I have been delaying writing this post for a couple of days and felt confused as to why. I arrived back from Germany late Friday night but felt lethargic, tired and avoided THE BLOG. Why? It could be because moderation went out the window big time but that was no great surprise. It could be the general physical weariness I experienced after a week of food and drink excess, and yet ….I threw myself into other distracting activities (I even washed and ironed my curtains which I never do). No, something deeper was troubling me and the more I reflect on alcohol the more I realise I am focusing on symptoms rather than causes. As I look deeper I start to find things that are uncomfortable, unpleasant; things I would not rather confront or admit to. Yes, I want and need to moderate my alcohol consumption but it’s a smokescreen; a convenient and identifiable target that moves my attention from the unpalatable.
First things first; Germany
I love Germany. My mother was German and I am going to actively see if I can get a German passport as a way of semi-dealing with the madness and self-inflicted destruction we know as Brexit. That’s another post for sure. Germany; great people, lovely towns, beautiful countryside and earthy, no-nonsense food and drink. It was a holiday, which in my book means forget everything you should do and do what you want to do. In my case that meant completely forgetting about my own moderation advice and indulging in a week-long, “How much can I stuff into a 60 year old body?”bingefest. The answer is, quite a lot. I drank wine, beer, various types of schnapps and complemented this with sausage, cheese, bread,black pudding, cakes, fruit, more sausage and cheese; you can see why I say it’s a lifestyle to die for. But of course most Germans do not consume the way I do, and if I lived there as I did last week I do not think I would make it to 61. In the moment I enjoyed it but I was also aware that I was slightly out of control and eating and drinking far more than was good for me. I worked out that I was drinking an average of 15-20 units of alcohol a day (roughly a bottle and a half to two bottles of wine a day.) Although I enjoyed myself at the time I was also yearning to get back home where I could get back control and reestablish some healthier patterns of eating and drinking.
Some dark truths
I felt deflated and somewhat depressed on my return. I was so full of food and drink that I had to gradually ween myself off over the weekend and spent yesterday feeling disgusted with myself. A thought kept reoccurring, why was my default holiday position, eat and drink to excess? I know it’s common to overindulge on holiday but I seem to take it to another level. I looked back at my week, why was I going for it like I was? This is where I could feel things emerging that I did not want to give a name to, but I have to if I am truly going to change my mind state so that excessive eating and drinking do not remain my default position.
We can all admit to feeling down or being unfair to a partner but there’s nothing redeeming about greed. Very seldom do you hear someone admit,”You know, I’m a really greedy bastard.” It’s a character flaw, a sin in some people’s eyes, an unpleasant and unlikable characteristic. It may just be another symptom, another layer of the onion that hides a yet more unpalatable truth, but it’s there and I have to confront it. I’m greedy. Put food out, it’s there, it’s free, I will eat it. I’m no longer hungry, but I eat it. I might be greedy because I grew up with an older brother and the first to finish their food got seconds. Food was scarce when I was younger, rationed almost. Excuses Jim. You are a greedy pig. At home I am not so greedy, but where the food is free or I have paid for it and there’s no limit, greed takes over. The wedding a few weeks ago; free bar, the greed takes over; get as much of that free beer down your neck as you can. It’s actually disgusting me writing this down. It links to another horrible truth and characteristic of mine.
I tend to be mean with money, I think about every pound I spend. My father was very mean and constantly spoke about wasting money and how bad that was; “switch off the lights”, “Do you know how much that costs…” on and on. He passed on that parsimony to me. I force myself to fight it and friends would probably say I am not mean, I buy my drinks, pay extra on restaurant bills due to drinking more, give my kids money, but every parting with money does not come easily for some inexplicable reason. I check my money regularly. I am not rich but I am certainly not poor. So when free food and drink is set before me the meanness and greed result in a horror show. The parsimony has its good elements. I am also mean spending money on myself so I am not materialistic or a massive consumer of the world’s limited resources. I never get into debt and I do force myself to be generous to friends and charities which I can do because I am such a cautious spender.
God, I had no idea how depressing this post would be. If I were reading this I would not want to know Jim Simmonds. Self-centredness, let’s see. I suppose this is me tending to put myself first and not really ever being able to intimately connect with others. I feel like my life has been one long drama where I have had to pretend to be loving, concerned for others because I do not really feel it. Maybe that explains my holiday antics. Far from it being a week of freedom, it’s a week where I have to be with others, listening to them, taking account of what they want to do. Maybe I just want to be by myself, but then I would suddenly yearn for companionship. No wonder I drink. Just as with the meanness I actively fight my selfishness by forcing myself to help others. I volunteer for a local and national charity and partly I do this so that I do not judge myself too harshly as a selfish man.
Not dark but true
The other things I experience most of the time are anxiety and boredom. I get anxious about how I will be perceived, will people who I am meeting like me? Will I be able to park my car? Will it cost much money? Added to that is the fact that I get bored easily. Sitting around talking and doing nothing bores me. Sometimes people bore me, I can even bore myself.
Drink. There; its OK now. My medication, my solace, where would I be now without it’s soothing and ameliorating properties. When I drink the dark clouds lift for a while. The boredom goes, the anxiety disappears. I feel unburdened. I am no longer mean, “More drinks anyone? Come on have a chaser, it’s on me.” Meanness goes away. I buy presents, I feel warm towards others. I tell them I love them and I really do. The world and I are in a good place. Maybe that’s why I can avoid drinking fairly easily when I am at home alone. NO interaction, no meanness or greed, no negatives to confront, no real anxiety and I can do things I want to do, so no boredom. In a way this reflection is a good and timely thing. It makes me even more determined to uncover the real reasons as to why I am like I am. I have some idea, but then again maybe that is the wrong path. Maybe I should focus on how to be the person I want to be, live differently, have therapy, meditate; anything to break free of some of these negative mind states that hold me back and lead to some of the excesses with drink and food. If I am less greedy,selfish, anxious and bored maybe my need for drink will naturally diminish. Germany was a trial too soon on my journey. I enjoyed it at the time but it is not a good or sustainable way to live.
I didn’t drink yesterday or today. I feel better when I don’t drink. It reminds me of something I once read along the lines of “not drinking is easy, drinking too much is easier still, it’s the middle path that is so hard”. It’s the middle path I am seeking and alcohol is not my enemy; I am.