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Today's blog comes to you from a Mental Health ward in Dublin. Saturday November 7, 2015

Between problems at work and accommodation problems I was under a great deal of stress in recent months. After a bad day at work and with no enthusiasm to go home I usually ended up in the pub. I had a couple of weeks sick leave in August but that was only a temporary respite and things continued heading down into full-blown depression. (Missing work, late for work, avoiding social situations.) After a recent out-patient visit I was offered a week's "respite" to get me out of my stressful situations and "re-balance."

When I discussed the offer with a friend he said, "the pressure on resources is incredible, so if they are offering you this you must really need it." However when on arrival I was put on librium (for de-tox) and had all my charger cords and razor blades removed I realised it was a bit more serious than that. It turns out that alcohol abuse and male suicide are major problems in Ireland and they take no chances.

The good news is that my blood pressure and pulse, lungs and heart are akin to a fit 21-year old: unfortunately the libido is like the picture in the attic...I do not understand why, given the link between exercise and positive mental health, there are not more gym facilities. I am actually missing my weekly bike ride while in here.

On balance I think my stay here has actually been of great benefit. The first few days I felt wiped out and dozy, but in the last couple of days I have found the time to write this blog, and have got on with some long-term projects which required peace and quiet and uninterrupted headspace. It remains to be seen whether I can take this new calm forward into my work and life.

So when I am discharged tomorrow I have to abstain from alcohol for as long as I can, if not forever. Which is strange, it seems the cure is to avoid the one thing which has kept me going all these years: cognitive dissonance! (Actually the doctors probably don't realise that as a Geordie if I was going to lie about my alcohol consumption I would increase it not reduce it!) I also need to find new lodgings, and possibly a job back in Newcastle.

There has been a sense of inevitability about being here because from early adolescence I always felt I would end up in a mental hospital, a very strange tick-box on the bucket list indeed! However having done it I feel that the only way from here is up. So up I go!

I will let you know how I re-adjust to civvy street.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Kelley Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 5:54am

Hang in there Norman! And keep breathing... :)x

Melanie Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 6:00am

Dear Norman, I went recently to a couple of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings - I was on a Wayne Dyer Cruise and I went to 4 in all - I found them amazingly welcoming and supportive, felt at home there, it was easy to listen to people and I felt safe. It is not that I am an alcoholic or even have a drink problem (however I can see how I could and I would say I am sometimes a comfort eater or compulsive eater) - I met someone recently that is a recovered alcoholic and I went out of interest. I can only recommend it and I want to go to more meetings now I am home. Lots of love to you, Melanie

Norman Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 9:48am

I won't go to AA because of the heavy religious underpinning but I have been offered a secular alternative which I will take up. I have noticed I am eating more sweets and pastries instead so that's one to watch.

Melanie Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 6:02am

Just to add having re-read part of your blog - the people at the meeting said that the difficult part was not giving up the alcohol but living their lives once they had given up so there was a big understanding of this. I also thought that hearing some of their shares that they were doing better at it than me....

Tina Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 6:45am

It sounds like this has been a positive experience for you. Depression makes us want to stop everything and find peace so it looks lie respite was just what you needed. I wish you all the best to continue to better mental health.

Michael Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 7:42am

All strength to you Norman - great words and congratulations for achieving the ability and calm to write them and in so doing, inspire and motivate others. Now it's Onwards and Upwards!
Take Care

Norman Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 9:56am

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step..."

Vanessa Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 8:04am

Every blessing for the next stage of your journey, Norman. Huge admiration for you for managing to write in the midst of all that - please keep writing, you are helping many people through your words.

Norman Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 9:57am

Be careful what you wish for...

Janet Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 8:54am

Norman I am glad you have written about your experience and that you talked to your friend. Like the others who have commented I am full of admiration that you have. It's a tough place I watched a BBC programme recently called Professor Green and suicide - he's a young rapper - it was about his dad, and like your words he talked about things that are not usually spoken and it helped me.

Norman Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:00am

Apparently there is a large demographic of middle-aged single/divorced men who have lost social contacts (which they often got through their partners anyway) and are at high-risk. It is a conversation that needs to happen.

Anonymous Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 9:12am

Hello Norman. I have read your comments before with interest, particularly one you wrote recently saying that there has been some published stuff about depression and evolution.
I was quite upset to read your blog today although it is written in a very positive way. It's just that I didn't realise you were that bad when writing before on the Moodscope blog.
I would hope that the authorities will keep an eye on you once are discharged, will help you resettle in Newcastle? One week seems quite a short time to recuperate and have treatment but it seems to have worked well for you. When did you write the blog? If it was a while ago, please let us know today how you are!
You write so well. would you consider exploring your writing skills further? Keep this blog, print it out and add to it. Maybe start a physical file of your writing and add to it. You may find after a few months you have something that can be turned into a short book or ideas for blogs. I don't know what your profession is, but I certainly think you are a creative soul.
Good luck and how brave you are. (Jul)

Bearofliddlebrain Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 9:18am

Lovely, lovely, kindest words, Jul(ia)??/Anon. Great idea for Norman to write more. Bear x

Norman Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:39am

I wasn't that bad when I wrote my first blog. I had a nice apartment where I could retreat and play music (phone off hook, malt whisky, candlelight and Mahler's Resurrection Symphony: I recommend to anyone!) However due to accommodation issues (the Tiger is back!) my furniture is in storage and I now rent a single room in someone's house. As for the writing: I have started my book (not a novel, a technical manual) and one day I will finish it, by which time it will be out of date...

Anonymous Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:52am

Thank you Bear. Yes tis me! xxx

Anonymous Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:56am

Hi Norman.Well I guess the enjoyment is in the writing. Who cares if it's out of date. you can update it.. My husband writes books of an academic nature and he is constantly updating the main tome. You will get your nice apartment back or an even nicer one... laying off the booze is the difficult one. I find 5pm to 7 the most difficult hours to get through without a drink although I have been successful. I can tell you how i did it if you like. Very simple.

Bearofliddlebrain Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 9:16am

Hi Norman, ditto everyone else's kind words to you. I think I remember you kindly wrote in response to my blog back in August, when I write about alcohol...and it not being my friend really. But like Melanie above, we are often comfort-eaters, drinkers, or whatever gets us through our patches of bad spells of depression.
I am so pleased you've written this as I know it will help so many others out there...including the 'quiet' ones...the ones who look, read, but don't respond to the blogs. There are hundreds out there who need to see that we can get through the darker days and it can be done without alcohol. Dear RATG in her blog last week said she didn't need a glass of wine anymore whilst making the dinner....this was a great one to add in...because so many of us do just that! Have a liddle drink whilst preparing the food...after all, we need it, it's been a long day and well, the bottle was being opened for dinner anyway so where's the harm????!!!! Having seen how reliant I had become, then having to have none at all during a diet, I must say I have cut down completely now and I do feel better. I offer to be the designated driver so I know I can't drink, then I don't have the stinking hangover the next day either!!!

What a great blog, Norman. Giving us a glimpse into what got you in and out of 'respite' care. I do hope you get your home and work sorted out soon, so you can be comfortable in your self....perhaps back home UP, UP, UP in Newcastle! Do let us know how things go from here. You are ve ve brave sharing this with us, now please go and do something wonderful from your bucket list!!
Big Bear hugs, x

Norman Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:45am

The important thing is to recognise and challenge the triggers, the wine while cooking, or after putting the kids to bed, stop being choices and become routine. In my case it was finishing work and needing to relax before the journey home. I am having trouble thinking of alternative activities at that time of day.

Anonymous Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 11:19am

yes that's the problem. You need someone to physically push you towards the train or steer you in the opposite direction to the pub. Once you avoid the pub just once, you will get there. Alcohol does have a depressing effect although it's very useful in some situations too. I can have a drink when needed now but I don't need it as a routine thing any more after years of thinking I desperately needed to have that drink at 5 or 6..

Oli Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 9:57am

That was an interesting read Norman. All the best.

Leah Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:16am

What a refreshingly honest blog. Thank you so much. I will read with interest how you cope in civvy street. Just seeing the word Dublin made me smile as it is one place on my bucket list. Alas it is a long way from Australia but we do have many people from Ireland here. In fact you would be a wonderful role model for Australian men who find it very hard to open up, share their emotions and give up alcohol. Take care. Leah

Nikki Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:19am

Hi Norman
Never posted on here, and haven't used Moodscope scores for at least a year (love the daily email tho!)
Nothing earth shattering to say, but Well done! Clichè, I know, but like you, I have always thought a short stay 'on the ward' will come to me at some point in my life, and have always feared it. Your blog has actually turned that around for me....IF it ever happens, then I will see it as a positive thing.
Thanks for this post, Norman, and like others, I do hope for more posts from you.....and ps there are LOADS of AA alternatives about...check out RIN recovery in Nottingham and their format....

The Gardener Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:30am

Good on you to write at all - keep at it - marvellous therapy - and waiting for somebody to reply from Moodscope is something to look forward to. I loved your 'Geordies lie about what they drink '- EVERYBODY lies about what they drink. Insurance forms 'social drinking' covers a pre-dinner sherry or being carted home blotto. Bitter experience about alcohol dependence - near family member, 5 years Samaritans, working at Crisis at Christmas - only way to treat it is to leave it alone. Once started, whoosh, slippery slope, never feeling well, loss of self-respect (except when you're drinking, and that's spurious) financial disaster, loss of family and often home. I have (was not a member) the AA 'Creed', an extraordinarily well thought document to live by. You're right about exercise - try and do it with others, join a cycling club - group walks on Sunday (you've got huge scope up in the Newcastle area, know it well). And the best of luck for good health and a happy life. For Leah - been in Oz - change round from the idea that a man was not a man unless he had a skinful. I'm drinking more than I used to and more than I ought, but with extreme care when having to drive and make important decisions.

Frankie Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:37am

Morning Gardener; I find drinking sparkling water helps remove the craving for alcohol - just a thought ... Frankie

Susan Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:41am

Hi Norman, I've never posted anything online anywhere before but felt moved to respond. Been writing for over an hour trying to form a response but unable to succeed - hundreds of words of support and appreciation in prose like form as if writing war and peace...!. Fortunately, since I began 'composing', Nikki sent a reply which so well covers my sentiments. Good luck Norman, keep on keeping on. I'd very much like you to write on the blog again.

Frankie Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:42am

Welcome Susan! Frankie

Susan Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 11:00am

Thanks! For me it's not alcohol or food... Or anything specific that gets me through... I just try to continue existing until the desolate despair and bleak feelings of overwhelm subside..Total determination not to add to my already long list of 'failures' by drinking alcohol or eating extra.... After 20 years of meditation, CBT, studying the brain and mind, eating 'right foods', personal development and simply trying sooooo hard.... I still haven't succeeded in successfully 'choosing my own feelings'! Sometimes it is just carrying on trying to be part of life & survival.... Journey of a thousand miles can only have a chance if we keep walking even if we don't quite know where we're going.

Frankie Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 10:41am

Hello Norman; thank-you for your honesty and sharing at such a key point for you - such generosity ... cheering you on from the side-lines and looking forward to hearing about your ongoing journey ... Frankie

Anonymous Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 11:28am

Hi again Norman. One of the things,that stopped me drinking routinely was seeing a programme about people who drank too much. The clip that did it for me was seeing two people sitting on a dirty sofa, drinking red wine in pint beer glasses. They didn't like the taste but drank it in huge quantities to get drunk. Although I never drank wine in a beer glass, I drank it to feel better and I thought I am no better than them. It was the sheer upfront admission that the wine had to be consumed in a beer glass to ensure a large enough quantity was swallowed quickly. The image has never left me.

Norman Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 10:52am

There are "joke" wine glasses available in gift shops which hold a full bottle: criminal irresponsibility.

Martha Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 12:44pm

Your hoensty and clarity caught my attention, Norman. I wish you continued success as you re-enter your life. When you said you'd always expected to end up in a ward, I couldn't help thinking of the power of our mental pictures. Who knows how that picture came to be in your head, but now you have the opportunity to choose the pictures for your future. What do you see when you think of yourself a few weeks from now....six months from now....a year from now? If you can choose pictures that make your heart sing, they will go a long way in giving you the life you want.

Sheila Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 2:05pm

Hope you feel better soon

the room above the garage Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 2:43pm

Hello Norman, I'm so impressed. Not only have you weathered this storm so well but you have found a way to share it with us which will commit you to success and pull on others. I'm full of admiration. Keep writing, I'm hooked. Love ratg X.

The Gardener Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 3:04pm

When I reply I always lose it. Frankie early - thanks for the advice re sparkling water. I am not 'craving' alcohol, but when I come in sad, physically and emotionally exhausted, a drink will stop me in my tracks otherwise I will continue to try and beat the back-log. Alcohol knocks me flat and I sleep - to awake ready to go on or throw in the towel and go to bed with a book. I've seen too many results of alcohol addiction to go that road. Our Doctor when we were in the UK said that a sherry instead of a vallium when you were stressed early evening was better because you STOPPED, often companionably. But, if one drink leads to another then you join Norman (and millions of others) when alcohol is the prop and the escape.

Frankie Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 3:21pm

Glad to hear it, dear Gardener; Try copying what you have written before hitting the "reply" button (holding the control button with "a", then control button with "c" - then if your reply isn't posted, you can paste it in the new reply box. Frankie

Martine Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 3:48pm

This is my very first blog comment, just wanted to wish you all the best!

Frankie Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 4:57pm

Welcome Martine! Frankie

Anonymous Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 3:50pm

Thanks Norman. Good blog. I go to Al Anon for those affected by others drinking...really we are all in it together, so its no different to AA. I agree it can come across as religious (if anything I would call myself agnostic) but there is no rule that you should believe in any god, they talk about using a Higher Power and that higher power can be anything you choose (for me I sometimes think of nature or the universe etc), some may use the AA group as that higher power or the love they have for a pet. At the groups I go to there is little discussion on this and there are few people who attend who are traditionally religious. Please don't let this put you off AA because there are usually lots of groups in and around cities, which means you can attend almost daily in some places, whereas programmes like Smart Recovery groups are few and far between. I completely understand about AA not being perfect but for me it has been a lifeline when there is little else on offer to help. All the best and thanks so much for your blog.

susan Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 4:08pm

Hi Norman, so many thoughts about your amazing blog and current situation. I hope that in time you'll look back and say 'thank goodness that hospital stay happened'. I get your dilemma--what to do with that time after work before you go home. Could you keep going to the pub for the social contact but just drink lime and soda or fizzy water--at least for a good length of time? At least the routine remains the same. Melanie mentioned that the hard part is not giving up alcohol but how to live with not drinking. I agree. So it's a lifestyle shift that's required and probably a period of mourning to go through until the change is internalized. Let us know how you get on as we'll all be thinking of you. xx

Maria Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 4:10pm

Your blog really touched me...Thanks for sharing! Wishing you all the best as you move forward :)

Mary Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 7:48pm

Thank you Norman. I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing more of your blogs in the future.

Barbara Sat, Nov 7th 2015 @ 9:53pm

Good on you, Norman.

Norman Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 11:07am

Many thanks for all the kind words and thoughts. I now feel that if I don't succeed I will be letting you all down which strengthens my determination (now up to 3 on the Moodscope card). I have tried to respond individually to everyone but for some reason the software doesn't allow it.

Anon: I used to draw strength from Nietzsche's “will to power” which contrary to popular belief is not about subjugating others but about control over self and one's own life. I need to refresh this thinking.

Martha, when I was a child I was a bit of a prodigy (Leah blogged about this a while ago). Cue all the references to the thin line between genius and madness and ending up on the ward eventually. That is where it came from.

I am now out and taking a few days sick leave before returning to work. Eleven dry days and counting. I had a fairly honest conversation with my drug pusher (pub landlord) and he has agreed to stock the non-alcoholic bottled version of my regular beer (which mysteriously costs the same…) I have definitely decided to seek new lodgings. The rest is work-in-progress still.

the room above the garage Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 3:50pm

You won't let us down Norman...we're not here to judge you. We will stand beside you as long as you like. For me, my trouble with alcohol required me to change all my life habits and I couldn't do it in one swoop. It took me a few years to fully conquer the change. It was like holding sand in my hands sometimes. Once desire is there (and you've shown that) just keep returning to it regardless of your ups and downs. I love hearing your honesty in your writing. Don't be a stranger, use us to lean on when you need it as well as to celebrate xx.

Anonymous Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 3:16pm

I'm so touched reading your experience Norman and all the responses you have received. I am feeling very low myself today. I am suffering from extreme excema and am red and sore. I scratch and what I realise is that the scratching is an addiction in the same way that alcohol is. My drug of choice used to be food - I ate compulsively. I have learnt how not to do that most of the time but moved on to scratching. It seems that scratching in itself damages the skin and so causes the itch that you then scratch. Not record science and incredibly difficult to address. I am very early in the process of gaining awareness of my scratching and am frustrated that, although I am scratching less, am still red and sore. Saw the psychiatrist who is teaching me the Habit Reversal programme yesterday and he didn't listen or respond to me on a personal level at all. I am angry and disappointed at him and have decided not to go again. I will continue with the programme and get support from another source instead. I am glad I have made that choice.

Anyway - strange that I feel drawn to respond about my scratching and excema to all your comments about alcohol. I have been doing Moodscope for several years and this is my first post. Thank you for reading.

Frankie Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 5:22pm

Thank-you for sharing your experience; I don't remember seeing a post about scratching before so I am sure that many will relate to this - thank-you! I would love to read more about the Habit Reversal programme ... Thank-you for posting and welcome! Frankie

Anonymous Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 3:18pm

I really recognise the challenge to find other activities to distract from the compulsive behaviour - alcohol for some and scratching for me. The scratching is almost unconscious - my hands are doing it before I notice. Its like wearing the red shoes that won't stop dancing at night sometimes. I get so angry with myself and I know that what I need is compassion and love for myself instead. So hard.

Frankie Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 5:23pm

Thank-you for raising this important issue; I am sure there are many who would appreciate hearing more about this ... Welcome! Frankie

Cyndi Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 5:25pm

I have been sober, (and mostly happy) for 20+years, one day at a time. I do go to AA. That being said, Please continue reading. The only requirement for AA is a desired to stop drinking (using drugs, cigarettes, overeating, etc for what ever 12 step program) I was turned off by the religious under pinnings of AA also. It says to find a higher power (something more that you) of your understanding. My God (though I get turned off by the word God), is Group Of Dames (and dignified others), or ELF (Ever loving Force). Some folks don't get it that it is a spirtual program and NOT a religious program and still mention Jesus. I have learned to simple accept that is their "Higher Power, and it is ok that mine is different. I have learned, that it appears AA works so effectively that you meet with like people to support each other during hard and fun times. Quitting drinking was relatively easy, but quitting smoking was another story. I finally did that after getting breast cancer (for the first time - another long story). Being in an institution is an opportunity to deal with your demons in a (usually) quiet environments. (I have been hospitalized for depression too many times - another long story). Even while in AA I have been hospitalized. Each time discharged, I was welcomed back and supported in my recovery from both alcoholism and mental health issues. Is alcoholism not a mental health issue???). I wish you well going thru your experience.

LillyPet Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 5:33pm

Hi Norman, I may have missed you reading replies to your blog, but thank you for sharing what I thought of as a frightening possibility, and turned it into a positive one. I wish you well and also look forward to hearing from you again, feeling that I know you a tiny bit better. LP

alistair Sun, Nov 8th 2015 @ 6:15pm

Good luck Norman I hope you have or get somme positive friends to support you and keep you in touch with yourself.

Anonymous Tue, Nov 10th 2015 @ 10:32am

Thank you for your welcome Frankie and for responding to my post about scratching. If you are interested in the programme it is contained in a book called 'The Excema Solution' by Sue Armstrong Jones. The thing is that I don't think, in itself, telling myself to swap the scratching for another behaviour (clenching fists is suggested) works for me as my scratching is emotion based for the most part. When I'm happy and balanced I don't scratch. Its at times of extreme stress that I'm not managing that I use scratching. I need to manage my stress differently and then the scratching will slip away.

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