This is a blog about nothing. Seriously. I’m not joking. This isn’t a ploy. This isn’t a device. I was ill at the end of last week and I’ve spent the last few months rewriting the same novel-length story three times, over and over again. It’s very possible that the last month has driven me ever so slightly mad. That’s why, last Sunday I spent six very determined hours fighting get to the end of the new novel for the final, final time. It had to be finished. Those were the words that wouldn’t let me save and walk away, no matter how bad my head was feeling. It had to be finished. It had to be finished.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like I’d fallen out of love with the idea. It wasn’t like I’d started thinking it was terrible or anything like that. I just needed it to be done. It’d been driving me out of bed at five in the morning and dragging me upstairs when I got back in from work, no matter how tired I was feeling. It ended up working me so far into the ground that I got ill at the end of this week and I had no doubt where it came from. The germs might as well come with a ‘Also by the same author’.
Annoyingly, I’d technically already finished the second novel two weeks before, but something at the back of my head wouldn’t let me send it off. There was a paranoid, hypochondriac whisper telling me the novel needed one more pass. Just one more. A little sentence tightening. One more twist of definition for the supporting characters. A little telling shifted to showing for the new ending.
That one last pass consumed me once I started it. I found typos I swear I’d caught before. I found some tense changes I swore I’d already corrected. It got me worrying. I was thinking about it at work. I ran into friends and, as we chatted, I wasn’t really paying attention. Sorry, everyone. I know that sounds harsh and I swear I was trying to pay attention to you. I really was. Only there was this second novel in my head and it wouldn’t shut up.
Last weekend was meant to be my chance to celebrate sending it off. Two days chocked to the brim with plans involving friends and family. Unfortunately, the final, final pass pushed me beyond the deadline I’d set myself. Which meant it was going to be more commiseration than celebration for me. Saturday was set to be a day of watching the last three games of the Six Nations in the pub before a meal with my parents and staying there over. Then Sunday we were then setting off to visit some family with them. Only the plans changed. Another Saturday night snow meant we weren’t getting up north on Sunday. Which meant Sunday was cleared for the final push. The day when it had to be finished. The day when I finally got a new book out of my head. Saturday…well, Saturday was another kind of problem.
It was great to meet up with some friends we’d not seen a while. We had breakfast and a pint before getting into the pub and finding some good seats in front of the big screen they’d set up for the day. We started watching the first game, ordered a pitcher of beer and…
Okay. I lied. This blog is about something. Something stupid. Something I’m sick of being a problem in my life.
If I’m being honest, I can’t remember a lot about Saturday. I didn’t do anything stupid as far as I know. I know I drank. I definitely drank. Glass after glass. Pitcher after pitcher. Laughing and cheering through the first game. Apparently moaning and bitching through the second game, not that I really remember much about it, beyond shaking the hands of the Ireland fans behind me. The third game…the third game might as well be the old TV test card. The little girl, the chalkboard and the clown. We will return to our regular programming after this supposedly grown man stops drinking himself into Oblivion.
I just kept drinking. Because I could. Because it was there. Because I was meant to be celebrating and, at a certain point, the snarky little trickster voice in my drunk brain found everything funny. Darkly funny. Deeply, sarcastically, terribly funny. I always do. It’s the point before I leap into the arms of dumb self-destruction.
I drank a lot before we left earlier than was planned. I don’t know if it was because of me. I’ve not dared ask. I remember standing outside the pub, waiting for our lift to arrive. I remember saying some guy had a nice hat and Sam telling me to be quiet. I don’t remember why I thought his hat was nice, but it clearly made me smile. Which is not a good smile when I’ve been drinking. Not when you step out into the afternoon sun and everyone else is sober and not lit by streetlights. After that, we spent the evening with my parents.
I remember sitting in the car, front passenger seat, next to my dad. I remember talking and feeling how drunk my mouth was. That stupid, numb chatterbox problem. You’re trying to steer the words. Trying to sound soberer than you are and failing at everyone syllable.
We watched some TV at their house and had a takeaway before the snow came. Then we gathered our things and left. I’m pretty sure I remember all of that. I didn’t break anything. I didn’t keep drinking. I don’t think I did anything particularly wrong. Why? Because I know how to manage the idiot I can become after a few drinks. Well, I say manage. I know how to steer that drunken version of myself. The guy who wanders off from his mates, no matter where he is. The guy who gets it into his head to annoy the people he’s with for no reason beyond his own frustrations. The guy who will say he had the worst night in the world, only for me to wake up thinking it was pretty good the next day. Yep, I can steer him, just about. It comes with practice. Far too much practice.
The problem is that I like to drink. Well, no, that’s not exactly right. I resent spending the money and I hate queuing at the bar. I hate ending up in bars where I feel ancient, loathe hangovers and I get bored of spending a few days afterwards trying to find some reason I can label the latest mistake with. As if that’s how you cope with a problem.
No, what I like is being drunk. I love being drunk. No concern, really. No restrictions. No worrying about the time and what else I could be doing. No anxiety. No stress. More drink on tap. I love it until I go paddling right over the edge of the waterfall again. Which I do far too often. Not as often as I used to, but last Saturday proves it still happens.
So…that’s why I quit drinking last Sunday. I’m not telling the people around me because they’ve heard it before. It’s okay, though. They don’t read this and I’m not putting such a grand label on it anywhere else.
I just know it’s time. After twenty two years of never quite getting right. After twenty two years of living with the debris for days after. It took me sitting downstairs on Sunday evening, still a little hungover and my head spinning from finishing the final, final, final draft to realise this for myself. Being drunk doesn’t work for me. Not really. I’m too compulsive to handle it. I’m desperate to hate myself to handle where it takes me. The loose, stupid rollercoaster I go on isn’t worth the hassle or the pain. Or the feeling that I stopped too soon, which I often get as I head home.
It’s time to let it go. Some people can drink and drink and handle it. Their whinging trickster doesn’t come out to play. Good for them. I’m not them. Whatever drink is doing in my head, it pokes the bear. It nudges the sleeping idiot. It’s not worth me letting that into my life. I want to see friends and enjoy myself. Trust myself. I want to wake up the next day and wonder what dumb thing I did this time.
I was looking forward to watching those rugger games, but I can’t remember them. They were stolen from me. As was the chance to spend a night catching up with my parents. I know it makes me feel ancient, but I like to sit and talk with them. I like a good Chinese takeaway. I like making people I love laugh. I don’t like them worrying about what I’m going to do or say around them. I’ve wrecked a friend’s wedding and not stopped because of it. I’ve ruined other people’s nights out and not stopped drinking. I have annoyed my wife time and again and not stopped. Or I’ve made some half-hearted, just for a month or so. Last weekend was just another weekend in a slew, a blur of pointless but not terrible drunken days. That’s why it needs to be the last one.
So, my stomach is recovering from a bug, my head is recovering from a novel and the drinking is done. What’s next, 2018?