Be gone, you foul biscuity fiend!

Ok, so away back in the mists of time I used to enjoy a convivial drink or two.  Over time, and with much dedicated practice in hangover suppression, I came to enjoy a convivial drink or twelve.  It gradually became apparent that, while I wasn’t the heaviest drinker in my circle of friends, increasingly the only people who would keep pace with me were the couple of people who clearly had a problem with alcohol.  At the time I didn’t particularly take note of this, partly because, unlike them, I was reasonably good at handling my booze.  I have only been ‘physically unwell’ (to use a euphemism) as a result of alcohol twice in my life.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the times when I have woken up not remembering what I did the previous evening.  If the Daily Mail are to be believed (ha ha ha), most teenagers would experience this on a typical weekend, in between mugging a pensioner and getting stabbed to death 13 times in a row by 11 different illegal immigrants who are only here to get free treatment on the NHS…

But this is irrelevant, of course.  The salient detail is that I was drinking a lot.  As in really a lot.  Over time, I started to drink more and more, mainly at home, and usually on my own.  I managed to cut back significantly once I lost my job.  A massive drop in income will always help with that, but it was also a conscious decision not to spend my money (i.e. your money, given that I was on benefits at this point) on booze.  I would like to say that I noticed a great improvement in my mental health, but I didn’t.  Actually I found anxiety, in particular, much harder to deal with, because I had been using alcohol as a way of coping with it.  Life without my alcoholic crutch was really rather horrible for a long, long time.

In any case I persisted with my reduced alcohol intake for a good while.  I would have a single beer with my dinner on a Friday night, and would have a few pints of lager when I went out on a Saturday night.  (The switch to lager was deliberate – I don’t actually like the revolting, gassy stuff, so drinking less of it was quite easy.)  I was still somewhat dependent on alcohol, however – I would have found socialising sober literally impossible.  (This is part of the explanation for why I have stopped socialising of late.)  In time, however, my alcohol intake started to creep back up again.  I switched from beer back to wine on a Friday night.  It was when I found myself picking up two bottles (for myself, for one night) that I decided that I was slipping back, and that I had to stop.

So I did.  I literally stopped dead.  In the time since I ‘stopped drinking’ I have drunk alcohol three times, but I have basically stuck to it.  This is one of the few things I am actually, genuinely proud of myself for.  Giving up alcohol is something that people find very difficult, and some find impossible.  But I managed it on my own, without help, and with alcohol available to me all the time – I still have beer and cider in the fridge (although seriously out of date by now), and a bottle of vodka in the freezer.  (In fact, having alcohol available was part of the plan – the fact that I can have a drink whenever I want helps me to feel that I don’t in fact need one right now.)  Willpower I can do.

But there are limits.  I transferred some of my alcohol fixation on to food, and, specifically, to biscuits.  Talking about an ‘addiction’ to biscuits is nonsense, of course, at least assuming that we’re using addiction in its proper sense of a physical dependency.  (In fact, talking about an addiction to biscuits is literally laughable.  In the final episode of The High Life, an addiction to Bourbon Creams is the precursor to all kinds of villainous behaviour…)  But eating biscuits did provide an outlet for some of the compulsive behaviour that was involved in making me drink.

Over time, I became increasingly dependent on biscuits (this is starting to sound like a confession from one of the Rutles…), particularly in terms of getting to sleep at night.  Specifically, if I tried not to eat biscuits I would find myself assaulted by waves of nausea that made it impossible to lie down, let alone sleep.  Munching my way through most of a pack of biscuits became part of my nightly routine.  Then it became two packets.  As of a few months ago it was creeping up towards three.  Now, obviously, this wasn’t particularly good for me, as my ever-expanding waistline would testify.  Without wishing to be too unpleasantly graphic, eating that much processed flour in a short space of time also has some…intestinal effects that, other things being equal, it would be quite nice to do without.

Eventually, I decided that enough was enough, and that I had to stop.  So I did.  I am currently in my 3rd biscuit-free week.  I’ve cut them out altogether because, unlike with alcohol, I’m fairly sure that if there were biscuits in the flat I wouldn’t have the willpower to resist – I’m at my weakest when I’m bleary-eyed, and half asleep and nauseous.

Now I realise this all seems very pathetic, especially if you compare it to the real struggles people have with actual substance abuse.  For the record, I’m not sure I was ever even addicted, as such, to alcohol – certainly the ease with which I gave it up would suggest that it was something more like a psychological compulsion that I switched onto food rather than a physical need for the substance itself.  But still, I’m trying not to beat myself up for taking my ‘victories’ where ever I can find them, and this does feel like a bit of a victory to me.  Although I have noticed that my consumption of individually wrapped McVities Flapjacks and Milky Ways is starting to creep up…

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10 Responses to Be gone, you foul biscuity fiend!

  1. Lucy McGough says:

    Well done. Seriously, well done. That nausea thing sounds like if it was a psychological addiction it was a pretty strong one. So congratulations on beating it.

    Life is weird, and people get addicted – physically or psychologically – to lots of different things. Life isn’t some made-up story. It’s all tangled and confused and often it doesn’t make any sense.

    I was quite proud of myself when I gave up coffee.

  2. Josie says:

    Hi aethelread,

    did you know that both alcohol and sugar are very similar biologically?? If someone has an addictive relationship with one then they have a high likelihood of making an addictive relationship with the other. And though alcohol is a depressant, both alcohol and refined carbs can help numb depressive feelings temporarily.
    I’ve cut out alcohol completely (i never liked it anyway, apart from the reduction of social anxiety), partly because it’s not meant to be mixed with my meds, partly cos i can’t imagine alcohol is any good mixed with a messed-up mind, and partly because i can see the possibility of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol developing (grandmother died of alcoholism, and i’ve got a strong addictive relationship with sugar already).

  3. Well done at giving up both the booze and the biscuits.

    It’s funny that you transferred your addiction that way. At The Priory there are endless free biscuits available and a lot of the Alcoholics end up replacing their alcohol addictions with biscuit ones!

  4. NiroZ says:

    Congrats Aethelreadtheunread.

    Josie, where the hell did you pull that from? They are not biologoically similar (they’re not even biological). They might be chemically similar, but that means jack all.

    Alcohol acts as a neurotransmitter on the brain

    Sugar acts as the brains energy source.

    Carbs can act as comfort food (which is probably what you, aethelread, were using it as), but by a entirely different pathway.

  5. WillSpirit says:

    I love the last sentence of your post. Reading in California, just before bed. Now I can go to sleep smiling. Thank you.

  6. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    Lucy McGough – i think you should definitely be proud of yourself for giving up your reliance on the demon coffee, as it’s a hard one to shift. So many situations just seem to call for a coffee, don’t they? Also, thanks for the positive reinforcement. :o)

    Josie – congratulations on giving up alcohol. :o) I think you’re definitely right about alcohol and a messed-up mind not mixing especially well, and it’s often on the list of things to be avoided with most psychiatric meds.

    I guess at a really fundamental level alcohol and sugar are related, but then at a fundamental level most things are combinations of mostly carbon and hydrogen, with a few other trace elements thrown in. I also know that sugar is the fuel that powers the chemical reaction that produces alcohol as a waste product, and that alcohol can be metabolised back into sugar (hence the reason that drinking can make you put on weight). But in terms of the effect they have on the brain and body they are fairly different, i think. Specifically, alcohol is a psychoactive drug (meaning that it alters brain chemistry in ways that affect consciousness) and sugar isn’t. That said, i agree that there’s a powerful reward-comfort mechanism that can be associated with sugar, just as there can be a simillar one with alcohol, which means it’s perfectly possible for someone to become psychologically dependent on sweet foods/ drinks. But there isn’t, at least so far as i know, the additional element of physiological dependence that can be present with alcohol.

    But thank you for commenting. :o)

    intothesystem – Thanks for the congratulations. Well, i believe it’s a fairly common pattern for people who’ve been addicted to one thing to transfer their attentions to food. And i guess people who’ve been dependent enough on alcohol to need treatment for it are probably a lot better off addicted to HobNobs than Jack Daniels… ;o)

    NiroZ – thanks for the congratulations. :o)

    I pretty much agree with what you say about the alcohol and sugar thing, but i wonder if you might think about expressing your disagreement in slightly less strong terms in the future? I don’t want my comments to become an agressive free-for-all, if i can help it, and i want everyone to feel like they can comment. (I do realise that this goal of mine is rather compromised by the fact that i sometimes rampage through these comments threads like a bear with a sore head, but i do try, and that’s all i’m really asking for.)

    Thanks for commenting, and thanks for your co-operation. :o)

    willspirit – thank you for saying nice things. It’s always a good thing to have a smile on your face, so i’m glad i could help. :o)

  7. J.Wibble says:

    Well done for kicking the alcohol habit. Physical dependency is a fairly big deal, but the effects of psychological dependency should not be dismissed (see: biscuits). It’s common to replace one addiction with another, so double well done for picking up on that and not falling into the trap of replacing ethanol with sugar. Now you just need to make sure you don’t replace your biscuit addiction with some other unhealthy substance, like Bovril or watching football. Vile practices :p

  8. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi J, and thanks for the comment.

    Well, i kind of did fall into the trap of replacing alcohol with sugar, it’s just that i’m trying to rectify that now (with limited success, truth be told – i’m just getting my sugar from other, less biscuity, sources…).

    As for Bovril or football – well, those sort of go together, don’t they? At least in the lower leagues, anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s all cappucinos and panini at Chelsea or Man U… ;o) But i feel i am likely to resist the trap of falling for either of them reasonably well. Milky Ways and Bountys* on the other hand – well, that’s less sure…

    * – that’s odd. I know if bounty was just a word i’d pluralise it as bounties. But because it’s a brand name, that looks wrong. Then again so does ‘Bountys’. Perhaps i should have copped out and gone for ‘Bounty bars’ Sorry. I tend to forget not everyone is fascinated with words as i am. :o)

  9. Lucy McGough says:

    At one point last year I think I was genuinely addicted to the internet, but I’ve never told anyone before because it sounds so daft.

  10. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi Lucy,

    Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it sounds daft.

    Take care,
    A.

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