Wednesday, August 3, 2011

That's Using My Head!

You know, the brain is a wonderful device, and you only have to stop and listen to it from time to time to realize how sensible it is. The brain is constantly sending us messages, such as when we’re too cold, when we’re too hot, and when we’ve hurt ourselves. It also warns us of impending dangers, and if we heed these warnings, we can prevent potential harm.

Sometimes, though, the danger isn’t obvious; but our brain knows better, and it will try to send us messages. Whether we choose to listen or not is another matter.

Let me give you an example.

When I was younger—in my early twenties—I would sometimes be wild, out of control, outrageous. Sometimes, I just didn’t know when to stop myself. When alcohol was involved (and I enjoyed having more than a few drinks), I was a party animal.

Listen to my brain? Ha!! In this state, I didn’t know I had one (and I’m sure some people, watching me from a distance, felt the same way)!

At times (and I’m not proud of this), I’d drink until I blacked out. Not passed out; I’d still be going, still partying, but I would say and do things for which I would have no recollection the next day. More times than not, I’d have said or done something stupid—or both! Dangerous and upsetting to my friends. I almost always ended up being sick to my stomach, and would wake up with a cold sweat and the shakes. I would always be apologetic to my friends afterwards, and they, being so wonderful, would always forgive and forget.

And then I’d do it all over again the next weekend.

Talk about living and NOT learning!

Until one night, in the summer of ‘87; I had just graduated from Journalism school and was about to begin a job at a small newspaper in Wakefield, Québec. My friends and I were partying at a bar along the Promenade du Portage, in Hull (the bar strip no longer exists). I was up to my usual form, drinking away and partying hard (I think I might have had a drinking problem back then—or at the very least I was trying my best to have one!).

But on this night, something interesting happened.

As I was lifting my glass to my lips, I heard a voice inside my head say: “If you take one more sip, you will regret it.”

I had heard this voice before, but being the young fool that I was, I always ignored it. Not this night. And that was the interesting part. As I held onto that bottle of beer, it dawned on me that that voice was usually the last thing I remembered hearing all those other times, just before I blanked out.

Coincidence? I thought not!

“Go home,” the voice added.

Now, on this particular night I had gone to Hull with a friend who was our designated driver, and this friend was on the dance floor while my inner voice danced in my head. At this hour of the evening, he was my only ride home—the buses had long stopped running—and I didn’t have enough money for a taxi to my end of town. Surely, I could wait for my friend to come back to the table, when I would then see if he wanted to leave.

“Go home NOW,” urged my brain.

Something was telling me that my immediate departure was urgent. Oh yeah, it was my brain! The signals that I was receiving were as strong as those that my brain would have given me, had I touched a stove burner and then removed my hand from the heat.

I got up, left the bar, and went home. I walked home. Home was in the Baseline-Merivale area—almost 10 kilometres away. Walking home from Hull took nearly two-and-a-half hours. The sun was up before I reached my front door. But when I reached the door, I had sobered up considerably.

Had I stuck around with my friends and got a ride home, I probably would have arrived an hour and a half earlier. But what I realized that night was that I would have also been tempted to ignore my brain and continue drinking. And I would have regretted it.

As it turned out, I didn’t black out, didn’t say or do anything stupid. My friends wondered why I left without saying goodbye, but they figured I had met someone and left with her.

(I let them believe that.)

From that time forward, I have always stopped to listen to that voice in my head; be it partying, eating, or yes, sometimes even speaking (I don’t always obey that voice, but I hear it a lot clearer and I at least stop to hear what it has to say!).

I outgrew my party-animal phase a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy partying and having fun; I’m just no longer much of an animal when I party. I’ve learned a valuable lesson in listening to that voice that says when to say when.

So use your head. Listen to it.

After all, it’s got all the brains.


  1. Whoa, that is one heck of a walk!

    I think I managed to drown my little voice *g*. Lessons learned the hard way.

  2. I have lived similar experiences, all in my *much* younger days. It's interesting how such an otherwise unremarkable moment made you listen to the voice. I can't say that I remember when I started to actually listen to the voice with regularity... I hope that I can teach the lils to listen to that voice more than I did.

    I think I'll bookmark this page and read it to them/with them in about ten years :)