when I was still at school, but was so dramatic that I remembered it for years; shit, I still remember it.
I had no choice but to go home and try not to climb the walls. You cannot sleep, and if you do manage to drift off, even for a moment, the nightmares that accompany withdrawal wake you up quickly enough. Self-preservation is a strong thing so I managed to stop myself taking a drink, but my survival instinct was telling me I would die if I did not. Only someone who has gone through withdrawal will understand the agony and fear that accompanies this experience.
After a horrific night, feeling worse than half-dead, I had a plan. While Charmaine was not looking I filled a 2-litre coke bottle with hot water and dissolved as much salt as I could in it. I then hid it in the car. Arriving at SANCA I parked as close to the building as possible and took the lift up to see the nurse. After drinking the Antabus I made a bee-line for my car where I drank the entire two litres of now-lukewarm salt solution. This had the desired effect and, standing next to my car in the middle of a busy town, I proceeded to vomit violently. Somewhat of an expert on this vomiting thing, what.
Shaking badly and feeling 3/4 dead I drove home, stopping to buy a supply of booze close to my house. Not being as stupid as people would like to believe, I did not just down the neat vodka; I tentatively took a small sip of cider that I had purchased for this experiment. The first, tiny sip yielded no immediate results, so I greedily took a much bigger one. Uh oh. I went into spasms that were completely different to the alcoholic fits that I was used to. My heartbeat increased to such an extent that I thought it would burst.My face turned red and swelled alarmingly. Oh yes, I did a bit more of the vomiting thing as well! Lying on the bathroom floor, racked by pain, I thought: ‘I’m not going to make this jol.’
Once it had all subsided to a tolerable level I took another sip of Hunter’s and waited for the shockwave. Much to my delight it did not come, just the normal gagging of my first drink. To play it safe I drank two more of the ciders and by noon was feeling perky enough to hit the neat vodka and even go out to the hotel. This lasted throughout my SANCA experience, causing much confusion with Charmaine and the staff at SANCA, as they said it was impossible for me to be on Antabus and still be drunk. What can I say, where there is a will there is a way; it also helps to have a very tough body.
Once free of the Antabus, of course I went on a mission of note. The days were deadly boring. I went through the morning ritual, vomiting etc., then drank till I passed out, woke up and drank some more. I no longer bothered to go to the hotel any more; the walk took too much drinking time.