Monday, 30 November 2009

Party animal

It is very difficult to say whether my gradual change from a shy young lad into the fairly normal chap I am today happened because I began drinking or if it would have taken place anyway. I lean towards the latter but I think it was prodded into motion by the odd red wine or three. I certainly remember the first group social situations I was in being tremendously easier with the aid of a couple of pints.

Looking back, it seems very masochistic how I put myself in a succession of difficult situations every weekend. I found being out around people very hard work and nothing came naturally, yet there was still a social instinct dragging me back. One of my clearest memories from the time is Millennium Eve, when I woke in a haze at 6pm, dusted myself down and went out in search of a ticket to the party my friends were at. When I didn't find one, I spent a couple of hours stood on my own in a cess pit of a pub, and I distinctly remember thinking that's all I had to do for someone to come up and talk to me (oh, the folly of youth). In these early days in pubs I recall the first feelings that I had to keep on drinking just to get by.

Some parts of my website were lost to time a few years ago but I remember writing at the time that after going out, it seemed to me that having a drink just dragged me down to the level that a lot of other people were at sober. It made it possible for me to tolerate conversations about everyday things, which normally I would never engage in. I remember being in one of these and drifting off halfway through, thinking, "but why do I want to talk about this?" Even when my tongue loosened enough to talk to people, my head couldn't let go of the fact that it wasn't anything that interested me in any way. I think in recent years I've partially overcome that but at the time, it was something that bothered me.

It was experiences and thoughts like that which made me accept for the first time that I enjoyed drinking not because it made me a better person, but because it switched off a lot of everyday problems I was tired of living with. Self-analysis is in my nature (like you hadn't guessed) and it gets bloody wearisome after a while; drinking took that away. The price I paid was that after a certain amount it took away my mental edge, and made me prone to calamitous decisions, but it was still preferable to just plodding along every day living with the same old me upstairs.

I think that once that habit had taken hold, and I'd created a link between drinking and being someone else, it became quite deep rooted and led me to where I am today. The question I'm faced with is whether I still need a drink to be around people. Based on the last six or seven years, then no, I don't. I think the habit just overlapped the time when I would have naturally grown out of my awkward stage and been fine on my own, but I continued to think that I needed a drink just to get by. It takes a conscious effort to think about your habits and question whether they're right - the default is simply to do whatever comes to mind first and presume you're right.

I won't pretend that I'm a fundamentally different person - I do still find a lot of conversation utterly pointless and am socially most at ease in the world sat in my parent's living room in silence - but I have learned the social skills necessary to get by, and I don't think I'm an embarrassment in company. Just like those early days, having a drink lets me strike up conversation with people, but the pointless words I mutter should be struck down for violating all known principles of good humour, intelligence and purpose.

Tomorrow: in a thrilling departure from moribund yarns of woe, we look back at the glory years of ultra-drinking (2004-06) and cast a light over several sticky pages of titillating tales.

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