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.