An Anaesthetic for the Mind and Soul…
To be honest to a large extend this question is a moot one. The only thing that really matters is that I can’t drink safely so accept that move on. I’ve done that and I’m ok with it all. But… I’ve been doing a bit more introspection lately partly due to the counselling course I’m on guiding you to look at yourself more to be able to gain greater “congruence” (Humanistic term for genuineness) and also probably since I’m 10 years sober this summer and thinking things such as “I was in rehab with weather like this”… “I remember the Euro football on tv like the world cup” (only tv we were allowed was the England games in that championship whole time I was there). “I came out for father’s day”… “I left rehab this date.” etc. etc.
So I’ve been looking at why I drank in the first place? I don’t have a defining moment when something happened and I know I walked over the line into alcoholism, some may do. With me though I know I realised I drank more than others when I was in my teens. I used to try and suppress/hide my drinking a bit it wasn’t something I was proud of but I didn’t get others who’d leave half a pint when they had had enough or drink lemonade instead. Never made any bloody sense to me all that lot. To be honest I never drank normally that I can see looking back from the word go I drank too much, too often.
So looking right back… relationships. I struggled to make close friendships, not because people didn’t like me in fact the opposite I know with a couple of very strong examples where lads wanted desperately to be my friend and I pushed them away. The thinking was “If I allow you to be my friend this will cost me something in time. I’ll have to give something back to you I’m not prepared to”. I’ve looked at this in my coursework. I know I’m much better now at accepting someone’s friendship but I still have only really a very small clique of close friends due to this issue in my head about the potential cost to me of too many.
Responsibility… I remember once at work that I was soon given responsibility on projects and stuff – I hated people being reliant on me. Now I myself have fought to be totally self-reliant, this was carried on right at the end of my drinking. I fought for 13 months totally on my own with my own resources to get sober since surely I had to be able to fix myself. Through recovery again I’m better at this… not fixed and certainly still capable of finding myself up some alley thinking “I really should be able to fix this”… Head full of shoulds I call it. But as other responsibility came in, marriage, mortgage, children… etc. especially the birth of my son I really couldn’t cope I was petrified I’d fail and to cope with that feeling of impending failure I drank to numb it out.
This issues is related to another type of unhelpful thinking I have. Black and white thinking. Situations are either right or wrong, yes or no, on or off. I have no idea where that came from other than possibly a grammar school education focused on grades and results. This was enhanced by my choice of profession – IT. At 18 I entered a world of 1’s and 0’s, binary. Simple, I understood it well and took to it like a duck to water. Where others struggled to debug code or understand how a processor worked I got it. I could even easily emulated it. Track down your bug sir? Easy I’d simply be the computer myself ignore all the world, execute the program as you stated with the data you presented. I remember being in an office in an old company I worked in, a client’s system was on its back, legs in the air doing the dying fly dance. Panic. I heard people mention the area the error came from. They were all discussing it around me. Focused I walked through the code there and then at my desk with a deal with the date a week from today as the settlement date… oh look 29th Feb… and a badly coded date check for month boundary accruals… Bingo. I raised my hand. “Found it. Fixing it now can we get a tape ready for the patch”. The office went silent. “How the **** does his do it?” one wag asked. It was a talent that was useful in those environments but life is not black or white most of the time largely it is a shade of “ok” that blurs to a new shade of “not ok”. This is the one I’ve mostly got better at… shades of grey (not that stop sniggering ladies) have helped me a lot. But again if I didn’t think it was “right”, 100% correct I’d failed. Therefore to numb that feeling of failure out I use drink… it is a great anaesthetic for the brain and the soul.
My Dad. I can’t blame Dad it is me and my relationship to him that is the issue. My Dad was a hard working (too hard) good man. He was a dockyard worker, a shipwright, incredible ability to make things with wood and metal a real artisan frankly. But his work was physical, difficult, dangerous stuff. Working in submarines coating them with blown asbestos, refitting nuclear reactors into others etc. Of course my choice of career was as far from that as you can imagine. Clean suit, offices, computers, no dirt under my fingernails… I can hear him now “Never done a proper days work in his life that one”. He died 10 days after my 22 birthday. I’d just qualified off my computer studies course and started my first full time job as a software engineer. I was engaged with a wedding planned for the following year. Dad went suddenly, a heart attack a few days after a hip replacement op necessary after the years of working on his feet and squeezing into torpedo tubes and the like. He never go to see my first house, my wedding, my kids, my successes at my job or in my music (his hobby by the way was time trials on a pedal cycle – again a more physical rather than cerebral hobby). So I know I’ve spent a long long time in my adult life unsatisfied as the one man I really wanted to acknowledge my achievements was never there to see them. I could therefore never believe he was proud or acknowledge them at all so I needed to prove some more but couldn’t. That feeling of total dissatisfaction is internal to me and became engrained in my thinking and became another thing I needed the booze to numb from my conciousness as much as it could.
There are doubtless countless other reasons I drank but those here are I know the main ones. I have to focus on these things daily to ensure they are dealt with in a healthy way not cast aside as too difficult or painful to look at and also not unhealthily through various little addictions that will only lead me to one place… sitting forlornly again with a beer in a glass in front of me knowing that all I want after taking the first mouthful out of it will be to finish it so I can start the next.