Drinking - A Love Story

Caroline Knapp ★★★★★

A really powerful book that describes the author’s relationship with alcohol and also reflects on many other aspects of a life that sounds absolutely horrendous.

She died tragically young, at age 42, from lung cancer (she was a life-long smoker). Before concluding that smoking is a much bigger evil, remember that alcohol is a known carcinogen and that it can probably cause lung cancer too.

Some days, bad days, I’m just plain sick of it, sick of being an alcoholic, sick of thinking like an alcoholic, sick of having to maintain the vigilance of sobriety: Don’t drink, go to meetings, ask for help. Don’t do the things that trigger the wish to drink; don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (the acronym in recovery for those four states is HALT).

“You know,” George said, ‘I never did those things you associate with “real’ alcoholics. I never totaled a car or ended up in jail. I never killed anyone in a blackout. I didn’t have those kinds of losses.” I nodded. “Me neither.” “The question,” George said, “is how low you have to go before you quit. How bad do things have to get?”

Early on, I heard a woman at a meeting say that with each decision in sobriety, you are faced with two possible choices: the alcoholic choice or the healthy choice. The alcoholic choice is the self-sabotaging one, the one that makes you feel self-pitying or resentful or somehow defeated. The healthy choice is the one that reinforces your vision of yourself as a better person, more in charge of your life, equipped with options.

“If it feels warm and fuzzy and comfortable and protective, it’s probably the alcoholic choice. If it feels dangerous and scary and threatening and painful, it’s probably healthy.”

alcohol is what protected me from growing up. That seems like such an obvious insight, so simple it borders on the banal, but until that moment I’d never really grasped the idea that growth was something you could choose, that adulthood might be less a chronological state than an emotional one which you decide, through painful acts, to both enter and maintain.