Monday, February 18, 2008

A novel decision

Your humble Devil would like to crave your indulgence for a moment. This blog was started for many reasons, but ultimately began to serve two purposes: first, as a cathartic outlet for my anger and, second, as a way to organise my thoughts. As it happens, those thoughts have mainly been of a political nature and the laying down of my reactions has often led to insights that I would not have had were it not for the discipline of writing them down.

However, I had also forgotten the pleasure that I had in writing and so, when things occur to me, I now feel the need to commit them to this blog. And this, I am afraid, is not a political thesis but a personal one. Those who are uninterested in such introspection can feel free to skip what follows, for it is both a rationalisation of an old problem and a cathartic exercise (though not intended as an expiation).

So, to start: my name is Chris and I am not an alcoholic.

I'll just pause for a second whilst the loud guffaws, from those who know me in real life, to settle down to a smattering of sniggers. Have you quite finished? Thank you.

Now, let me explain. Alcohol has caused me a number of problems: I piss people off and I lose things (not least huge chunks of my memory*). I have been at some level of drunkenness for most nights over the last... well... twelve years, at least; with the exception of the last year and the year in which I discovered Ecstasy (when I essentially used pills rather than alcohol). Plus, of course, just about every relationship that I have had has ended because of my drinking.

But it isn't the drinking per se, or even being drunk. One can be mildly tipsy or even a little pissed and still be god fun, and have fun. It is the point at which I have drunk so much that I cannot remember what I am doing, who I am, or actually make any rational decision. It is the point when "the madness", as an old friend called it, kicks in.

The madness—as I shall now call that state of drunkenness where I am no longer rational and often unpleasant (or, at the very least, deeply embarrassing)—has comprehensively buggered up a good deal of my life. It does not, generally speaking, affect my business or professional life—except where potential clients have met me in a social situation and thought, "I'm not hiring him. He's dangerously unstable, and an arse, to boot."—but it is, almost certainly, the reason why I'm now thirty and still single.

An incident this week demonstrated that, despite the fact that my drinking has severely declined over the last year, the madness incidents do continue: this particular incident has also led me to consider my situation and write this self-indulgent post, since I buggered up something which had (I think) the potential to be really good—alas, I didn't lose my phone* early enough in the evening, although I have lost all memory of most of said evening. My memory's not hazy, you understand; it's completely blank.

After all, it is not as though I need to drink, or to be drunk—which is why I say that I am not an alcoholic. Generally speaking, most of the last year has seen me sitting quietly at home in the evenings, most often not drinking at all or, sometimes, having a couple of glasses of wine.

It is, quite simply, that, when I am in the presence of (effectively) unlimited amounts of alcohol (and people), that I don't stop drinking when I should. In other words, it is not an addiction problem, but a judgement problem.

One must remember that I lack an important self-limiting factor that most people have: I don't get hangovers. Well, I may get one here and there (usually if I've been drinking lager which is one of the reasons that I eschew it), but generally I do not get the hideous headaches and nausea the next morning in the way that most people do. Most of my friends joke (I think!) that this is because I never sober up and that, one day when I'm about forty five, twenty-odd years of hangovers will suddenly hit and knock me stone dead.

A second factor has been the building of a certain image or personality: Chris drinks, heavily. My propensity to drink like a fish and smoke like a chimney has been part of my public construct for over a decade. But that construct was built upon the fact that I already drank and smoked heavily and is thus a consequence, rather than a cause, of this habit. And, besides, the move to London has removed me from the peculiar sphere in which that social model held any significance.

So, the conclusion that I came to whilst considering this (far into the early hours of this morning) was simply that I didn't, or don't, care enough—about either myself or other people—to stop. After all, why should it matter?—most things we lose can be replaced, my memories aren't that valuable and I don't suffer the next morning.

Except that that isn't quite true, of course. I would often wake up the next morning with feelings of guilt, that sense that you have done something awful but you cannot remember what it might be. However, in recent years the memory blanks have been such that even those, in general, did not trouble me—the alcoholic anmesia so complete that I have been untroubled by such feelings of dread, even when I should have been. Besides, I have become inured to the consequences: so, I acted like an arse again... Oh well, shit happens and on we go...

So, what was different about this week's incident? The first special feature was, as I mentioned, stuffing up something that I might have made me a little happier. The second, and most important as far as these thoughts are concerned, was the fact that it exactly mirrored events of six or seven years ago. To bugger up a good opportunity once is bad enough; to do it again in exactly the same way borders on the pathologically insane.

Which is a problem: am I pathologically insane or have I simply failed to progress in those six or seven years?

The obvious answer is the latter. What has changed in the elapsed time, really? Nothing. What have I achieved, now that I am thirty and a half? Well, I make enough money to live (now) but I have no career as such; I can support myself but I couldn't support anyone else. I have no meaningful qualifications bar my experience in the design industry and my long period of working for myself, whilst not totally negating that experience, makes it much trickier to get back on the job ladder.

The success of The Kitchen is one of my few concrete achievements. It has developed my political and economic opinions and arguments; it has a good readership (although its antagonistic style has gained me as many enemies as friends, I would guess) and I have made a number of firm friends through the blog and the connections to it. But The Kitchen is near worthless to me financially and its confrontational rhetoric makes it almost as worthless as a career lever.

Personally, my life has progressed not at all. Whilst the move to London has been positive and has made politics more accessible, fundamentally that must be—for the present—little more than a hobby. I have made some good friends, I think, although if I continue to be an embarrassing drunk it would be entirely expected were they to disassociate themselves.

And, of course, I am still single. That becomes more of a problem; the idea of merely chasing after sex has left with much of my youthful exuberance and more, these days, I crave someone I can actually talk to.

Notwithstanding such posts as this, I am a private person and generally talk little about myself to people (why would they be interested). And so, when I am feeling a bit down, it is those who I do care for who tend to be on the other end of my drunken phone calls. A burden which, of course, is not appreciated by them, some of whom—quite apart from the irritation that they have felt—have actually cared enough to become severely worried about me.

And now, a brief interlude for, whilst I was writing this, a song came on iTunes the lyrics of which seemed appropriate—to my state of mind if not the actual content.
Last night I dreamt
That somebody loved me
No hope, no harm
Just another false alarm

Last night I felt
Real arms around me
No hope, no harm
Just another false alarm

So, tell me how long
Before the last one?
And tell me how long
Before the right one?

The story is old—I know
But it goes on
The story is old—I know
But it goes on

And so, we come back to the issue at hand: what to do about the madness. The solution is, I think, simple: I need to actually care about how drunk I get. But, more fundamentally, I need to recognise how drunk I am and to pace myself properly—to employ some judgement.

It's something that I tried on Saturday, as a lunch turned into a closing time session. Every now and then I took a little time out and examined myself—in the same way that I used to switch out of the Ecstasy euphoria and examine whether or not I needed water—and realised that I was getting slightly tipsy. At this point, I skipped a couple of rounds of booze and went for a soft drink instead.

And, do you know what? I rather enjoyed it. I had a long day's drinking in great company and I didn't act like a tit (I don't think so, anyway!). I woke up the next day, and I could remember it all and I didn't feel any guilt. I don't actually need to get hammered to have a good time: extraordinary! Now, I simply have to make this—rather than the continuing to drink until I fall over—my habit and... well... quite simply, grow up.

And then maybe I can actually get my life into some semblance of order, get out of this decade-long rut and actually progress. You never know, one of these days I might meet someone that I want to settle down with! (Let us hope that I've not met "the one" already (if such a thing exists) or that plan's going to be a bit scuppered!)

Anyway, let me finish off this somewhat lengthy post by saying that if you see me wandering around at some meeting or party with an orange juice in my hand then, no, it doesn't have vodka in it (probably) and no, I don't want a pint right now, thank you.

And, now, back to bashing the politicians.

Well, after I have addressed some of the massive amounts of work that I have to do...


* I've lost my mobile phone, for those of you who might be wondering why you can't get hold of me. I'll have a new SIM card soon; in the meantime, you'll just have to get hold of me via email.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know the feeling feeling of morning guilt very well. Best idea is as you imply to knock it on the head for a while. Not so easy with the fags though. Don't laugh but I recommend swimming. One hour spent in the pool aimlessly up and down varying strokes and speeds works wonders. So much so that I go nearly every day and can now do 100 lengths freestyle. Learn how to do it properly and you will become addicted and the buzz you get post session is fantastic. It will also encourage you to change your diet in terms of eating healthier. No I'm not a health freak I still drink and smoke but feel good. Mind you reading this makes me want to return to my bad old days of excessive boozing.


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Tito said...

Christ, you'll be going to the gym next.

How appropriate, the word verfication is

tpubme

as in, i'm off t'pub, me.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Tito,

You're just in fantasy world now.

DK

The Nameless One said...

I've some sympathy with this: I've drunk less and less over the past couple of years. And as a result, when I do get pissed, the embarrassing incidents (and the lack of memory) have got worse and worse. A reduction in my ability to drink has not led to a linked growth in my ability to work out when to stop.

The lyric that somes up those pissed up nights for me is "Open" by the Cure: "and the first short retch/leaves me gasping for more/and i stagger over screaming/on my way to the floor/and i'm back on my back
with the lights and the lies in my eyes/and the colour and the music's too loud/and my head's all the wrong size."

Although I'm guessing you probably know that one already...

TNO

Ed said...

I used to go through a bit of a cycle as you describe but one New Years Eve a couple of years ago I got so drunk that I think I am lucky to be alive. I woke up in my bed with blood everywhere with no phone or wallet and no idea how I got back home. I have been more careful since then not to let the shutters come down. Great post.

cookie said...

The problem with the word alcoholic is one of definition. But, as much as you would try to squirm out of it, commonsensically you are one. You may kid yourself about being in control, but you clearly don't have great levels of control at the moment and its unlikely to get better with age.

My advice, for what its worth. Stop drinking. Put the money saved in a jar. Spend it on sexual depravities or letter bombs, depending upon your mood at the time.

Anonymous said...

Jesus. That post made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. Are you sure you wrote that post? You're not me are you and neither of us can remember.

Seems to me you are almost there.
All you need is terrible pain in the liver in the mornings--that sorts the drinking I found. And coughing blood sorts the smoking. If you want to kill yourself young either medically or by accident carry on as before. But you will be a prat to waste years of laughing till you cry at the politicians, lefties, and all the stunning bullshit in this country as it embraces the caliphate. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Crumbs, not the sort of thing one expects on The Kitchen. But a thought-provoking piece. So much so, I'm going to make only my 2nd/3rd post here. I hope you'll indulge me.

I too am hangover-proof. Never had one. Can't get them. It's genetic; pater is equally immune. 95% of the time, it's a blessing. No illness, so shakes, no spewing, just life as normal the morning after. You can crack open a beer at 8am with no ill effects. So sometimes, you do. Which leads me to...

...the 5% - the worst bit, when there is no physical disincentive to desist. You can drink for days, weeks, and in one particularly enthusiastic period of my younger days, months. And there's no need to stop. So you don't.

I'm 26, and I've been thinking similar stuff lately. I'm not an alcoholic - I can (and do) go days without. But sometimes I find it hard to stop once I get started. And sometimes, life (proper, real life) passes you by a bit.

Drinking is fun, and I enjoy the role it plays in my life, but there have been times when I look back and wish I'd read a book or seen a play or gone for a walk instead of getting pissed again, however much I happened to enjoy it.

The mention of "image" is interesting. I too am known among my peers for liking a drink, and secretly I like that and do little to discourage it. Being an amiable sort, my associates indulgently overlook the occasions when I get a wee bit carried away. But there's a limit to that, and my guess is that you don't discover the boundaries of people's patience until you cross them.

Good luck, man. It takes guts to make a post like that. Me, I'm gonna hide behind cowardly anonymity. But it's heartening to know that thoughts I've had myself are being replicated elsewhere.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. You have described drinking as it often is for me.

This from anonymous above
"The mention of "image" is interesting. I too am known among my peers for liking a drink, and secretly I like that and do little to discourage it. Being an amiable sort, my associates indulgently overlook the occasions when I get a wee bit carried away.
is me to a tea (sic/pardon the pun).

I am trying to cut down to lose weight and to safeguard my future health as it has become a habit for me. I can do without, but I'd prefer not to.

I've never thought of myself as an alcoholic, perhaps I'm in denial?

Devil's Kitchen said...

Thanks for all the comments above: god to know that I'm not alone!

"I've never thought of myself as an alcoholic, perhaps I'm in denial?"

Can you operate without booze? If so, then you are not an alcoholic.

In my first year at university, I indulged in a pathetic tendency towards self-pity and I had a romantic notion of what alcoholism was and, quite deliberately, drove myself towards it.

For a few months, I literally could not operate until I had had a drink in the morning. On one memorable occasion, I woke up and couldn't remember my name.

I slugged down a lot of whiskey as soon as I woke up (one of the reasons I rarely drink the stuff these days), and suddenly things started to clear, enough memory and function returned for me to be able to navigate my way through the day.

That is alcoholism, and something that I was only snapped out of when a friend found me, by chance, sitting in the corner of a pub with a large amount of gin and shakes so bad that I could barely lift the glass.

Seriously, people tend to leap far too swiftly to sound "alcoholic!" If you are an alcoholic, you will know it.

That doesn't mean that heavy drinking won't have consequences though. I am merely tired of the consequences, not of the drink itself.

DK

anthonynorth said...

Hi DK,
I haven't been around for a couple of weeks - I've been busy learning poetry. And the first thing I read is this; and my first thought is, should I bother placing a comment, or will this be another bit of introspection that will be deleted forthwith?
Hopefully, it won't. You seem not to have a problem with drink, but a problem with never knowing when enough is enough. This is a problem that oozes from your blog, and infects, I think, your entire life.
I was like that myself, and never learnt. The outcome was, at 29, I came down with chronic fatigue syndrome. That was 25 years ago and I have it still.
What I learnt in the life transition that followed, was to become more at peace with the world, and my habits, politics, interests changed in kind.
The thing is, this post suggests you're self-analysing yourself in a similar way. Chances are, it will be life changing - unless you run away - again!

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

Fuck the drinking... Get wasted off pills instead!

Seriously- I rarely touched alcohol after I discovered them. Cleaner, safer and so much more affordable. I'd have a couple of drinks if I was/ am out, but I rarely drink to excess. It's the (far) more enjoyable of the two. I also like to dance long and hard when I'm out, which is nigh on impossible towards the end of a drinking session. I've had the best nights of my life with them- something those who moralise about TeH OMFg EVIL DruGZ!1!! will just never be able to understand.

Anonymous said...

This post touched a chord. You're only 30?! Good God!

I wake up most mornings and don't remember much from the evening before (what time did I go to bed? Just WHAT did I type on so-and-so's-blog?) I've been at home just drinking wine; cooking dinner for the brats and the husband. Don't drink during the day; just have the first glass of vino blanco seco at around 6pm. Like some of the people who have posted comments - I don't have hangovers either - out of bed I pop 5 hours after falling into it completely wide eyed and bushy tailed (although looking nothing like Hazel Blears).

I dunno. Just carry on?

LFB_UK *The Legend* said...

It was the memory loss, that worried me more than anything else.

A friend once took a video of me on a night out, and whilst nothing too untowards happened, as I watched it days later, the sly pitying looks and comments made me realise I had become a clown.

I still drink but only one night a week, and like you I tend to space the booze out with soft drinks.

Anonymous said...

If you've come to this realization at the tender age of 30 then you're doing well.

I was well into my 40's before I took stock of my life and came to the conclusion that alcohol wasn't my friend.

I quit drinking a few years ago and have never been happier.

the a&e charge nurse said...

A haunting post Devil, and one that activates entirely different regions of the brain compared to the low grade adrenaline rush that accompanies spats around abstractions (such as climate control, political/social systems, etc).

Personally, I have less and less time for introspection since whatever I discover about myself is unlikely to affect interest rates, or remain constant.

I have always been very fond of an observation made by Iggy Pop (of all people) - he mentions how children (up to a certain age) utilise whatever materials are in their environment when playing games, be it a carboard box, roll of fabric, kitchen utensils, etc, etc - it is only later that they become increasingly inhibited by the desire for certain brands, or objects.

Ever since, Iggys happy childen (unhampered by too many expectations) have become a sort of refrence point - and, as far as possible I try to maximise the contingencies of the moment, or the potential of whatever situation I find myself in.

Here's a little prediction for you Devil: you will survive drink and drugs and in time you will become ascetic - or at least the pleasures that seem so important now will become less and less so in the future (or perhaps I should say the psychological motives underlying such behaviour will diminish in intensity).
This sort of process is well documented, but I'm sure you already know that ?

Anonymous said...

Best way not to drink is marry someone who does. I did and I rarely drank because someone had to be sensible and get us both home through the nightmare that has become London at night. She had 3 phases when she drank, get horny, get aggressive, pass out. Sometimes she managed all 3 in about half an hour. Now we've split up I drink like a fish. 6am, 8am, 10am, not a problem. She assures me she doesn't drink any more (she was drinking only because I was around) although on the only 2 times I've seen her since December she was pissed as a newt. That could have been because I was there.

Now I'm out here, not too far culturally from Uzbekistan, whisky is £20 for 70cl and £20 will keep a family going for a week (though you can go to Greece and get it for £7.50 a litre, and buy pork as well!). You can buy beer in the shops but there are no bars so drinking socially tends to take place on kerbsides on the ring road, building sites or parks. Those labelled family parks are strictly policed and there is absolutely no alcohol.

Best way to stop smoking is to marry a non-smoker. She smoked. We tried to stop, but we would say things like, oh I just found a pack I didn't know I had. The only rule we had was that we, and everybody else, didn't smoke in the house. On the other hand, a non-smoker is a pain in the backside, 'you smell like an ash-tray, you taste like one too'. I like saying, this doesn't though. So taste it.

So there you go. Best find an alcoholic non-smoker. Very rare though. I hear the pubs are empty in the UK. Probably because all the non-smokers are out on the pavements with the smokers because they're just too lonely on their own in the pub. All the best people, humour-wise, sex-wise and risk-takers, smoke and drink. A publican friend of mine tells me that (in addition to added costs for a 3-sides open, patio heater-warmed smoking area) he has to pay extra for cleaning materials because he relied on the smell of the smoke to cover up the smell of the disinfectant the cleaners used.

Nobody needs a career, just a job. Just make sure you're rich enough to stop when you want and not when the State tells you. I didn't, so I'm out here. I still have to pay UK income tax but at least my council tax is only £40 pa. And I get daily bin emptying.

Or you can hope for Shariah law. The pubs will be the first to go.

Here endeth the lesson.

quebrado said...

One of my mates came round the other night and pissed all over my floor.

Isn't alcohol great.

Pretty much the only drug that has a high chance of making people fuck not only themselves, but more importantly other people and their property over. Kind of selfish when you think about it.

Having tried every mind-altering substance I can get my hands on, I think I would rate alcohol as my least favourite by a fair way.

Whats the point of being off your face if you can't remember it, or even string a sentence together, or even walk.

Or make it up the stairs for a piss.

Plus if I drink a hefty bit of booze chances are I feel little more than poisoned.

Still, each to their own, in my opinion becoming obsessed with only one vice for too long is definitely damaging. Try switching it around a bit. Cocaine, for example, is pretty much performance enhancing in every situation.

Henry Crun said...

DK,

I'm kind of new to your blog so don't know you very well yet. I went through something similar about 20-odd years ago but that was mainly out of boredom more than anything else. In fact, one weekend we started a session on Friday afternoon and didn't stop until Monday morning, by which time we had drunk ourselves sober.

Now I'm mid-forties, have a family and can quite honestly say that in the 18 years I have been together with my partner, she has never seen me drunk. Ever.

And that's probably the clincher, having someone that means enough to you that you don't won't take the risk of ruining it by doing what you may not remember later. It's called being a responsible adult - now when we go out as a family, to a party or on a day out and I have a pint or two (can't manage much more than that now), I refuse to drive and Minnie doesn't drink at all anymore (kicks off her asthma.

DK, at least you have made a step in the right direction, that you don't need to be drunk to "enjoy" yourself.

Personally I've never understood what it is in the British psyche that makes young people in particular go out on a weekend and get so drunk they can't even control their own bodily functions.

Alcohol is a poison, and having worked as a nurse (albeit in a military context) have seen the damage it can do - not only physically but also emotionally (to families and next of kin).

This isn't a rant about temperance or drinking per se, just to say that from what I've read, you seem like a reasonable bloke and I like what I read on your blog. All I'm saying is, be careful. There are better ways of enjoying life.

Anonymous said...

I posted earlier.

And I have to say. I would much rather be off my face and pissing on in my bed than facing reality.

Word check almost spelt heimat.

Kate said...

Interesting post DK. That 'just another one' feeling is insidiously seductive, isn't it? It's something I've been making some progress on since New Year (mainly due to the realisation of what horrible people my family, en masse, become when they're all drunk together in a confined space), though I don't pretend to have any answers.

Doesn't everybody have those '7-year itch' nuclear drunkenness episodes? Yeah, you're right, probably not. I know I have though. It's probably fortunate that mine have given me physical, rather than emotional, scars, and I've managed not to seriously hurt anyone else in the process.

I don't intend to sound dismissive, but in a way it sounds as though you're saying, 'I'm ready to grow out of this now'. Which is a good thing, surely?

Kate said...

BTW, my answer to Quebrado ("Try switching it around a bit") is that (in my opinion, anyway) alcohol fits in best with the working week. When I get home from the grindstone A couple of glasses of wine are much more enjoyably relaxing than a joint, a line or a pill. I can function enjoyably on it; perhaps the best way to describe it is that the alcohol works in the background whereas other drugs are in the foreground. So they're more of a weekend thing because if I want to stay up til 3am, I can without having to worry about my 8.30am breakfast meeting.

Anonymous said...

You neatly describe the difference between an alcoholic (someone who must have a drink) and a dipsomaniac (someone who once they start, can’t easily stop).

It’s when I threw up every time I tried to clean my teeth in the morning that I realised I had problems.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Get pissed. Fuck Polly. Die.

What else is there?

Anonymous said...

10 years ago I was pretty much like you, in terms of how you describe your drinking. I don't think you are neccessarily deluding yourself when you say you aren't an alcoholic, because I wasn't one either. I just didn't want the partying to stop - it was a big problem but it wasn't alcoholism.
This had the obvious effect on my marriage and work life.

Nowadays I still drink, but I can always stop long before things even begin to get out of control. I can't say anything which might help you, you have to want to change.
If you want it enough, then it isn't as difficult a process as you might think.

Funnily enough even after all this time I sometimes still wake up with that familiar feeling of guilt and dread - " oh god, what did I do wrong last night " but now the answer arrives almost instantly and it's always " nothing "

My marriage survived my drinking and my main regret is all the wasted years when I could have been doing something more interesting than fighting and throwing up in the gutter.

The upside is the feeling of having control over your own destiny, every time you put the cork back in the bottle and say " Enough "
Or being able to go to a party knowing that a weeks worth of apologies won't be needed afterwards.

I enjoy your blog greatly and I hope you get your life in a state which you are happy with. Good luck.

Faith Walker said...

Chris, we spoke about this, and indeed, this incident at some length so I don't need to repeat it again.

When i was doing similar to you- I regularly lost large chunks of memory. Now I drink much less, but enjoy the company much more.

Faith