December and January were big months for activity. Holidays meant parties and festivities oozing out of every spare evening. Food and drink revolved around the “use sparingly” portion of the food pyramid. Consequently joy was everywhere. It was a great time to alive, to celebrate and surround yourself with loved ones both romantic and platonic. I did. Oh, did I ever? Yes. OH yes.
February on the other hand has heralded a crash back down to terra firma for me. I’ve cut alcohol in an attempt to reorder my food pyramid and in general let my body breathe. I’m not getting preachy, you do you. I’m just here doing me. I’ve done the teetotaller thing before many times and it’s very doable. In all honesty though, it’s never fun. In some cases the downward trend of “never fun” keeps drilling down until my mood feels six feet under. If I’m not careful I get riddled with all sorts of self-loathing, negativity and withdraw into myself. Is it just a subconscious attempt to keep the URL of this page relevant? My inner social media specialist slamming putting the brand awareness pedal to the floor?
I had a party to go to last night. A house warming party of some good friends. The kind of place crammed wall to wall with the kind of people I love being around. Neither my girlfriend nor I were drinking, but that’s fine. I’m a social guy and I like shooting the shit with friends or strangers. I got there and glommed onto some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. There was a truth or dare-ish game going on in the lounge, but I kept my distance. There’s nothing wrong with the game, but it’s not something I can handle sober. Truth or dare grabs all of my insecurities tied to self-confidence and cranks them up to 11. I feel like I have to perform in a certain fashion and no matter how I do I always feel a kind of tension, as if people are waiting for me to fuck up so they can laugh at rather than with me. If anything flirtatious comes up, I withdraw or deflect. It brings me right back to my teenage years of feeling unwanted and clumsy. Playing the fool to compensate for the fact that nobody had any real romantic or sexual interest. I mean, it’s easy to see how much of it was self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn’t see myself as an entity deserving of desire, so I acted in a congruent manner. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t let anyone else either. I wish that I could say all of that has vanished into the path and I’ve owned feelings of self-worth and sexual capital, but I prefer honesty. At the age of 29, I can handle this kind of thing with tipsy relaxation. Last night though? I stayed away, my girlfriend jumped in and I kept to the fringes of the room seeking quiet conversation.
The place was crowded, it was noisy and I was having trouble concentrating. Without alcohol to dull my senses, I was listening to multiple conversations simultaneously, which left me paralytic. It was an effort to string together coherent sentences and everything I said felt stupid or lame. I couldn’t keep up with friends on that amped wavelength whose attention spans spurned conversations longer than several minutes. I felt so small and my body language reflected this. I now see that I continually sought out tiny spaces to cram myself into. The corner of a kitchen bench, the small alcove in front of the rubbish bin next to the filing cabinet, the railing next to the stairs. Places that would give me a wide outlook so I could prepare for anyone entering my personal space. It was a subconscious defensive move and I didn’t realise what I was doing until I’d left.
The front of the room got rowdier as the game picked up. Lots of nudity, body shots, flirtatious behaviour. I’m not shitting on anything that happened, it was all in good fun. In my state at the time though, it only served to make me feel more alienated, distanced. A mixture of jealousy and helplessness at my inability to let go and relax, to have fun in a space intended for just that purpose. My muscles tightened and I found myself speaking less and less. I was upset, but found myself incapable of saying anything. Something inside of me said it was unfair to make my problems anyone else’s. It wasn’t fair to inhibit anyone’s fun because I was feeling shitty. What right did I have to bring others down with me? Of course I couldn’t act or speak out in a shared public space, this was my issue and I had to solve it. At the time, I didn’t have the wherewithal, so negative thoughts coalesced into a dense, deep mass around my brain. I felt worse and worse, compounded by the overwhelmingly happy crowd surrounding me. If everyone else was fine, what was wrong with me that I couldn’t get on their level?
I needed to leave, but my girlfriend was having a great time. Who was I to get in her way? The happier she was, the more of a divide I felt. Logically, of course she couldn’t have known how I was feeling. Emotion doesn’t play by those same rules though, so instead I felt isolated. The smart thing would’ve been to tap her on the shoulder, to have a word and explain how I was feeling. Instead of using my brain, I stewed in everything and felt deflated, void of anything useful. Instead of making my needs known, I waited for perhaps another hour and a half while I felt utterly miserable. I wanted to either be somewhere else, alone, or just not “be” at all. At some point I couldn’t take any more. I apologised for interrupting my girlfriend’s conversation and quietly told her that I needed to get out of there quickly. I called an Uber and pulled a French exit, incapable of mustering up the fake enthusiasm I’d need for farewells. We got the fuck out of there barely saying a word.
We got home and I unpacked a bunch, describing how and why the night had took a turn. This morning I unpacked a bunch more. She listened, helped me through as much as we could and I felt a little better. In the wake of now though the emptiness has returned. Putting my feelings on a page hasn’t helped. The logical part of my brain knows exactly what happened, but that does little to help. I still feel miserable and no matter what I watch, play or read my mood isn’t shifting. I just want to find whatever light exists at the end of this, which is my mind seeking some kind of escapism. It makes me want to drink, or find an alternate way to get out of my head. I want release that puts me out of myself, that lets me relax and pretend I’m somebody that seems so far from where I’m at. My mind is looking for something to treat the symptoms and forget the disease exists.
You know what? Drinking would work. 100%. I’d find enthusiasm for things outside of myself and actually want to be around people. I’d have a great fucking time and be able to put this shit behind me until it reared its head some time in the future. I’d have to wrest with the recognition that I said I’d do something (not drink for a month) and failed to deliver, but we humans have this amazing ability to justify anything we do if it made us feel better. Hell, drinking would’ve made last night fine, but how am I supposed to feel about that? How do I deal with my inability to connect in an active social space sans liquor? Alcohol is not some fantastic elixir I can use medically. Conversely, stewing in negativity does nothing for me either. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know how to finish this paragraph. I might as well lean into this resurgence of teen angst and listen to No Children on repeat with the lights off.