I’m not complaining about being sober. The benefits of sobriety alone completely outweigh the losing prize waiting for me at the end of the bottle but fuck if I can’t sleep, I’m a miserable bastard. Sleeping sober is a trying and enduring problem of mine, and these troubled roots go way back before I started collecting student loans and literary rejection letters.
My lack of sleep stems back to when I was a child. If I wasn’t lying in bed all night choking on tears, I was in my closet with a belt wrapped around my neck outweighing the pros and cons of killing myself or bandaging my self-inflicted wounds after my nervous breakdown at 18 years old.
Anxiety will do a number on your sleeping pattern, and I’ve tried everything in the past from essentials oils, battery operated pillows that play ocean sounds and of course the ever so popular Tylenol PM. They’ve all worked just fine as far as serving their purpose, but it was never enough. The always present and never neglected darkness of my mind sucks in everything positive like a black hole and destroys whatever over the counter remedy I purchase. So for me to get some sleep, I needed to go harder. I needed to get dark.
Anxiety induced insomnia was an easy fix when I was drinking and abusing benzodiazepines (anti-anxieties), among the many other things that I was abusing at the time. So when my lack of sleep started to interfere with my daily routine, I went on my computer and quickly sought out a doctor in Rochester NY, who after a couple of white lies and exaggerated truths, would prescribe me high doses of Klonopin and Adderall both at the same time.
As far as sleeping and taking the edge off, Klonopin worked wonders, but I quickly built up a tolerance to the anti-anxiety meds, and in a matter of weeks I went from swallowing one or two pills to crushing up 4 or 5 of them, mixing them in a spoon full of applesauce and washing it down with a glass of Merlot. This worked until I couldn’t get my prescriptions filled fast enough to keep up with how much I was crushing and eating the pills. I was forced to stop taking the Klonopin cold turkey, which resulted in more sleep deprivation. There would be long sleepless nights of cold sweats, shaking, panic attacks and horrific nightmares. I’ve made the same mistake with every other anti-anxiety and anti-depressant that Doctors gave me over the years; Prozac, Effexor, Lexapro, Xanax, Zoloft and the Adderall. The Adderall wasn’t for A.D.D. or A.D.H.D; I was just looking for a quick high at a cheap price.
Now sober from drinking and clean off pills, what am I to do about sleep? Be normal like everyone else and just lie in bed pondering life and death and why spiders exist and remembering awkward and unconformable conversations that I had with co-workers years prior? Is this what normal people do? Is this what going to sleep with a normal brain is supposed to be like? I can’t do this! My anxiety is too strong. My fears are too irrational.
So fresh off substance abuse, I had to go back to the basics.
I started with the oils again. The lavender and eucalyptus oils work great! The soothing aromas put my mind at ease while waiting to fall asleep, but eventually, the scents fade away, and the demons come back. Ocean sounds and thunderstorms coming through the speaker of my phone are a godsend, but after a while, the sounds become irritating and end up waking me out of my sleep. I switched from Tylenol PM Pills to a much easier to swallow liquid ZzzQuil. ZzzQuil is NyQuil just without the “Ny,” so there’s no acetaminophen (pain reliever) in there, only the diphenhydramine which is an antihistamine, which is known to treat everything from allergic reactions, cold symptoms and in my case, insomnia. But how much thick, berry flavored purple sleep juice can I drink before I melt my brain?
Whenever I’m in a conflict with myself I like to play the pros and cons game; the same way I did with that belt wrapped around my neck when I was 18.
PROS of sleeping sober:
- I’m sober. No more drunken drives and morning blackouts before work.
- I’m clean. No more Klonopin binges, passing out in front of my wife at the dinner table.
- I’m healthy; both psychically and mentally. Lost weight. Clearer thinking.
- I’m employed. I have more money. Not much, but nevertheless, I have more.
- Stability in my marriage. Regained trust with my best friend; my wife.
- An overall better quality of life.
CONS of sleeping sober:
- I cannot sleep comfortably, or peacefully. Restlessness builds.
- I think about all the reasons why I participated in substance abuse in the first place.
- My anxiety spikes at night. (Terrible things happened to me in the dark as a kid.)
- I think about horrible things that I want to do to myself; mostly drinking and using drugs.
- I resent life. I resent my health. I play into my minds irrational thinking.
- Lethargically wallowing around throughout my day, depression slowly starts to rebuild.
What is Depression? Depression is that one headache that you cannot get rid of, but this headache makes you want to jump off a building high enough guaranteeing a certain death, this particular headache cannot be cured with aspirin. There is no exact cure for depression. I suppose each person has to deal with it differently.
As far as myself, I like to acknowledge it. It is real, it is happening and there is no reason to hide from it. Hiding will only make it worse because you’re not getting to the root cause of the depression. In my search for this root cause, I tend to get sidetracked and forget that I exist as a person and physically let myself go.
I’ve neglected my body to the point of letting two of my teeth rot inside my mouth until they had to get pulled. The tips of my fingers have dried out and split apart so badly to the point where I couldn’t button my work shirt without my blood running into the fabric.I already know what the therapist will and would say if I had one. I’ve had quite a few shrinks in my life, and I can finish their sentences on my diagnosis before they can. I’m not discrediting therapy; I’d rather save the co-pay.
Something must give. I need to sleep.
Unless murdered, I plan on sticking around this crooked planet for a long time, so I’m either going to have to stock up on some serious ZzzQuil or get used to the sounds of waves crashing and the smell of Lavender, because I’m not ready to lay in bed quietly and face the harsh reality of how I lost my innocence as a child in the dark.
I repressed a memory that I cannot for the life of me dig back up, but every night as I lay my head down on that sweat-stained pillow, I feel the effects of repression stepping on my heels. I know something bad happened to me. When I was chasing my fears away with a fist full of anti-anxieties and a family sized bottle of cheap Merlot, I didn’t have to deal with that unsolvable puzzle, but now that I’m a good boy, I have to face what I cannot see.
And it’s starting to scare the fuck out of me.