6 months, 22 days / confidence is a fine art

The main event of the day was me going into University to start my research. The research questionnaire which I’ve produced investigates the link between alcoholism and locus of control. People are said to either have an internal or external locus of control. People who have internal control generally believe that they are in control of their lives and everything that happens to them. People with external locus of control on the other hand believe that life events are the result of external forces such as chance, and they have no control over what happens to them. The theory goes that alcoholics (and anyone with a drink problem) are far more external in terms of control; they are also said to lack internal control over subjective states such as emotions. My questionnaire addresses participants’ alcohol consumption levels and their locus of control in the space of about thirty questions, using a tried and tested method.

This research is very interesting to me on a personal level, for obvious reasons. If I manage to find anything significant in my results (e.g. people who drink a lot are more externally controlled) then it could really boost my chances of getting a good degree. It would also give me a greater insight into my own drinking problem. Hell, I may as well admit that the reason I went for Psychology in the first place is that I wanted to find out about myself. When I applied to study Psychology I didn’t know I was an alcoholic, but I knew there was a lot wrong with my life, and I knew I had a drinking problem. I just couldn’t understand why.

I had been nervous as hell about finding research participants all of yesterday evening and this morning. When it was time to go in this afternoon, I was OK, but I certainly wasn’t looking forward to what lay ahead. When I got to Uni my questionnaires were there waiting for me, all 100 copies, and although I was scared, I wasn’t about to back out of the task. Unfortunately, at my University the rules governing psychological research stipulate that every participant must sign a consent form first; I couldn’t find the required consent form anywhere on the premises. It wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and no one seemed to know how to help me. So, I was forced to go to the computer room and e-mail my tutor for help. I would have to wait several hours before the response came; she’d helpfully attached a copy of the consent form for me. I don’t know how the hell they expect people to get on with their research easily without making the stupid consent form freely available – it’s a vital part of the process, we all need it before we can do anything.

By the time my tutor had responded to my e-mail it was early evening, and far too late for me to find any participants. The University was half empty. The only part that would have been busy was the bar, and I didn’t feel comfortable about going there today. I will have to bring the questionnaires in tomorrow and make a start then.

I’m not as nervous tonight as I was last night. I think I may have expended all my nerves. Either that or I’ve got used to the idea that I have to do this, whether I like it or not. I will have no option but to approach strangers and ask them to fill out my questionnaire at some point. Luckily I have about six weeks in which to get everything done. If it wasn’t for the consent form, I could just do the whole thing online, then I’d never have to approach anyone personally. As it is, I need to be present when the questionnaire is being completed, which means the easiest way to do it is in University, in the communal areas where everyone hangs out.

I may not be nervous now but I probably will be again tomorrow. Let’s face it, this goes against everything that has been engrained into me. Approaching strangers, asking them for a favour – very few things scare me more in life. To be honest it’s a surprise I haven’t been more anxious about it this week. I’m no more anxious about it than I was about my voluntary work on Sunday, or the tea commitment on Monday/literature commitment on Tuesday. All those things test me in the exactly the same way: they ask me to be grown up and responsible and a part of the world. Doing this research is the toughest challenge I’ve possibly ever faced in my life, and it’s a giant leap into the unknown. It could either go really well or really badly. As I’ve already said, a lot hangs on it. I’ve known that it’s been coming up for months, and there’s no way around it. The thought of faking results as a last resort is NOT a route I want to go down – I couldn’t think of anything more soul-destroying.

The way I’m handling this now is most certainly different to how I would have handled it a year ago. I’m not drinking on the fear. The idea of drinking on fear doesn’t come into my head automatically any more; it crosses my mind occasionally, but I’ve got very good at questioning and banishing the thought, I think. Drink isn’t a part of my life any more, and so I doubt I need to worry about that at the moment. The fear itself is a worry, though, because I know too much of it will make me ill. There are probably many ways I could make the situation easier and less scary for myself. Maybe I could ask friends and relatives to find participants for me, if I get desperate. Maybe in the lecture tomorrow it will turn out that I know everyone (I have been at this University for three years, after all) and it will be easy to find some participants there.

I shall stop going on about this one thing now, because it’s not the only thing that’s happened today. After leaving Uni I had to make my way across London for an interview with a charity, who run a helpline for lesbian and gay people. I did work very similar to that years ago at my previous University; it’s something I’d like to get back into as it would be good counselling type-experience for me, something I could put on my CV for when I eventually apply to train as a professional therapist. I got to the charity’s headquarters nice and early this evening, and the interview lasted about half an hour, during which time I was introduced in detail to the work that they do, while being asked questions about my background and my skills/personal attributes etc. I think the interview went very well. I was confident, friendly, and knowledgable about the work. I got on well with my interviewers and by the time I’d left they seemed to like me. I get the impression they really need more volunteers there, so I’m sure I stood a very good chance at getting the job from the start. But at least it was good interview practise for me. By God, I’m going to need it.

The next block of training for new volunteers doesn’t start until April, apparently. So I won’t be hearing anything more from them until then, unfortunately. Still, at least it’s not that long, and I have plenty of time to prepare.

With all this going on, I feel like I’ve been building my life today. All week I’ve been building, in fact – the voluntary commitments, the writing, the project work at Uni, and now this; it all goes towards how I’d like my life to turn out. I’m still so scared inside because I know that at any moment, anything could go wrong. I feel like I’m steering an aeroplane, and the slightest misstep on my part could result in catastrophe. As I’ve said in today’s blog title, confidence is a fine art, and being confident is like taking a long and punishing exam sometimes. All the stuff I’ve done this week has required lots of confidence and during every single second of it my mind has been buzzing with information, as I desperately try to get everything right. So far, everything has gone right, but it might not continue to.

That’s where my higher power comes in, I guess. When the fear is getting too much all I can do is hand it over to my higher power; which I admittedly don’t do often enough. Occasionally I’ll get a feeling of hope in my stomach which suggests that I’m not going through all this alone, but so far it’s been too fleeting for my liking.

I still haven’t phoned my sponsor, I’m ashamed to say. Now that it’s been a week since we last spoke I’m more apprehensive about phoning him than ever. It’s entirely my fault, I know! I just can’t seem to pick up the phone this week, for some reason. It feels like I have enough to cope with already without worrying about how I’m going to talk to my sponsor again. I have no choice but to phone him before the week’s out, because I’m supposed to be going to his on Sunday to continue with step 5, and I’m still not sure whether I want to do that or not. This isn’t about resentment any more, this is purely about whether I really trust my sponsor or not. I just don’t know if he’s the right man for me now; if even doing the steps is the right thing for me at the moment. Maybe there’s just too much going on in my life. Or maybe I’m finding excuses not to get on with what needs to be done.

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One thought on “6 months, 22 days / confidence is a fine art

  1. Oh dear. I just remembered that I can’t go to my sponsor’s flat on Sunday anyway as I have booked myself in for lunch with non-AA friends. Silly, forgetful me! I will attempt to call my sponsor later today, though I’m not promising anything. Sorry!

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