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.