Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The importance of perception

Not so much an interesting article here but an interesting chain of comments: Why I will let my children drink alcohol, from the Telegraph.

Have a quick look through the first 25 or 30 comments and see what impression you form of the debate. Mine is that it immediately seems like the old class war - the middle class mums happy to have their children drink a glass of "pink water" around the Sunday dinner table, while feral working class kids drink alcopops on park slides.

One thing I've found though is that the class explanation is a very superficial one; it immediately seems to make sense and because of that it's a widely accepted "reason" for many things, this apparent alcohol problem one of them.

The superficiality of using class to describe problems also extends to my arguments; for example, I could quite truthfully say that there is a large degree of blinkeredness and "shut-out" attitude about the middle classes seeking to dispose of their problems on the poorer class, but equally there is an unwarranted contempt in the opposite direction, the working class feeling their problems can always be blamed on someone else. The point is, very often the real root of a problem transcends our concept of social class and applies across the board, just manifesting in different ways.

With that impression out of the way, I was struck by the number of times people said "I...". It's almost universal. I know that it's a comment board and it takes a moments thought to come up with an interesting opener to a sentence that doesn't use "I...", "The problem..." and so on, but it's still a striking impression.

What this makes me feel is that the use of alcohol is a deeply personal thing. Based not just on this one article but my whole life experience around people who drink, I've always found that people have a fairly strong opinion of some sort on alcohol. The middle ground is sparsely populated by the few who really just have no opinion, of whom I'll shortly be making another post about elsewhere.

It being a very personal thing, then, accounts for one of the biggest problems I've had in dealing with my views on drinking - it's that understanding between people is really pretty weak. In just the same way that I struggle with being in a pub environment and watching people get drunk, people don't get why I keep on drinking. It seems to be an almost inate thing that contradictory behaviours really aggravate, which is perhaps why it's a difficult problem for people to resolve.

Monday, 21 December 2009

First meeting

I had my first meeting with the adviser today, and it went okay. I'm not going to say very much yet since it was literally only an hour ago and I need a lot more time to think about things first. In the space of an hour though we covered quite a bit, much of it a repitition of what was said at the first appointment, but the odd comment here and there gave me food for thought. Most importantly it dispelled the lingering fear I had that it would be totally futile; even on the steps towards the door, I was thinking I surely sit somewhere in that horrible middle bracket of people with problems that are neither too extreme to warrant a bluntly extreme response nor too bland to warrant solution by rote, instead sitting somewhere on a vague middle line of irritating uncertainty for all concerned. However, the effect of the meeting was to remind me that sometimes I take my self-perception too factually and that other people can have useful input now and then.

From what I gathered it will be a fairly informal thing, just an hour or so of talking and trying to understand the causes of my thoughts and behaviour. That was pretty much exactly what I was looking for since for so many years I've hardly ever spoken about any of this and even until very recently I've been keeping things secret because of the damage that being honest does to the rest of your life. Even now, you can tell I still have doubts about whether anyone else can help me - my instinct (as with everything else in life) is that if I need a job doing, I'm best doing it myself, so I have a resistance to asking for help from anyone. I think she understood the benefit of me being able to be free to talk without it coming back to make things worse, though. There'll be analysis of the problems and the patterns and aims for the future; that kind of thing. I didn't have a long time to explain why I was there, so the message I got across was that in the last five years or so, my whole social life has become entwined with drinking and now I feel both trapped and lost whenever I try to cut back or stop - and that's something she understood straight away, so it's a start. From what I briefly mentioned about how hectic my social life is at work and home I think I sounded like an international playboy so the stuff about how I drink to overcome shyness will have to be a surprise for another day.

My one real hope from it all is to know the truth about the way I am. I have my own views about what I do but I don't know other people's and I certainly don't know those of people who work with alcoholics every day; there must be something I can learn from them that'll help me in future.

The German trip went okay, in terms of drinking. I could have done a lot better, I could have done a lot worse. I suppose it depends very much upon what better and worse are, and I think one of the problems here is that my perceptions of that very often collide with other peoples'. I must get far too wrapped up in my self-analysis sometimes to see what my behaviour looks like to other people because I'm sometimes baffled by how I'm told I looked compared to what was going on in my head. That's getting off the subject and into the realms of analysing the sober me, though.

Christmas will be a funny one, I'm sure. I'm not entering into making predictions and binding myself to obligations, because I know for sure that it's in my character to rebel and that includes against myself. It seems better then to just go with the flow and try my best. I'm not going on a few things I normally do, but the lessons of the last few weeks are that even then I can still come close to ruining things, so I'll just have to keep biding my time until the next meeting.