One third never have

The weather has been fresh and bright today and I’ve been feeling positive.

The scales are being stubborn at the moment though. They’ve not moved anywhere for days – and despite the bright skies outside (and me feeling darned good) they are still stuck fast on pretty much the same annoying number.

Mostly because of a naughty Sunday I’m not making much #onplanoctober headway this week at all – but that’s OK for a number of reasons.

  • When all is said and done it’s just a number
  • It’s also one that’s not going up
  • There’s a big wide world out there – and it doesn’t do to focus on small things when the sky is so blue.

So – as always I’ve just put one foot in front of the other and tried to be a part of it as much as I possibly can.

Also – today I’m in a hat mood.

I really like wearing one occasionally (particularly when it’s cold – which it was early this morning) and when I do it’s also a great excuse to put a smart jacket on.

This item of clothing is actually a real feel good comfort blanket, and when I throw it over my shoulders it actually makes me feel a few inches taller. This is mostly because it’s the same one I wore to the man of the year final earlier in the year.

To remind me of this I’ve left one part of it just the way it was that day.

Although you wouldn’t notice it with a brief glance, it still has a faint hint of lipstick on the shoulder from one of the women that enthusiastically hugged me after my award was announced. I’ve bought a few jackets lately – but out of all of them this one (and its blemish) seems to make me feel the happiest!

Maybe it was because I was walking down the road feeling smart and totally ticketty-boo that I suddenly felt the need to buy a train ticket.

I didn’t plan to when I set out – but as I passed the station in Warwick I resolved to go to Solihull and do some mooching. Some moments later I was sitting quietly in the shade at the train station reading a left over copy of The Times.

It’s not a paper I’d normally buy if I’m honest.

I rather like the Guardian – but my loyalty to it is weak. I’ll read almost anything if it’s free. In this case though I picked The Times up solely because of it’s headline that 1/3 of under 25’s now drink no alcohol at all.

This is a pretty incredible statistic if it’s to be believed – and this evening it’s still on my mind. Maybe in the same way that more young people have decided to never smoke in the first place have they somehow also found a way of totally bypassing the pitfalls of alcohol abuse.

Could it be that they’ve pre-emptively cottoned onto the fact that they don’t need it to make their way in the world?

Good on them if that’s true – because I used to feel like I couldn’t do anything without it.

A lot of the posts that I’ve written regarding my experiences with alcohol have been about its relation to my weight and diabetes – but an equal (if not greater) part of its impact is the fact that for many years I’d convinced myself that I was incapable of most social situations if alcohol was absent.

In my case that didn’t mean that I was hideously drunk at every social event I attended.

Quite the contrary.

It meant that I often chose not to attend in the first place.

I’ve never had a problem talking in front of people that I’m already familiar with – but I had to admit (fairly recently) that talking to groups that I didn’t know was something that me caused a significant amount of discomfort.

I’d never really connected the dots on this particular issue before – but the more I thought about it the more it all made sense. How I feel now without it vs how I felt back then with it just underscored how much I’d used alcohol as a social crutch.

It wasn’t until I admitted this to myself that I could accept it had in many ways stunted my development. Without it in my life I’m much more outgoing than I used to be.

These days I’m regularly approached and noticed on the street (locally I seem to be recognised by a lot of people that I both know and don’t know!) and when I am I feel confident enough to shoot the breeze with them in a way that the old me never did.

‘Old Davey’ also have never dressed like I did this morning and would have been anonymously scruffy in the hope that he wouldn’t be noticed or looked at.

As I was thinking about this headline and how things had changed for me (whilst listening to some lovely chilled out Jazz by Coleman Hawkins which is my latest 95p CD from a charity shop) I passed by my old house in Solihull.

It always provokes a lot of memories when I see it – and it’s not somewhere I can just accidentally pass by. I have to go out of my way to get there – and when I do it’s because nostalgia and curiosity have gotten the better of me.

I make the extra effort just to see what it looks like now that someone else lives there – and with the exception of wooden shutters in the windows and a nicer car outside it still looks identical to the way that I remember it.

I guess the reason that I make such detours is that it was originally built (around the turn of the century) by my family.

They owned it until my dad sold it in the 90’s – but regardless of it changing hands it still holds a special place in my memories. Although I resided there as an adult very briefly (this is not where I grew up – only my father and his mother lived here for quite some time) it retains a kind of ‘mystique’.

I rarely think of my grandmother very much and didn’t really see her a great deal in the latter part of her life. This was for a variety of reasons, but particularly when I was younger it was because my mother wanted nothing to do with her- and that made visiting very difficult.

In later years the decision became mine – for my own (in retrospect silly) reasons – but regardless of this there are still many fond memories to be found when I think about her and the time I spent in this house.

It’s interesting to note that despite our limited relationship and mostly peripheral contact my thoughts toward her are free from pain or discomfort – which is in direct contrast to any that relate to my mother.

I think it’s true to say that my grandmother was a woman with her own (very steadfast and independent) mind. She too could be difficult to care about – but there were many things to love about her and the house in which she lived.

As a child I remember it being filled with the scent of her continually brewing (uniquely blended) tea leaves and with her fascinating but untouchable antique collection.

In her drawing room sat an upright piano next to a high quality record player with huge speakers.

Nearby on the bottom shelf of a large bookcase (with a motto that said ‘choose a book as you choose a friend‘) were lots of classical records and it was here that I first listened to Holst – The Planets.

I am still transfixed when I hear Mars, the bringer of war.

Although these things were mostly gone by the time I came to live there I remember a sense of optimism and positivity when I moved in during my early 20’s. My presence there represented a fresh start in life away from the controlling influence of my mother’s mercurial moods – and I felt that everything was possible.

I was also in love and preparing to go to university.

For the most part I believed that my fledgeling relationship and an education (followed by an imagined career as an awe inspiring teacher) would help me escape the negative influence of my mother.

Without her to drag me down I’d be ‘fixed’, secure, loved, healthy – and would leave my tendencies to over indulge and get apocalyptically drunk behind me. These connected threads of an imagined tapestry would converge with minimal effort and effortlessly weave themselves into a perfect future without her.

However – despite me removing my mother from my life – when difficult times arrived all of the negative coping strategies that I had originally developed to cope with her as a child and young man were still there.

Mostly because I was lonely without my girlfriend I ate like a horse and drank like a fish in my first year of university.

I still remember the look on my girlfriend’s face when she arrived to start her degree a year later – because thanks to my tried and tested remedies of smoking, eating and drinking my feelings away I had ballooned in weight.

I was already starting to find walking uncomfortable, had begun to rely heavily on my car. I was (even in my mid 20’s) dangerously unhealthy.

Alcohol (first used to deal with my mother’s abusive behaviour) was not only a comforter but had become an enabler. It excused all manner of bad decisions, made it possible for me to hide from the truth again and again – but also stopped me from stepping outside of my social comfort zones.

I was drinking largely in solitude by then.

It took me almost 30 years to break its grip and even now in many respects I’m still learning to cope without it.

So – here’s to the one third of young people that will hopefully never deal with the world the way that I did. May they grow up feeling capable of expressing their feelings without hiding from them, packing them away, or needing to anaesthetise in social settings.

I hope that they’ll just learn right away how to talk things out, to share their feelings, and be honest.

Maybe they’ll also come to see the value of a good hat too internet, because let’s face it – hats are just cool.

Davey

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2 comments

  1. Lookin’ very dapper there sir, loving the hat. And also its coordination with beard and coat 🙌

    I think it’s brilliant that so many young people aren’t drinking. There are a few young ‘uns at work who go out clubbing but never drink because they’re really into their fitness. I too never used to be able to handle social situations without a drink (or at least I thought I couldn’t) so it’s wonderful people are learning these skills from the off!

    Liked by 1 person

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