1. DRUNK! At the age of sixteen I was invited out for the evening on a Saturday night to celebrate a friend’s birthday. This for most people would be something to look forward to, for me it was something to dread. Socialising and ordering drinks for somebody who has a stutter is bad enough, but I regularly seemed to bare the brunt of the evening’s jokes about me height, weight and occasionally my bald patch. Even though my friend’s were not doing this to be cruel, I was very paranoid about myself at that age and this banter would hurt.
I had often been out for evenings where I drank alcohol, however up to this point had never been drunk. On this particular night the drink flowed and before long I found myself a little worse for ware. The results of which would later change my life. I found myself talking to lots of different people, some of which I did not know, even girls! My whole character and personality started to change, I was telling jokes and when someone made a comment about my weight for example, I laughed and even came back with a derogatory comment about him, joining in the banter and seemingly enjoying it. My attitude changed, for example instead of thinking that a certain girl might not want me because of my weight, stutter or height, I thought to myself, she will want me, I’m a good person and could make her laugh. My whole outlook was far more positive and my confidence was buzzing. It was a superb and very enjoyable night. The next morning I awoke not feeling the best with a bad hangover. One of the highlights of the previous night was that I had been given a phone number from one of the girls I had met. I told her that I would phone her to arrange a date, however I was now sober, back to my normal self and no did not have the confidence to ring. This girl thinks I am fluent, how would she react if I stutter, I wondered. I went to bed most disappointed with myself but started to analyse the differences between when I had been drunk to when I was sober. The conclusion was obvious, when drunk I can talk, I don’t care about my weight, lack of height etc. When sober I have a lack of confidence and am paranoid about certain aspects about my person. I knew that I could not be drunk 24/7 and that what I needed to do was to become a harder person, less paranoid etc. I had to be mentally drunk all of the time without being physically drunk. I knew this would be hard to achieve but in the future possibly when I was older would be a must. This attitude is hard to achieve, however using some of the following methods became a reality for me a number of years later. 2. YOU HAVE TO START TO LIKE YOURSELF! At the age of twenty-two I decided to as already stated deal with and try to overcome some of the issues in my life. I started to read various books, like mind over matter and positive thinking type books. In one such book it had a line which read: “You need to start to like yourself” I put the book down and starting to think and realised that I didn’t actually like myself. I hated being overweight, shorter than average, having a bald patch and especially having a speech impediment. I carried on reading and it went on to say: “There are various things about one’s self which even though we don’t like we are unable to change, therefore we have to accept them. Other aspects we can change therefore we have to work extremely hard with determination to eradicate them. Once again I put the book down and thought about this. Firstly my height, am I ever going to grow any taller? The answer is no, there is nothing I can do to increase my height at the age of twenty-two therefore I have to accept it. From reading more of the book later I realised that I was being over-sensitive about this and some of my other issues. There are a lot of people out there a lot worse off than I am. Does my current height hurt me in anyway or affect my life in any major negative way, again the answer is no. Secondly, the bald area on my head. As with the above hair is not going to start growing in that area of my scalp, I have had the bald patch since birth and therefore have to accept the fact and even try to like it. Then there is my weight. This is something that I could change, therefore I have to work hard to lose the weight. I have to accept certain sacrifices; such as to eat less fatty foods and be disciplined to reach my target weight, however long it might take. Finally there is my speech impediment. I had had a stutter since the age of four and for me this was the most important of all of my issues. I was not sure if I would be able to achieve fluency, however in my mind believed I could. If I can talk when I am drunk I should be able to talk when I am fluent. I was not going to accept having a stutter for the rest of my life until I had worked hard to eradicate it. Work hard I did and eventually I overcome this major issue in my life. I advise people that the above were my own personal issues and that each individual has to identify there own. It is then a case of accepting the issues which can not be changed and working hard to overcome the ones that can. 3. ATTITUDE I was somebody who wanted to be like by everybody. If anybody criticised me or called me names, I would easily be offended and my confidence would drop. As an example from the age of about seventeen I would go out with my friends most Friday and Saturday nights to public houses and sometimes to a night club. I remember one Saturday morning, aged about eighteen, waking up feeling quite ill, very hung over. I had consumed far too much alcohol on the previous evening. I looked in my wallet and had also spent far too much money. I decided that I would stay in on the Saturday night, just for a change. During the afternoon I had a phone call from a friend called Phil. He asked me where we going that night. After telling him that I was not going out, he called me boring on numerous occasions, offering to lend me money, saying that I had changed etc. I didn’t want him to think of me in this way however stuck to my guns, eventually he put the phone down on me in a mood. Within a few minutes another friend phoned asking why I was not going out, also calling me various names including boring. I ended up going out. At this age I did not have enough respect for myself, I was too concerned what people thought of me and was easily persuaded into doing things and going places that I in didn’t want to. After reading some of the books as mentioned above I realised this and asked myself a question: “Am I boring” I have lots of interests, theatre, cinema, eating out, chess, football, snooker, golf, horse racing, tennis, music to name a few. By this age I was becoming bored of going out drinking alcohol. I decided to be strong and stated to my friends that I was now only going out drinking once a month. Originally, every Friday and Saturday night people would phone asking me if I was going out, if I declined I was criticised, your so boring for example. My new found attitude, though hard at first to adopt and follow through meant that I didn’t really care and I certainly didn’t bow to pressure. One particular friend, Phil, was particularly verbally aggressive and demanding, calling me different names. He was seemingly in shock that someone was standing up to him. On one afternoon I fought back and said to him: “Whatever you say, whatever you call me, I am not going out tonight, however I will go out with you on Tuesday night if you want to” He agreed to this so I asked him if he wanted a game of snooker, or golf, or a trip to the cinema or theatre. He thought all of these options were “boring”. I mentioned other interests of mine such as chess, again all of the options I mentioned he didn’t find interesting. I said to him: “OK, where would you like to go?” “What about the pub for a few beers?” I laughed at Phil and said: “I’m sorry mate you’re the one who is boring not me”. I then put the phone down on him for a change. My attitude was beginning to change for the better. I was becoming harder and stronger mentally. A few years later I met my present fiancee and I soon realised I was a long way off the level I wanted to be. Her name is Sharron and a couple of weeks after we had met she invited me to a night out with some of her friends who she said wanted to meet me. I knew I had to go even though in reality it was the last thing I wanted to do. I was worried what her friends might think of me etc. I did attend and managed to cope, however I was very quiet, felt uncomfortable throughout the evening and felt very nervous. I was glad to get back to the safety of my own home! A couple of weeks later I was invited to meet her parents and immediately I had the same feelings as above and the night passed in a similar way with me having a distinct lack of confidence etc. About a month later Sharron agreed to accompany me to a wedding in Birmingham where I was born. On this day she would meet most of my friends and family for the first time. As we were driving on the motorway I thought she must be a bit nervous. I asked her if she was OK and if she was slightly nervous. She replied: “What have I got to be nervous about?” “Well your meeting my family and friends later. Are you not concerned what they will think of you?” “Steve, I don’t care what they think of me. It’s what you think that counts and I know you like me!” This was not a front she was putting on. Suddenly I realised how far I was away from the attitude to life and attitude to people I wanted to have. Sharron has helped me to reach that level. Being around positive people at this stage was very beneficial to me.