Thursday, 8 March 2018

The truth about anger and PAWS

Today I have finally come to realise that since stopping drinking I have developed a worryingly short fuse - and very quickly, a testing situation can escalate with me morphing into The Incredible Hulk.  Embarrassingly, I had a Hulk moment this morning in the Apple Store and I'm still shaking with rage.

Don't make me angry, you won't like me when I'm angry!

Since the end of last year I noticed that my iPhone battery was running down extremely quickly so today I finally headed to the Apple Store to get the problem fixed.  I deliberately set out to arrive there before the store opened so that I could be one of the first people there before the crowds arrived. It was immediately apparent that a lot of us were suffering with the same issue and a neat line had already formed outside the closed doors, thanks to the friendly guidance of a very helpful member of the Apple Store team.  However, as the security guards raised the doors to open the shop, one 'gentleman' (for gentleman read 'impatient tw*t'), broke free from his position at the back of the line, and sprinted into the shop to gain pole position.  There were a few grunts from the other people in the queue, but his behaviour really enraged me and I completely laid into him for trying to queue barge.  The other people in the queue bowed their heads to avoid the confrontation but I know the guys in front of me were secretly quite pleased that 'impatient tw*t' was pushed off pole position and back to his rightful place at the back of the queue.  While I was waiting to be served all I could hear was him muttering obscenities about me under his breath!  At the same time, I was struggling to suppress my anger.  I'm still feeling angry now, five hours after the incident but really - was it worth getting so worked up about?

This highlighted to me that there have been a few times recently where I have felt irrationally angry and have been unable to control my temper.  When my parents were in Hong Kong we flagged down a taxi to go to the airport.  The taxi had stopped in the street and as we were loading up the boot with all our suitcases, one of the cars behind us started aggressively honking its horn.  Rather than ignoring it, I exploded into a tirade of swear words and one fingered gestures, while my shocked father stood beside me and berated me for my foul language.  To make matters worse, one of the husband's clients was in a convertible car, with its roof down, in between the honking car and our taxi and witnessed the entire sweary episode! 

I've even felt uncontrollably angry in my yoga classes, which are meant to calm me!  Dragon pose definitely brings out the dragon in me.  Last week, while I was attempting to breathe through the pain of stretching in the pose, the instructor repositioned himself so he was crouching in front of me and said 'It's OK to cry!'.  At the time, I didn't want to cry, I wanted to lash out and scream at him for making me hold that shitty, painful position!

Getting home from the Apple Store today, I decided to look up to see whether anger issues were part of the process of going alcohol-free.  I discovered that there are two stages of alcohol withdrawal: the acute withdrawal phase and the post-acute withdrawal (PAWS) phase.  The PAWS phase peaks at around four to eight weeks of being alcohol free and its symptoms include, amongst other things, irritability, attacks of anxiety and sudden mood swings.  It can last for up to two years - so God, help me and all around me!

Writing on the Club Soda website, Laura Willoughby states that: 'The brain has a tremendous capacity to heal but this is not a quick process. When alcohol is consumed it affects the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, adjusting the way it functions and causing it to become tolerant to and primed for alcohol. If you stop drinking, the brain has to readjust and find a new balance and it is this lag time which contributes towards post acute withdrawal symptoms.'

So, despite the horrifying prospect of possibly two more years of unleashing my inner hulk, it is reassuring to know that there is a reason for this, it will pass and it's just part of the healing process.   In the meantime, for those of you who know me well - you have been warned!  It doesn't take much for the Hulk to make an appearance these days!

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