Not Drinking is My Problem

Carl visits a shrink.Hi, my name is Carl, and I’m twenty-nine years sober. I’ve been able to abstain from partaking in the communal bonding fluid that assists in releasing inhibitions.

What was once judged a psychological malfunction of naivety is actually an ailment I refuse to experience again. I tried wine this past summer, and in five minutes a sharp pain moved into my forehead, renting the space for three days. This, from the amount you’d take of NyQuil to cure a cold.

My sobriety poses serious social risks, including: Crossing the line between refusing kind gestures and respecting my wishes; being sanctioned for committing a travesty upon a non-existent trust; severing ties that had not been sewn; and breaking bonds that were not bound.

Mixed reactions are expected when one learns I don’t drink. Typically, it is a question that screams I have crossed a moral boundary: “What, you don’t drink!?” I’ve suddenly become an anomaly in the social-acceptance-continuum. This reaction is inevitably followed by, “Why? What prohibits you from maintaining a balanced diet with a three-to-one ratio of fermented hopps-to-water?”

Coworkers don’t pressure me to drink at work and they enjoy my company. My family doesn’t pressure me to drink and they enjoy my company. In fact, anywhere that alcohol is not the central purpose for being there, I am accepted. I can hang out at parties of people I know who are drinking and have no problem. But bars? Forget it.

When someone points out that I don’t drink it puts me on the spot: I’m the poster they pinned on the wall, the center of discussion. Their pressure creates a sense of shame as others look on, waiting for me to give in and give up, or be the stick in the mud. I feel embarrassed because I have to expose myself to the judgement of others, when I didn’t ask for it.

It’s nice to be around people. To have friends. Real friends who accept who you want to be, who you are, what you do and don’t do. It’s okay to offer me a drink, and it’s okay for me to refuse.

I’ve lived with alcoholics. I’ve lived with people who don’t drink. I’ve been friends with people who have been on the wagon, off the wagon, and snarled up in its wheels. As they get older the pressure turns into advice and becomes, “No, you really shouldn’t drink.”

Maybe it’s shame that people are confusing with being offended when I refuse a drink. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m not judging people who drink because they drink, or why they drink. I judge them for excluding me from being friends because I don’t drink. That’s the real problem here. My Not Drinking is Not My Problem, and it never was.

It’s good for me to get these thoughts out. I don’t dwell on them, it just sucks when the situation presents itself, and there’s little you can do but hope others will accept you. Women are more accepting than men, and that’s a good thing. Other guys just feel a need to pressure, but that’s for a subject of the ego and pride.

Software Engineering Made Me Smarter

I design systems for growth and to solve real world problems. What that means to the layman is, I get the job done, and I do it well. By connecting information, I discover and create tools that enable actions to improve professional and personal lives. Through fifteen years of software development, I’ve gained powerful insight to how people communicate and use the knowledge they gain from information.

This may sound like a sales pitch or a resume, but let me be clear: I am giving you insight into how my mind works; why I am effective in my work; why people enjoy my company. I find opportunities to connect the dots, to see the puzzle’s picture without looking at the box it came in, without expecting a solution to just land in my lap.

Connecting Information

I practice connecting information, in form and context, establishing relationships to bring about meaning. I realized this habit of mine halfway through college, and improve it daily. It’s a habit I’m thankful to have.

When I connect information, the focus of a large picture becomes clearer. I understand why one thing affects another, and why another thing would be irrelevant. This is often generalized as logic, reason, and math skills, that most normal people possess. I think of it as something better: a way to connect people and their behavior for improving lives.

A connected universe, world, or relationship, of actions, that share not only interests, but a purpose. Content and meaning combined in harmony. Realizing this picture for others is what I do to make a living. Each day, I connect the dots as a goal, my reason for work, and to grow myself and those around me.

I can feel my mind growing when I find patterns of related information between two things or processes. It motivates me to find more connections, and put those connections to use.

Creating Tools for Action

Tools that don’t solve a problem are useless. You wouldn’t hammer a screw to get the same result, just as you wouldn’t use an application that didn’t deliver what you expect.

In my work history, I find terrible implementations of otherwise great ideas, and fix them. People who didn’t know what they were doing and staved off getting fired, simply by finding a way to hold their employer by their neck. In IT, you find it happens more often then you’d like. My job would be boring without it.

That’s where I fix things, with honesty and integrity, so my employer can get back to what they do best: solving problems for their customers, and turning a profit. The tools I create have to work well, and by that, they have to be honest, truthful, and allow their users to take action.

If a time clock didn’t capture punches correctly, an employee’s budget will be off. When an employee’s budget is off, they can’t pay their bills on time. When one can’t pay their bills on time, creditors come by, canceling services and taking things away. If, however, that time clock worked correctly, one of two things happens: either the employee’s budget is correct, or we find an employee who has been abusing the time clock, thus abusing their employer’s trust.

Being able to connect information together allows me to create better tools. Tools that not only are fun to develop, but fulfilling to watch in action. I can experience pride knowing my efforts allow a business to succeed, be it to allow customers to place orders or something as simple as showing a raffle ticket number on a large screen.

Connecting Communication

The best, and often most amusing, benefit of connecting information, is when it applies to how people communicate; how they interpret the spoken word vs the written word; how people respond to non-verbal cues; how people feel safer being anonymous, for better or worse.

Spoken Word vs Written Word

People are prone to respond based on the emotion they feel. When spoken, it’s a transaction between the emotions of the speaker and the listener. When written, it’s mostly a reaction to the reader’s emotions.

Consider the phrase, “No way.” Spoken in an even tone, it conveys the message that the person is either saying, “no, I don’t want that,” politely, or “I need more evidence to believe you.” However, when the emphasis is put on either word, the meaning of the message changes.

“No WAY,” where the speaker puts more emphasis on “WAY”, it is interpreted as, “I’m amazed that just happened because I can hardly believe it was real.” (Watch Bill and Ted, you’ll understand.)

However, if the emphasis is put on the word “NO”, as in “NO way,” it means, “That is absolutely not going to happen, no matter what you do.” Rejection 101.

Three different emotions are conveyed. The first, “No way,” is one of a polite exchange in reasonable understanding. The second, “No WAY,” is how a child would react at something new they’ve never seen before, and is thus amazed. The third, “NO way,” is how a parent or child might react, in a means to protect themselves from a supposed threat.

Using this same phrase in the written word, we find that, either way it is written, it is difficult to interpret the emotion the writer wanted to convey.

The emotion from reading is often a reflection of the reader, not the writer. A crafty writer worth the ink in his pen will know how to control a reader’s emotion, often by tapping in to relative experience.

Thus, understanding this connection of how information is perceived, I know for certainty that developing relationships using the spoken word is vastly more effective than the written word. Could be why online dating is filled with guys who don’t know how to write but send endless messages anyway, and women have difficulty finding the “good ones” amongst the flood of terrible ones.

Supporting Others and Myself

A supportive view is what we need when we feel stuck on something. When I design software, and I’m sure it will work, and then it doesn’t, I can get a bit annoyed when I struggle for the answer. As an engineer I can’t run off expecting others to solve the problem for me; my skills would not be what they are if I did.

This insight has allowed me to discover what makes a relationship work: be supportive to help others grow, but never take the reigns from them. In the spirit of the coming holiday season, “Everyone wants to drive Santa’s sleigh.”

I’ve learned to ask questions that reveal connections of information, and when that happens, the solution arrives. The same can be said when supporting your friends, family, or lover. Don’t tell them what to do, help them find the answer themselves. When we arrive at an answer ourselves, we’re more likely to believe it and use it to motivate ourselves to action. It’s ours. We own it. And, those you support, will remember that you were there for them.

The key to any fulfilling relationship is to grow each other through support and sharing in knowledge and experience. So many of us do this in our professional lives, but don’t apply it in our personal lives. Father coming home after work and saying he’s tired, wants a beer, and doesn’t want to talk to anyone, certainly isn’t making many friends out of his family.

The skills I’ve learned as an engineer may seem like they don’t belong in love and relationships, but honestly, they are the best skills you can apply. The ability to connect information, such as one’s emotions with behavior and thoughts, far outweighs any blind trust and hope that “love conquers all.”

I listen openly to others, and I help them connect the dots. This is support at it’s best. It’s giving someone the opportunity to grow, become stronger, and tackle the problem head on without worry, if it comes around again. It gives them the strength that the problem won’t even be a problem.

Embrace connecting information. I do it every day, and it gives me satisfaction knowing I help solve real world problems, by giving the tools and understanding of information that would otherwise be choas.