I think I’ll start by saying that I was being unfair to my new AA sponsor the other day. Although there was a moment last week when I may have felt somewhat distant from him, I’m managing to speak to him every day for about twenty minutes a time, and we’re getting a lot stuff out in the open. He might not be the 100% perfect sponsor for me, but only a crazy perfectionist would be looking for that. Unfortunately, perfectionism appears to be one of the many symptoms of alcoholism. I want the perfect sponsor who understands everything I’ve ever gone through and who is always there when it’s convenient for me, but what’s clear is that at this stage I’m not going to find anyone like that, and to tell the truth I don’t need a sponsor like that. The sponsor I’ve got is just fine.
The anger that I felt on Sunday was, just like all the other times I’ve felt such rage in sobriety, the result of my desire for everything to go perfectly. Because life is never perfect, I don’t like it. Things go wrong, people don’t show up, I don’t always share what I need to share in meetings; life is full of little imperfections and uncertainties, and I should have accepted that a long time ago. Well, most of the time I think I can accept it, it’s just that on days like Sunday when I’m low on energy I tend to slip into old negative thought patterns very easily. As I was spewing forth all of that vitriol the other day I knew perfectly well that I was behaving like a spoilt child, throwing a tantrum because I hadn’t got my own way. I willingly let myself sink into the pit of self-righteous self pity that used to be my home, because it was easy. I was tired of struggling to put a positive spin on everything. I felt like telling the world to fuck off and so, on Sunday, I did.
If my personal welfare is to be maintained, I can’t behave like that any more. I can’t continue to put the barriers up and isolate myself, and I can’t feed the negative thought processes with attention any more. Will I start taking my own advice and make a permanent effort to change my ways? No. I’ll probably feel tired and low tomorrow and allow the black hole of self pity to swallow me again, because it’s always there, waiting for me to slip. What I must remember is that it’s an illness, and the greatest cure is talking to someone.
In other news, my Uni stuff is still going well, though that hasn’t stopped me from worrying about it at times. I’ll occasionally catch myself criticizing everything I’ve done so far, as if it’s all crap and if I haven’t done enough. My rational brain keeps telling me that what I’ve done is good; I’ve dedicated the best part of each day to my project and my head is full of ideas and things to write down in the final report. Surely I’m on the right track with it, because I know for a fact that many of my peers haven’t started to think about their projects yet, and we have to hand in our final proposals in three weeks from now. I know what my project is going to be about – alcohol dependence and a potential link with lack of internal ‘control’ – I know about the previous research in the area, and I know how I’m going to investigate it. Yet there’s always that voice saying I should be doing more, the supervisor won’t like what I bring when I have my appointment next week, and I won’t get the mark I need at the end of it all next year. That voice is part of my illness and I have great difficulty just ignoring it sometimes, as you know.
With my final year project focusing on alcohol addiction I can’t help but feel as if I’m getting to the real heart of the problem. I’ve read so much of the research into alcoholism, I now know more about the drug and its effects than I ever did in my drinking days. From all I’ve seen, it seems blatantly obvious to me that alcoholism involves a distinct lack of control over feelings, such as anxiety and anger. I’m sure to end up writing that in my final report but what I have to do, because this is proper psychological research, is prove it. If I can use statistical analysis to show that there is a negative relationship between alcohol use and internal control then my project could be something very important; if my results don’t show anything then it will be back to square one, and I won’t know what to say next year. Thanks to my own experiences with alcohol, you can see why this project already has great personal significance for me.
What the previous research does seem to show is that the wider factors in alcoholism involve more than just a physical addiction. The majority of people my age in this country drink alcohol on a regular basis; a great number of those are binge drinkers, just like I was. That means that this is a problem for my generation, not just me. I went out every single weekend to get drunk not only because I had no control over my undesirable emotions, but because everyone I knew was doing the same thing. There is a drinking culture in this country, so engrained that every time I walk down certain streets at certain times I am in the significant minority of sober people. Last night I was reading one researcher’s account of a ‘typical’ weekend night out in a British city centre; it brought back so many uncomfortable memories, I was quite uneasy reading it. The fact is that a lot of city centres are specifically designed for this drinking culture, with dozens of pubs and clubs situated in one particular area so that the only reason you’d ever go to that area would be to get pissed. In these drinking dens there are hardly any tables and seats, because being forced to stand makes people drink more, apparently. When I was going out I always wondered why the majority of pubs had no tables to sit down at; now I know. At weekends the music in these establishments is generally turned up to full volume, because shouting makes people more thirsty. The bar staff serve drink after drink after drink at lightning speed, not taking into account how much each person is buying. The researcher who wrote this account said she had purchased enough alcohol in that one night to kill herself; only because she was giving the drinks out to other people did she manage to survive.
The media regularly gets itself into a panic about this national ‘binge drinking’ problem, but rarely do we see any suggestions being given as to how it can be dealt with. The government makes a hell of a lot of money from the taxes on alcohol, so they’re hardly likely to want to start closing city centre drinking dens down. While things continue this way, I can only see the problem getting worse. I consider myself hugely lucky to have had the foresight to get out of that drinking culture while I was still young. I know a lot of people who still drink in an unhealthy way and I just can’t hang out with them any more because going into busy pubs now makes me very uncomfortable.
My heart goes out to the famous people regularly making the front pages because of their addiction battles. To non-alcoholics, people like Amy Winehouse may appear weak-willed and stupid, but the more I hear about their problems the more strongly I empathise, because I’ve been through the same thing. A lot of these celebrities are the same age as me yet due to the press interest that they have to deal with on top of the addiction, they probably feel a lot older. I know I would. It all goes to show that alcohol is the nation’s favourite drug as well as the nation’s biggest enemy.