Thursday, 26 November 2009

I'll have another beer. I'm not driving.

Good evening readers, and welcome to Thursday's memory-puke. Tonight's little think-back, I've concluded, should tell the other side of the story of those early years in my drinking career - not of how other things affected me, but of the effect my character has on my behaviour.

I won't go into a long self-psychoanalysis here because that belongs either in a room with a therapist or scrawled on the front page of a 17 year-old's Livejournal, but one fact beyond debate is that as a kid I was somewhere on the introverted side of the scale. My music teacher once asked me to play the flute in class and I was worried what it'd think of me. This kind of distant, withdrawn behaviour that manifests itself to other people as many kinds of social awkwardness, geekiness and so on, continued as I grew up and I only really began to chip away at it towards the end of secondary school. I say that not through some vaguely nostalgic recollection of my youth, but because I remember plenty of specific times when I made little breakthroughs that meant a hell of a lot back then. As sad as it sounds, roleplaying games really helped me develop my confidence in a group. Hell, we're only talking a room of four or five of my good mates, but I always found it really hard being heard and being funny at first; then one day, I remember GMing a session that went really well and I realised I wasn't so bad after all.

That's a horribly sickly tale and I won't slip back into regurgitating that kind of pus-dripping nostalgia into your eyes again, but you get the point. I was the quiet one. This carried on until I began drinking and then bam, well, you can imagine the effect that had. I'm no different to anyone else in that way - a couple of drinks opens up a whole new world in my head. One of the reasons I'm naturally pretty quiet is that I constantly run about 10 seconds in the future in my head, predicting where the conversation is going, with varied results - most often it helps me keep things going, but sometimes when people say something I've anticipated I feel like I've driven down a dead end and it kills things temporarily in my head while I reverse and think of new avenues.

If that sounds like hard work, it is, but I gave up trying to change that years ago. The only natural time I can really escape from that incessant buzz in my head of constant thought is by being alone; classic introvert behaviour. Being alone means I don't have to devote such a massive chunk of my time to other people, and can just think naturally. It's a relief for a while, and then I feel ready to go back into the world and deal with people again. It's just the way introverts work.

The only un-natural time I can escape the never-ending serious thought is by having a drink. Pretty quickly it flicks off rows and rows of those characteristics that make me appear quiet, withdrawn, hesitant and so on. The feeling of relief is probably what I like about it most. It's a very conscious thought: "Thank god - I'm someone else." I don't have to live with two people in my head, one beyond my control and the other always trying to control it - there's just one person I don't have to worry about.

Sometimes I actually resent people, in a very petulant way, for not recognising that for all the other God-be-damned times I'm around them my brain has been doing overtime wondering how they're feeling and whether they're happy and what they'd like to talk about; and so, for me to have a drink that lets me clock off from that, I see as my reward. I say that that's petulant because obviously, no-one can know the strange neuroses ever-present in my head while I'm sat talking to them. I guess it's a sense of self-justification: I have put a lot of work in for you, now let me have some time off to recover.

Returning to the time this was going on, probably around 1999 to 2002 or so, I found that drink was such a great help to me around people that I worried about seeing people without a drink to smooth things over. This is even with close friends, people who now I can handle myself around sober, but at the time were relatively new acquaintances. Perhaps a mental bond formed then? - that I only felt confident enough to be funny when I'd had a drink. The rest of the time I felt happy retreating into my personal time where nobody expected anything from me.

The importance, then, of a person's character in terms of their drinking is, I think, very important. At this stage of my life I found that drinking allowed me to socialise without the restraints of my normal character, and later in the night would let me think about the really dark thoughts I had back then. It was quite seductive, really - such an easy way to escape my everyday self and become someone new and interesting to myself.

Perhaps that's the key point explaining why I slipped into it so easily back then. I was sick of being angry at myself for my own weaknesses, and a drink allowed me to escape that and become someone new. It's very much like having a room mate you hate, but who you get a few hours away from in the evening - it's such a relief.

Now, while that little ramble accounts for a lot of things back then, I'd be a fat faced liar not to mention the big thing that was going on back then - women. Tune in tomorrow for a detailed analysis of the male sexual psyche with relation to alcohol (1999-2002), with a few knockabout shagging stories thrown in for good measure.

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