Thursday, 18 March 2010

End of the alco team

Just a quick look back on things now, as I've a lot of other things on my mind. None of this is really clear in my head yet, anyway, so there's no point trying to go into it too much.

I had my last session with Mark yesterday, just a short one to wrap things up. I didn't want to make a scene so I put a positive face on things. Going has certainly helped me swing things round from the way I was heading for the last few years, but that's all it can do - just give you a nudge. The rest of the time I'm on my own and only have my own willpower to rely on, my own head to listen to, my own decisions to make. Going to see these people hasn't done much to make those decisions any easier, it's just put them at the front of my mind all the time rather than me shoving them to the back whenever convenient.

I'm seeing a counsellor now instead, for up to ten sessions. Depends how it goes, y'know. I don't really know at the moment why I'm doing it, as it just seemed a good idea months ago when they first suggested it to me. It takes that long to get an appointment. By now, I feel like I've already done some of the things that counselling would have helped me to do, so I don't really know why I'm going? It was a bit weird today seeing this middle-aged woman three feet away from me and asking me why I was there. I think that's a really bad way to begin. It just left me flummoxed for words and wondering where the hell to start. Surely the point of seeing someone like them is that you bury your real reasons behind everyday denial and confusion so to be asked outright what's wrong with you is like going to your GP and explaining that a weakness in your aorta has been aggravated by an infection you picked up on a recent holiday leading to your shallow breathing and increased blood pressure.

I'll give it a go anyway. I remember going into this right at the beginning being sceptical they'd be of any use to me, but they had a few useful things to say over the course of it. Maybe something will come of this too. I know I don't enjoy the way I relate to my dad much but what can be done about it now? He's the person he is, I was brought up the way I was, we're not close, so what? I think we both prefer it that way. It just means we don't involve each other in private parts of our lives unless drink is involved, but I've had enough of that now anyway so I've been stopping that too. I don't know how often I'll see the man really since the times just don't come up any more when we cross paths. It's a shame as I do like him but it's kinda like any relationship, you can't get by just based on being pissed. It's too hard to keep up and even when you try there's not much of substance there.

I don't know what I think about my mum. I've tried to get to know her better and we get on alright and all that, but I still wonder what other people are on about when they talk about their mums. To me she's just another person, I'm not dependent on her in any way and have never felt I have been. I don't really know any other way since that's the way it's always been so I don't feel like I'm "missing" anything by it. I've always had my sisters anyway. I like her a lot as a person, don't get me wrong.

I think what I would have talked to the counsellor about months ago, was how difficult I found it at the time to admit that I was struggling with drinking to my mum and dad. Like I said, I've always had a distance between myself and them so it wasn't something I ever felt like I needed to do. When it got bad at the end of last year though, it seemed admitting things to people was necessary and I eventually told them both. I told my mum, and she was okay about it, and we have the occasional word now and then about it. I told my dad, and it became a discussion about depression and suicide and so on. It's done now anyway, so that difficulty has passed, and I no longer really feel like I have any difficulties in my life other than keeping an eye on my drinking habits.

Sorry for that ramble - just trying to clear things up in my head.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Apologies to my meagre readership and myself for my failure to update this for a while. It's not been through a lack of desire but a lack of time - writing on here isn't just a case of hammering away at a keyboard for ten minutes, but takes a good few hours or days of thought first before anything consequential comes to mind.

I don't think I've mentioned yet that I no longer see the woman I first saw when I went to the place. She's been assigned somewhere else, so I turned up to an appointment and this geezer was there. He explained she'd been moved and he was my new one. Of course, it felt strange and like a hard reboot after all I'd talked about with her. Suddenly there's this guy in front of me who knows nothing about me apart from a few of her scribbled notes and he wants me to tell the story from scratch. It was a hard reboot.

Anyway, the first one flew by as I basically just repeated what I'd told her at the start. I must say, it wasn't helpful having to do that. It forced me to go over things, say things out loud, I've been working on putting in the past. I felt just like I did two months ago all over again, just by telling him the original stories. When I get into this line of work I'll remember what that feels like because I don't want to make anyone else have to do that.

The second one was more useful as we looked at an example of a time I went for a drink when I didn't "have to". By that we meant a time there was no pressure on me to drink other than my own inward desires. It was an illuminating experience because it literally put my thought processes down on paper on front of me. I have a tendency to think I know myself inside out but this kind of thing makes clear that I don't, because it showed me the thoughts I have which I use to convince myself that random drinking is okay.

It also reminded me of the problem I have living here at the moment. I don't have the option other people have of "going home to avoid drinking", because I don't like coming home. I need to get my own place again and I'm working on it, but in the meantime I need to find alternatives to going out with people other than going home because it's a bad option for me.

In terms of actual drinking, I've been doing well. Wiped out chunks of the week I may otherwise have gone out with people on, and stuck to my things at weekends. I miss people now and then, and get bored, but it's part of the mission to figure all this out. I've maintained control of an argument twice now in situations that otherwise would have got out of hand, which I'm very happy with because previously I let those get carried away.

In summary: breezes.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Small but significant

I'm not quite sure of its importance, but last night I did something differently again and it's worth mentioning to remind me in future that this was the first time I chose to do it. At about ten o'clock I went downstairs to make supper and get a drink before watching Citizen Kane. On the way down I began to have familiar thoughts about... about, well, what other people do, I guess. I have a picture in my head of what "normal" people do and it includes pissing away their lives in front of a computer to pay an absurd mortgage on a house they don't want decorated by a woman they don't love and filled with children who barely tolerate them - but when they finally get two hours of freedom before it all begins again the next day, they like to pour themselves a drink "to relax" and watch a film.

As you may gather, that's not a life for me. But you see, I think up to now my reasoning has always stopped around the point where the story gets to them pouring themselves a drink, as if to justify me doing the same - if it's what "normal" people do, and I want to be "normal" about drink, then why can't I do it?

Maybe because of the amount of thought I put into everything I do at the moment, last night my reasoning went past that point and I thought back to times I've done that before. I don't drink "to relax" like a lot of people seem to, I drink in social situations to make myself more at ease with the group. When I've had a drink on my own at night before, I end up feeling barely different, occasionally slightly more maudlin than when I started, the contrast between social drinking and sitting around drinking because you can all too clear in my mind. Frequently I wonder what the point was at all and why other people do it; I've always known I don't like drinking on my own and never ever used to, but I guess the distinction became blurred around the years I started drinking at home with my mates and found that habit difficult to give up when living on my own again.

So, last night, I reasoned that there was no point having a whisky and hot water while watching Citizen Kane. Sitting around having one or two drinks in the evening just because I can isn't my kind of thing. Like a lot of my character, I'm all or nothing with drinking and this seems to be working for me at the moment - the interesting, different things to do in my free time more than making up for me not having drinks on my own in an evening just because it's what other people think is normal.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A beer festival ticked off the list

After my jaunt out two or three Sunday afternoons ago, I found that having something different to do at the weekend was a very useful way to me of staving off the midweek boredom pangs that frequently led to me accepting any invite out (it was often because I feared that the weekend would be void of anything fun to do, so I had no reason to say no that night).

Yesterday I went to a very very massive beer festival with a couple of mates. The instant thought is that I must either be masochistic or possibly suicidal, a man with a drink problem going to a beer festival. However, I've emerged from the day out feeling very positive for having managed to stay in control again and just have a good trip out. You see, real ale is where I'm trying to get to. It agrees with me and I find it much easier to measure and predict than other drinks, and I also happen to think it tastes great (well, unless you get a bad 'un...). The whole scene around it sums up what I like about drinking - the social side of things, no aggression, drinking something that actually has character and real taste, leaves you with no nitrogen-head after... I could go on.

I didn't drink much at all throughout the day; we ticked off 23 halves between the three of us so that's about four pints each over the course of four hours. (Yes, we were sad enough to tick them off and I'll be writing about the day and the beers elsewhere, but I should note that we weren't being serious about it. Honest.)

The summary of yesterday is that I quite easily managed a day out with two mates who aren't entirely unfamiliar with getting wazzocked, spent four hours at a massive beer festival without getting hammered, went and had something to eat on the way back and got home in time for a couple of brews and the football highlights. I was up by 9 this morning and feel fine (but am conscious it's still in my system and my body lies to me so there'll be no drinking today). Having something like this to look forward to is helping me stave off the silly drinking for the sake of something to do during the rest of the week, and even on the day I didn't feel any of the pangs to go crazy. I went to an 18th the night before but only had a few pints because I didn't want to spoil yesterday, something I wouldn't have done in the past; I'd have gone to the beer fest "topping up" and not eating properly. Today I'm spending with family and then back here to write about the beer festival. I feel positive about doing things like this.

The second meeting

I went to the second appointment on Friday morning. It was another chance to talk about how I'd got on that week, which is something I look forward to now. It helps having something to aim for at the end of the week, knowing I have a release for whatever happens. My current thinking on independence is that people should still rely on themselves first and foremost, but I now see the value of having the occasional vent to get a new perspective on your thoughts.

We did a kind of "goals" chart to get down on paper what I'm actually trying to do. The ultimate goal is for me to learn the control around drinking that I've never really bothered with before, to kill the urge I normally feel to just keep going and not worry about tomorrow. For support in this I have family, friends, the weekly visits and in the next few weeks I'll be going to see a counsellor too. What am I doing to achieve it? - mainly making sure I have a plan in place whenever drinking might be on the horizon, simple things like thinking about what to drink and what sort of time would be good to go, and keeping an eye out for risk influences. Why am I doing it? - after I'd rambled for a while, it seemed to her that my main motivation was to be seen as a better person than I'd been presenting myself as due to drink. I don't know if that's noble or misguided or what, but I guess it's basically why I'm doing it - I've become tired of being a person like that, being seen as a person like that, having to apologise for things "another person" had done.

She said I'd done very well on Wednesday when I was at a funeral wake all day and managed to stay sober throughout. I alternated between ~3.4% mixed and ~1.7% shandy, with the net effect that I was never close to crossing any sort of line. It felt very hard at first, almost unnatural, but I got into the swing of it later on. She said that me choosing to do things like this so quickly, and managing to stick to it, was a massive thing. I guess I spend so much time at the moment just planning my days and actually going through the ups and downs that all this involves that I hadn't thought that much of it, but now I do feel quite proud I managed it okay.

Recently I've made some steps forward by stopping caring what people think about my problems. Whenever I've told people or written things on here, I've instantly felt a sense of shame and stupidity for having to go through all of this to solve what isn't even a problem to most other people. But recently I've realised that what other people think of my problems doesn't make any difference. If they understand where I'm coming from, all the better and I appreciate their compassion. If they don't, well, so what? I go a long way on here and with people to explain why I find this difficult, far more verbosely and eloquently than the vast majority of other people could ever manage, and if that isn't enough then I don't see any value to me in keeping on trying and feeling bad for having a problem. I was probably trying to fix perception rather than reality - not so much worrying about how to actually solve the things I have trouble with, but more trying to change people's views of me. That's wrong. Everyone has problems of their own - I'm very capable at things other people are hopeless at and fret about every day, so what use could they have comparing themselves to me? They'd be better off just trying to do something about the things they're crap at, which is what I've been doing for the past month. Someone close to me told me a few weeks ago that my problem is that I don't value myself highly enough and see all the things people love me for, and I remembered that I do by nature concentrate on problems, my own and other people's, and sometimes forget about the good things. So, at the moment, I feel good about what I've managed and want to remember this is just one part of me and I'm trying fucking hard to do something about it, a step that most people will never take with their own problems.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

A sad case

A woman sat in front of me on the bus to work this morning was drunk, drinking Lambrini out of double-bagged carrier bags. She was quiet for the first half of the journey but something sparked her to life and she started talking to herself about how her house had burned down last August and she'd been on the streets ever since. She hadn't slept the night before and was going to drink on the streets in town, hoping she'd be arrested because it was warm and "you get some cornflakes". She has, so she said, a 16 year old son at Rhyddings who was ashamed of her. She said she was intellectual but had a chemical inbalance in her head that made her go crazy. It's impossible to know what bits are true, but it wasn't pleasant to hear.

Who knows this woman's story before last August? Or does it go back further than then? I leaned forward and asked her if she'd heard of THOMAS, the Catholic group down on King Street that help out people like her with getting clean and with their housing and so on. I'm not keen on the religious side of things, but they do a very hard job and I can put aside religious indifference for the sake of that. I presume she'd been asked that before because she launched into an instant diatribe, one of those things that seemed burned into memory - a standard response to a question too often asked. At least I tried; for the moment, until I finish with uni and training in a few years time, it's only little things like this I can do. I've already enquired about helping out at THOMAS one night a week but not heard anything back - this can be a reminder to chase that up.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Meeting one

Speak of the devil - I was told my appointment would be in the post and there it was waiting for me, letting me know to go along this morning.

As you might have gathered from yesterday's posts, a feeling of isolation and disconnection from the group has dominated me recently. I've tried to explain this to people but it seems to be one of those feelings that can only be understood while it is underway, after which it is hurriedly filed away using selective memory to black it out.

Being able to talk about this to someone was very helpful. I explained how since cutting down on the things I do I've had a lot of empty time, and about the challenges that presents. I talked about the day I told my mum and how I struggled with my dad. I mentioned how in the last few weeks no-one has spoken to me about it and how I feel totally on my own whenever it's on my mind, like a forgotten case. She picked up on that pretty quickly and I made sure she knew how much I appreciate having her to talk to. Without her to aim for I think I'd be going mad with no release for my own thoughts, no alternative opinion to counter mine, no new input.

She also thought, after I'd gone on a minutes-long ramble, that it's important to me how people see me. That stumped me for a little while as it came out of the blue; at the time my train of thought was heading elsewhere, but there must have been something I said without thinking. It made me wonder how much I want to change people's perceptions of me, and I did realise I've been getting very frustrated by the efforts I've put in over the last month which only I can see the rewards of. I've talked about it with a few people but then there's been no more feedback and I guess it is frustrating knowing that you've put effort in to improve yourself but no-one seems to notice. Now, and I said this to her, I know that I'm in this alone and I don't expect anything from anyone. In fact the last few weeks have been a course of shock therapy in cutting off ties with people I'm close to, and as lonely as it gets it's better than waiting around for other people to do a job for you. The conclusion I came to was that people's perceptions of me do matter because at the moment I think they're out of line with who I really am and I feel angry that changes I'm making aren't getting me visibly far. As I said to her: "it'd be nice for one person to put something in writing just so I know what they thought about what I'm doing." I feel like a donkey chasing an invisible carrot.

She had quite a lot of encouraging words for me after I showed her my drinking diary from the last week, which was good to hear. Everything's been so downbeat that I feel like the only ever comment about me and drinking is negative, and anything good or normal I do goes without mention. The vast majority of the time I do act normally, it's just the times I go too far I'm working on with her help. One of the habits of my lifetime is making my own problems more difficult for myself by being open and honest about them - I always seem to think that people will appreciate honesty and be able to deal with it, but really it's just telling people stuff they don't want to hear. Take this, for example. I could have dealt with it by force of will, made apologies for the past and gone from there. Instead I chose to detail every flaw in my character on here and go to see an alcohol advisory team, which instantly elevates it in people's mind into a different category of problem. I do keep my mouth shut about the majority of troubles (who really wants to hear them?) and the character flaws of other people, but whenever I say something it comes back to bite me. Maybe I should shut up and keep everything between me and her.

I've been thinking too about how having a drink changes me, and what other people's perceptions of me then are. This was one of the main reasons I went to see those people, because I needed an external sense of perspective on myself and my situation. It is impossible to tell from within - I need other opinions to get to the truth. I think one of the things that people and me have always struggled with is that there's quite a sharp comparison between how much I bite my tongue while sober compared to while drunk. While sober I hold back from all kinds of personal insults, comments and opinions, purely because I like to keep the peace and find it very easy to be tolerant and let things go. I very rarely get into arguments and loath the ceaseless pointless contradictions couples fall into, so try my best to avoid those. A few beers weakens this though and suddenly I'm not the reserved tolerant one, I'm expressing opinions and dissatisfaction with things that normally I would just let go. I'm not like a drunk who "gets a bit loud" and people have a cheap laugh at his expense, I'm someone who's amiable enough to get on with nearly everyone I've met despite my shyness, who after a drink starts challenging people, and I don't think people like the unexpected contrast.

Anyway, that's another thought nugget to chip away at. I recommended a friend have a crack at one of these semi-anonymous blogs yesterday because it's strangely cathertic to express these things to an unknown audience.

Let's finish on some high notes from the past few weeks, anyway. I deserve the odd moment of feeling slightly happy with what I've managed.
  • I had a drink and didn't touch a drop the next day.
  • I went out for an afternoon and just had a few halves with the odd pint, and went home in a fine mood.
  • I haven't made myself ill or missed any work.
  • I kept a clear head and did plenty of revision for my first exam, which went very well.
  • I haven't entered into any drunken poorly-informed arguments.
  • I've avoided drinking during moments of boredom.
  • I went to watch the football, had a couple of drinks then went home, made a brew and had supper rather than go looking for another drink.
  • I've done all this on my own.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Class war

Another thought struck me today related to this, that for the last decade I've felt very much trapped between social classes and it normally leaves me feeling very isolated.

This occurred to me tonight when, after my exam, I made my way to a pub near my home to catch as much of the Rovers-Villa semi-final as I could. (That was a conscious decision - I was avoiding watching it at the nearest pub to the college and then ending up hanging around in town drinking afterwards until the bus home.) There can be few more obvious juxtapositions than a two hour psychology exam essentially forcing me to discuss why people are fucked, followed by an hour sat on my own watching people who are fucked.

What struck me was that I've always felt somewhere inbetween the working class I was born in to - the people who drink socially in the pubs I like - and the middle class - the people I've always intellectually more associated with. I've never been that close to my family apart from liking how they can, without a second's notice or a hint of awkwardness, gather for any social occasion and totally relate to each other. That is something that very few middle class, geographically disparate families I have ever known, have been capable of doing, and it's a very warming thing. On the other hand, from an early age at school I always associated with the clever lads and am still great friends with them to this day - and they're all from middle class backgrounds. My girlfriends have been from that background, too; I'm attracted to intelligence before anything else, I know by now.

What I've put myself through is a torn life between the fantastic honesty and utterly genuine warmth of my family, tempered by their requirement for beer and complete lack of relation I feel for them often, and the intellectual and comic rewards I've always sought from my friends, partly cancelled out by their own detachment and individualistic views. Pub-going people are by definition blessed with social skills, warmth and a genuine temperament few possess, but equally they have a fondness for laughing too loud at simple jokes and taking the edge off most humour. The more gifted people out there have a knack of seeing into your soul with a wise comment, but are more than fond of patronising comments and sorry put-downs. Somewhere in the middle is who I look for but I've ended up with this huge mass of friends and family who I can relate to in one way or another but few of whom I feel any real kinship with, and I've been using beer to fill in those gaps.

I often think that just "taking it as it comes" is the best answer, but the fundamental issue with that is that if that ability isn't born into you, and you're one of those people who want to make a difference and give answers to people, you can't just take things like this as they come.


Interesting look at the "contagious" nature of self-control, which is an aspect of what I'm struggling with.

Ploughing on

Not the easiest of times recently. I've been exposed to some of the risk factors I recognise, but I've come through them okay. A death in the family and not seeing my girlfriend much - one, my family's inclination to drink at times like this, and two, the absence of the usual things to do in the evenings and a feeling of isolation. It was potentially a bad combination but I stuck it out by creating something for me to do that took away the worst pangs of boredom and loneliness; last Sunday I went on a very chilly walk around part of town with a friend, looking at old pubs mentioned in an online group I visit. I took a few photos which I'll get online at some point and had a good natter with a mate - something I've been missing, as I expected, being able to share a problem with someone who gets where you're coming from. It was everything I wanted and have been aiming for, the kind of social drinking that people do without a second glance - a gentlemanly walk around a few quiet pubs having halves in some and pints in others, no need to rush anything or anyone pressuring me, finishing up with a curry and a trip to the cinema and not a negative thought in my mind. Along with being busy revising for an exam tonight, that kept me sufficiently occupied not to do much but be on my own with books and notes, really.

This whole thing is proving to be a bit of a mission of self-discovery and from the last fortnight I've learned that the idea of suddenly stopping is too much for me and just makes me want to go completely in the opposite direction. However, contrary to what I'd previously thought, when I carefully position beer in my life, for example this week by having a quiet weekend at home so that I'd enjoy my Sunday afternoon out with a mate, I can moderate like a normal person. Crucially I was also able, again, to stop it turning into anything more than that afternoon, and this time on my own; I had a few drinks on Monday night, but only because my mate's dad had just died, and it didn't get late. Slowly I can feel my instinctive opinion changing from that insane urge to just keep going, into thinking more about the consequences; changing that instinctive feeling is very important as it's what guides a person when they've had more than a couple of drinks.

I haven't heard from the alcohol advisers since December 21st so I'll be ringing them today. They were supposed to ring me to schedule an appointment in the new year, but it's the 14th now and no word, and the snow's died down enough that they must be back up to speed now. I've felt very isolated in the last few weeks and sometimes feel the pangs to just give up because everyone's left me to it, but I've held them off just waiting to have this person to talk to. That's the problem with drinking. People always look after themselves first but a pint's always ready to listen. Not that I believe in that, by the way, I'm just making an observation on the nature of it. The counterside to that, of course, is that a pint is like having a mate who just nods to everything you say and never tells you when you're wrong or gives friendly advice - not much use at the end of the day.

It is a slow and unpleasant process, but I'm slowly phasing out time around some people. There are people I know who "get it" and others who don't. I'll never have any influence on them so my answer is to cut down the time around them, for better or worse. This week should perhaps remind me that there are people out there with problems they can't beat who deserve more sympathy than me, and I'm in this on my own anyway.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Social situations

I've learned several things over the last week which is always a very pleasing state of affairs, for there's nothing more frustrating than stagnating in a feeling that you're getting nowhere fast.

Firstly I had what felt like a setback on New Year's Day. I'd managed fine going from the weekend of the 27th until then without having anything. I'd intended going through the wedding I was at the same way but I pretty quickly discovered what is probably one of the biggest reasons I drink at things like that. I found myself in new company and while they were all very nice people it was the fact alone that they were new to me that filled me with a heavy sense of unease and worry. To be specific, it's not a generic shyness around new people I feel, for in day to day situations I can carry myself perfectly adequately, but in social situations it's an overwhelming sense of disappointment in myself for not naturally being able to be as funny or interesting with them as I can be with people I know. The sense of disappointment quickly becomes all I can think about, even when I'm conscious of it and am willing myself to just think straight and act as I would with people I know.

Drink comes into this as it puts a foot in that revolving door and has the same effect as if I was magically suddenly sat at a table of friends - the mental block clears and I find it possible again to think clearly and without hindrance. Part of it is psychological in that having a drink in front of me makes me feel less of an outcast and more a part of the group, but part of it is the physical relaxing effect of a beer or two. I've come to see that this is one of the reasons I have instinctively drunk at occasions like this, because I'd got used to it as a way of killing off those feelings of unease before they had chance to kick in - feelings of unease which I've never really learned to handle.

Despite there being a free bar at the wedding, I maintained a good degree of sobriety and managed to think logically and calm myself about a moment of anger I had when I saw someone ordering two strong drinks at the end of the night - I had a flash of anger that if I had done that I'd be leapt upon as a raging alcoholic, but then I remembered that it would be justified to do so as I've shown that I react in a different way to that kind of drinking than other people - a worse way. What's not okay for me is okay for them, you know, and I remembered that and stopped myself before I got angry. It might not sound much of an achievement but normally I find it quite alluring to succumb to those flashes of anger and switch off any resistance to them, because they feel like such a change from the normal hyper-self controlled me.

Anyway, in summary, when faced at the wedding with the pressure of a new social group, I learned that I'd gone too far by thinking I was ready to totally not drink at things like that. Maybe in the future, when I've done it a few times with less drink than usual, yeah, but not yet. I kept the drinking to a normal level, though, went home fine and was A-okay the next day, so I think I just did enough to kill off my freaking-out that night and get me through to the next stage.

So what was the next stage? Well part of what I've been doing on here and in person is being honest about as much as I can, so before we went into the reception I told my girlfriend I was panicking a lot about the next six hours and I'd be having a few drinks. She took it well which was a relief as I can understand that I change my mind a fair bit on here - as I mentioned in a recent post, it's because I don't know myself what the best route is from day to day. A fair point she had was that a few drinks that night might kick off my usual urge to have a few more the next day, and then a few more, and then the whole "stopped drinking" thing is dead in the water again. Being honest I only fully understood what was happening at those times about three or four months ago, when I began to see a pattern emerging after yet another stupidly intense weekend. But I get it now, and I think it's one of the main things I need to be doing to keep in control - avoiding the one night leading into another just because I get that feeling inside and my body tells me I'm fine. The lesson has been that my body lies to me and the voice making me want another is the remnants of last night's alcohol leaving my system; two simple but duplicitous chemical facts.

So, and I felt a bit lame for suggesting it, I asked if we could spend some of the next day together. There was no need to explain why - obviously partly it was to give me some company to help me avoid the boredom that makes me want to give in, and partly to show her in person that I wasn't falling into that trap again. And it is a trap - as I mentioned some time ago on here, when I think back, almost universally, the times I've ended up stupidly drunk and ended up upsetting her or being an all-round wazzock haven't been after a night out but after a second or third night out, when it's built up inside me but for lord knows what reason I seem unable to recognise it. It seems to me then that if I can't rely on the instinctive feeling that "I've had enough" that most other people have, then I have to create and rely on an intellectual decision to stop myself and ignore what my body tells me. On the day following the wedding I did just that and once the pangs for more had passed by dinnertime, I felt back to normal once again.

I'm actually taking some genuine comfort from that because, and it's really hard to describe just how strong an urge it is, when I've had that wanting for more in the past I've normally just given in and let it beat me. It will be hard for me to exercise the same decision every time and I think I will have to actively plan to have something to do or have people around to help me avoid it, but I know now it's possible.

For the future, I'm currently going back to the idea I had several months ago that having something unusual to look forward to every month or so might help me get through the intermediate patches without feeling too cut off from the rest of the world, my friends and family. It's a hard trade-off for me, on the one hand the need to be more moderate and on the other the need to see people. I've been reading about the National Winter Ales Festival 2010 over in Manchester later this month and it's that kind of thing that I think I'd like to do more - go along for the day (having most definitely not had a beer the night before!), try the food, try some crazy new beers (which I really do love doing, always have done, just hidden it by the obviousness of my excesses), see a few friends I don't often see, and get the train home with a Sunday ahead to spend "in recovery" - not tricking myself I'm immortal and I can quite easily go out again that night. When I think about it, it feels like the solution that might work for me, helping me hit that middle ground. I'll be asking around anyway, putting some feelers out, and seeing what happens.