Not a lot to report today; I’ve mostly been indoors again, copying up the old diaries to the computer. I’m on early 2001 now. It’s really interesting, even though I’ve gone back through those old journals many times over the years. I seem to discover something new every time I look at them. It seems more incredible to me every day how much my life has changed in seven years – yet how similar I am to that young 18 year old today. Seven years ago I was writing about social phobia and anxiety, about inappropriate crushes and how stressful my college work was – just as I do today. I’ve said it a lot before, but the most important change in my life since then is that it involves other people now. I’m not alone now; I have an outlet for my troubles. My voice is heard today. What strikes me every time I pick up my old diary is that I never felt heard when I was a teenager. I was going to college every day, sitting alone in classes and coming home having spoken to nobody; I’d consider it an achievement if I managed to exchange a couple of words with someone on any given day.
When I think about those days it seems silly that I can still complain about my social life. It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks and I have about fifteen people coming for a meal. Seven years ago I was struggling to find anyone to help me celebrate my 18th birthday. One of the girls at college had invited me to the pub, as it would be her friend’s 18th the day after mine, but at the last minute she couldn’t go for some reason and I was stuck with nothing to do. I didn’t feel comfortable gatecrashing the friend’s party, as I didn’t know them. So I ended up doing nothing for that birthday. It had been a similar story on every preceding birthday, so I should have got used to not celebrating birthdays by then, but it still hurt, because I had been really looking forward to my first ever night out at the pub – to my first ever ‘normal’ birthday.
It’s incredible how I still worry about socialising with strangers to this day. Attending S’s birthday meal the other day was my most nerve racking experience in sobriety so far, and I was just as nervous as I used to get when I started going out to such social events when I was 18. So it seems clear that social anxiety is part of who I am, and I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. I’m grateful for the fact that despite these nerves, I’ve managed to make so many friends in sobriety and that fifteen of them will be coming out for my 25th birthday. I’m also grateful for the fact that I’m comfortable with not using alcohol to deal with the nerves any more. Having been through six years of alcoholism I finally understand that alcohol turns me into something I’m not: it makes me unsociable, annoying and angry. When I’m sober I might never feel completely comfortable in those social situations, but at least I can be myself.