Sober October

How are we in October already?

As the impending winter brings a magnetic pull towards the back end of 2021, I am already finding myself in the midst of denial over the start of October. I permitted myself another day of September by drinking on the 1st October and calling it the 31st September, kicking myself for dragging myself and my partner in to doing ‘Sober October’ (whose brilliant idea was that?!). The colder months are hard enough as they are without denying yourself a glass of wine in the evenings.

So yes we shamefully cheated, then woke up on the second day of the month with a joyful “Happy October!”

It’s good to give yourself allowances sometimes.

This month, starting a day late, will be alcohol free. I am ready for this now, I promise.

As the late summer dwindled away, I could feel that this year was going to be a difficult one, particularly with the familiar feelings of a niggling anxiety stirring up in my chest with the summer sunsets. Sunsets have always been an indicator of my own mental state since I was a child. I either enjoy them, or I feel myself sinking along with the sun. I have had two great winters over the last years – surprising, considering the mess of last years lockdown – but this year I am pretty confident I’m not going to get away with it.

There has been a very strange energy in the air over the last few weeks, an energy I usually blame blindly on the lunar cycles, but it has been hanging around since September and I am feeling it in everyone. Family, friends, colleagues, even my cat seems to be off and uneased. People are going through illnesses, troubles with work, finances and heartbreak. Even my mobile signal seems to be struggling like it’s not ready for this time of the year either and wants to hibernate. Our thriving chilli plant on our kitchen window has perished. As unsettling as it is to see every living being around you hanging their heads and looking miserable, its given me somewhat comfort to know that it’s not just me who is struggling away and clinging on to that extra last day of September just to hang on to a tiny bit of joy.

In a way, a way that I want to pretend I have not acknowledged, Sober October might have come at the exact right time after all. Drinking makes me anxious, yet i’ve fallen in to the lockdown trap of being a borderline alcoholic which I have somehow made excuses to carry through to this year.

If you are reading this, it is not too late to take the Sober October pledge, especially if you are also feeling that heavy energy. It might just transform your month and set you up for some healthier habits to see you through the winter. Just see it as though you’ve give yourself a few extra September days, like me…

The use of medical marijuana in Marfan Syndrome, by Tony.

“I am a 27 year old man, I have depression and suffer greatly from chronic pain. Over the past couple of months my health has deteriorated massively, I can no longer walk far or for long, my arms and legs ache daily and suffer from shooting and stabbing pains in my back (from scoliosis) and the unrelenting urge to have to use the bathroom to satisfy my Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

I am a Teacher; my work is very physically demanding and that is without the mental demand needed to provide quality teaching sessions.

It is now Wednesday and I have not been able to make it into work this week. My Doctors took me off all my pain, my anti-inflammatory and my depression medication and this week so far has been sheer hell – the feeling of being trapped by the limits of your own body is terrifying.

What would you think of me if I told you I smoked medical marijuana? Would you think I was unsuitable to teach your children? Would you demand I lost my position as a teacher because of the misconception of an ancient medicine?

My first encounter with cannabis was a positive one. I was around 17 years old at a house party and some friends of a friend were smoking weed. I had always thought of drugs (especially from what i’ve seen in the media) as something to stay away from. The night I tried cannabis for the first time was a long time before my pain progressed, but little did I know that that night I was medicating myself; I felt happy, the worries melted away and I felt confident. That night I kissed a girl I had my eye on for a while (it was also her house party)… needless to say my first experience was a positive one.

It’s hard to say how much smoking cannabis is improving my quality of life right now. Off the pain meds – the pharmaceutical drugs – I find myself more at peace with this chronic stabbing pain I feel as I write this. My muscles are less tense, my mind is clearer, I can walk small distances without being in a great deal of pain. It seems to be the only thing thats helping my life at the moment after countless trips to the GP.

I have Marfan Syndrome, a degenerative tissue disorder.

It affects my eyes, spine, heart, skeletal system and all the connective tissue that supports it. My body is constantly in pain – it’s horrible. This illegal medicine is helping me and not getting me high, it helps me to function a relatively normal life with pain, but it’s not available at your GP . It is not available to all the people/children in the UK suffering from one of the many syndromes and diseases that cannabis has proven to benefit; it makes me angry and so sad for the people and children and families that aren’t ‘allowed’ by law to ease their own suffering with a plant – like I said, I used to be against drugs – but let’s talk about drugs, alcohol and tobacco killing *thousands of UK residents every year, comparative of the total number of deaths world wide from smoking cannabis, which is unheard of.

This drug is helping me but I have to keep it secret, the one thing thats helping me and I can’t talk about it for fear of losing my job, my life. It looks like my health is deciding my choices for me these days, how can I deny something that’s helping me? I think you can see at the moment that I don’t have a choice; I’m forced to obtain this medicine from people who grow it. It is not regulated/ tested/ there are no set perimeters that qualifies the usual street skunk as medicinal. I’ve watched documentaries in Colorado where weed has been legalised for medicinal use and I’ve seen dispensaries full of medicine, people treating their many ailments with cannabis, as we did thousands of years ago. These people are getting better, and it gives me hope for the future, when the government puts people before big companies, then we will finally see change. When anybody can grow a plant in their home without fear of prosecution, people may finally be able to take back control over their own lives.

I know that would put my mind and body at ease.

I am a Teacher, a Brother, a Son, a Best friend, I am in pain, I am depressed, I need help. But when nobody can help you, sometimes you need to help yourself and I will never feel selfish again for doing something that positively increases my quality of life.

I’m 27, I have Marfan syndrome, chronic pain, joint dislocation, plantar fascitis and a heart condition; I smoke cannabis everyday. It helps me relax and stop worrying about what the future holds for me.

It takes the edge off the pain, for me that means everything.

It makes me feel a little bit more like how I used to be before this condition starting ripping my life apart.”

– By Tony.

*In 2014, there were 8,697 alcohol-related deaths registered in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 14.3 deaths per 100,000 population.

* Reports from this year also showed that there were 3,346 registered deaths in England and Wales related to misuse of commonly abused drugs. – ONS, Office for National Statistics (2014).  

Do you have a mental health/recovery story of your own that you’d like to reach out and share to others? Whether it be overcoming depression to addiction to eating disorders… no matter what your area, there will be a chance that your experience will touch someone else’s life.

Send your story with your name and location to themanicyears@gmail.com, and i’d be happy to publish on The Manic Years.