Sunday, 19 July 2015

Curtain Call?

On the 7th July, people across London, the UK, and I'm sure, around the world, remembered all those who had lost their lives, or been affected by the 4 acts of terrorism on the 7th July 2005, where suicide bombers targeted 3 London underground tube trains, and one bus, all during the morning rush hour when the impact would be at its highest. 52 people, along with the 4 perpetrators, died, with hundreds more injured, with those killed aged between 20 and 60.

I work just next to Tavistock Square, where just over ten years ago, the number 30 bus, and those on board, were attacked. Tavistock Square is my bus stop. On the 7th this year, I got off my bus to find a gathering of  families and friends of those affected, the media, and countless passers by, laying floral tributes, candles, teddy bears, and remembering those had never made the journey back. I've made my bus journey to that stop some 300 or so times - some of those who died would have been doing it for their first time, and some may have done it  a thousand times over.
Tavistock Sq bus stop on 7/7/15.
In the background you can see
the families and friends of those killed
gathering in tribute.

We just don't know when the curtain will fall - we won't even know that we should have taken a bow.

Not going for maudlin here. I'm not. It just hit me in the run up to that Tuesday morning that none of those people on the bus had any idea that they were about to die - everyone is a father, mother, son, sister, daughter, brother, husband, wife, colleague - and that like everyone they would have had the parts of their lives they were excited about, those that they weren't, those that they hid from, and those that they never acted on.

I guess what I'm saying is that what hit me hardest when seeing those families and friends gathered in tribute, and united grief, was that I am 24 - I have 4 years on the youngest victim, and I've got a chance to enjoy myself, and look after myself, that none of those killed had.

I'm not a particularly emotion person - if anything I'm all about the boundaries - and before I got to thinking about all of the above, I had decided that I was taking a few weeks off drinking. There isn't any particular 'story' behind it, but having signed up for a half marathon in Wimbledon at the end of July, I decided that allowing myself the possibility of mid-week drinking, or any drinking really, wasn't conducive to actually training. I also was feeling body conscious - feeling heavier than I wanted, and I'd found that on nights out even a few drinks hadn't been able to shake this off.

I realised that I'm 24, in the most exciting city in the world, with a good job, a great flat and some cracking friends - why put barriers in my own way to feeling good about myself? More often than not I find alcohol is the common denominator for blocking me from getting where I want to go...

1) Work

I'm an ambitious guy - top of my class throughout school (I'm also incredibly competitive), went to a good uni, got a good degree, and I want to go places.

Quite simply, drinking is not helping this - from being a drain on my finances so I don't buy the new pair of shoes that I could do with, to acting as a depressant, and leading to increased tiredness levels post 11pm-finish drinks on a school night, I do feel the impact, and have to work increasingly hard to compensate. Just think where else this 'increasingly hard' energy could go, if I'm good now, couldn't I be great?

2) Social

I've spoken before about creating an image, as a barrier or smokescreen, to developing closer connections, and this is the 'party boy' - here for a good time, not so much a long time- who is purely about the booze. This is difficult to articulate, but essentially I feel I know myself much better than I did seven months ago when i started writing this, and   I feel like I can meet new people and not talk about drinking, or work, or drinking, or work. At the same time, I feel like I am a different person after a drink - I'm more outgoing, my conversation flows easier, I look like I have more time for people and I'm interested, and what I want is to get to a point where I have that confidence in myself if I am sober, and in a social situation. Difficult when you are still drinking.

3) Mental

"Oh hey, is this the party?"
I haven't ever taken drugs (always felt I had a good enough time - read: enough of a problem - with alcohol, and didn't have the money to afford both anyway) but in the same way you get a come down off whatever you pop, snort, or inject, you get something similar with alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, and it emphasises and embellishes whatever mood you are in when you drink. Working in a pub where we would get *smashed* on the job (I was once not allowed back into the bar I was working in on a saturday night because I was so drunk - it was 9pm, and my boss had told the door staff to refuse entry. I was on shift, and it was snowing) brought together the worst elements of situation - drunk, tired, frustrated or angry with work - and my personality - bottle everything up, don't express when you're

upset - and created a super-volcano of emotions only otherwise ever seen in Toys R Us in the run up to Christmas. I was quite happy to throw a bottle of beer at the wall for effect, and if that didn't work, how about a case? I was angry, and sad, and I was angry and sad the next day, but with myself and I hated myself in those moments lying in bed unable to remember how I had got home after work, and wondering whether I still had a job, but not caring, but caring too much.

Just in from a really fun Saturday
morning run... Not going to lie, much
more used to seeing Saturday morning
from the inside of a night bus/6am cab.
I have spent years in denial about things I have done, or feelings I have, because I don't want to face up to them, and alcohol has facilitated this when I have needed it to, and the more you use it, the more you forget until you get sudden flashes of absolute all-out hot-messness-rage/inappropriate sexual behaviour/sadness/happiness.

Quite the mind fuck - so you drink to forget the mind fuck, and your subsequent shock at how the cycle repeats itself. Winning.

4) Financial

I don't want to think about the amount of money I spent facilitating all the above. A pint of cider in the pubs I go to costs on average.... £4.60. I will drink, on an evening or afternoon out, between 8 and 12 pints. So far we are looking at a minimum of just under £40, and a max of just under £60. I'll also buy other people drinks, and myself cigarettes, and then its into club entry fees, chub-a-chubs in the loos (like you haven't), fast food, taxi home. Call it £120 and I've done well - and it may only be Tuesday.

I'm not saving any money. I don't buy nice clothes (often - I have my yearly 'shop'), I'm not a very material person, and I don't go on holidays. I have nothing to show for my paypacket other than some memory blanks, a roof over my head, and my travel card. Bleak.

So I've stopped. Fifteen days now, no booze at all, and I have a week until my 13 mile slog across Wimbledon common, something which I am 100% doing for myself - its a challenge for me to invest in myself. After finishing (the aim), I may have a cider. I may have 20. I'm confused by it all, but empirically it should not be confusing.

Day at Greenwich park with friends - kicking a football
around, having a laugh, eating too much, not drinking.
What makes me want a drink? What makes you? Why, on a hot day, do I want a pint of cider? If its to unwind and decompress, having a non-acloholic beer/cider has the same psychological effect in that its takes the edge off for me. If  I'm drinking because I'm thirsty, then why not have a fresh lime and soda. Its when I'm drinking to get drunk than thats a whole different drum to be banged, and thats when I feel like we are in the third act and approaching curtain call and I'm about to bow out.

I'm confused. I'm 24, I kind of want someone to tell me what to do, but know that I would hate whoever dared, ignore their advice and hold it against them. I feel I'm too young to have to be having these conversations with myself but aware that if i don't have them now, then in no time at all I'll be having the same ones at age 48.

I'm resentful - why doesn't everyone have to do have these conversations with themselves? Why me? I resent the fact that I'm asking 'why me?' I'm not a victim, but I can't get away from the feeling that I am, and that makes me feel guilty. I want someone to tell me its all unfair, and at the same time for someone else to tell me to sort myself out because no-one else is going to do it for me.

I'm back with the guys @Rough As next Saturday in Brick Lane, so if anyone fancies some great chat, and decent coffee I'll be there at 10.15 - details here.

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