Mostly we lie. That's a statement of fact, not a judgment.
Alcoholics lie about big things, and we lie about small things,
and we lie to other people and above all we lie to ourselves.
Big lies, small lies.
Caroline Knapp, author of DrinkingA love storyLast week,
I began writing about addictions. You get your comfort
where you can wrote Knapp, who inspired me to write
this series that led me to the conclusion that comfort
can be a death wish, a perverse wish to sabotage your own
life by knocking yourself unconscious.
In DrinkingA Love Story, Knapp peels away skin to bare
her raw, brutally honest story of addictions.
She was a high-functioning alcoholic, successful
journalist, and Ivy League graduate. She hid her alcoholism
She got me wondering why we humans hardwired to the life force,
(making most of us want to live even if we are unimaginably
miserable, bereaved, terminally ill, or in terrible danger)
are drawn to the death wish.
Why do we deliberately sabotage ourselves with fat, sweet,
nicotine, drugs? To be only a fraction of what we are capable
As soon as I got home, Id crack open the first
beer and drink it with a deep relief. My booze was an ally,
a defence against my own subconscious, against the demons
that threatened to swim up from wherever they hid inside.
Without liquor Id feel like a trapped animal;
which is why I always had it. Over time, over many, many drinks,
that knowledge is incorporated:
Liquor soothes and protects. It has a feel of a psychological
safety net. Take a difficult, sober feelingshyness,
fearand connect it to its easier drunken counterpartcourage.
While I was reading this book, I met a woman at the hairdressers.
She asked if I remembered a chopping in Trinidad
The womans sister was murdered by a man who chopped
her to death for a dare, to show-off to
his pardners. The victim died in her sons arms
on the way to hospital.
She was sitting in her hammock in the twilight, swaying and
reading when the man struck. The killing was mindless. He
But by the time I finished reading Knapps affair with
alcohol, which she ended with sobriety (she hadnt touched
a drop for years), I really liked her. I LOVED her courage.
She wrote that highly-functioning alcoholics squeezed their
talent out bit by bit, as if out of a toothpaste. Painfully.
How could you not admire someone who bares their darkest selves
so others can benefit? She wrote:
As a rule, active alcoholics are powerless people, or
at least a lot of us tend to feel that way in our hearts.
They manage to hold on to trappings of personal power,
like jobs and families. But you have to step back and look
beneath the facades.
In fact, few alcoholics feel like powerful players in
their own lives. All the strength comes out of a bottle.
When I was finished reading the book, I looked up Knapp on
the Internet. I was eager to read more by her. Such honesty
is rare. Her writing is compelling. Wonderful. I got her obituary.
She was dead at 42 from lung cancer.
The other addiction got her. I hadnt noticed her many
references to cigarettes, to lighting up, except
the one where her mother, on her deathbed, urged her not to
The real battle is to discard the props and become a powerful
player in our own lives. Its that or the death