Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Drinking: A Love Story

I have five books to tell you all about (lucky for you, I won't tell you about them all now.)  Five books can be months and months of reading.  For many nights I have tucked myself into bed and read 'til the pages blur from tired eyes.  This can take anywhere from five to twelve minutes.

Having a good book at night is essential to my happiness for it helps end the day without worry.  I put my cares away and dive into the jaws of whatever I happen to fancy.  Basically, I shut the brain off and go into entertainment-land.

Traditionally, I have finished a book and typed up a real nice book report on this here blog.  I do this so that I'll remember what I've read.  I also do this because it's like my very own book club – only there's no time commitment and/or constraints, and I get to be the designated windbag.  You know what I mean by that, right?  Book clubs are scary (or so I've heard) because there's always that someone who participates just so they can go on-and-on (and on) about some inner (boring) deep meaning, deciphered by the hand of their quick wits and the lyrics of a Todd Rungren album.

Uh-oh.  I'm feeling some history here.  In high school, the weirdos I hung out with had somehow established that it was hip and edgy to be known as "deep" or "deep thinking."  We'd discuss important stuff like philosophy (for teens) and why Aldous Huxley should rule the (under) world.  We'd also talk some about preserving our mother nature, which usually involved climbing a tree, doing something illegal, then climbing back down.

We were so cool... but we were so dumb.  It's crystal clear now.  I mean philosophy for teens?  Is there a paradox more hysterical?  And that gaffer Huxley can't rule the world 'cause he's dead – was dead even way back then.  But dude... what about the doors of perception... man... you gotta open them... ... ... Now insert more trailing phrases that make no point and mean nothing and you'll get the idea.

Hehehehe.  That's my blog! The more things change, like, the more things, like change just a little bit, and then like, they come full circle and change in the other direction, and then, like, fall from the tree, and like the next thing you know, you're an apple all morphed up with the faces of both yer parents.

Anyway.  I have five books to report.  They are (in the order I read 'em):

The Life of Pie – Yann Martel
The Partly Cloudy Patriot – Sarah Vowell
A Romance on Three Legs – Katie Hafner
(A Hundred pages of) Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
Drinking: A Love Story – Caroline Knapp

I read The Life of Pie somewhere around a while ago.  I figured that since I finished Drinking just yesterday, it's still all fresh 'n stuff, so I better do it first.  Then I figure I'll finish up the book reports in any order I choose.  You okay with that?  Good.  Here we go.

Drinking: A Love Story
by Caroline Knapp


Drinking is another dandy that Megan threw at me.  For reals.  She flew into town for Christmas and I picked her up at the airport.  She jumped in the car, threw this book at me and said, "Read it."  Or something like that.  For the record, Megan can throw any book at me, any time.  Just as long as it's not one of those heirloom hundred-pound Bibles.  That would hurt.

Drinking is Caroline Knapp's sobriety memoir.  In vivid technicolor detail, she describes how she went from a casual drinker to a full-fledged alcoholic who was drinking every day, and in secret – even had booze stashed behind the toilets and whatnot at the homes of family and friends.  She would obsess and live her day as if the whole point was to get drunk.

Ms. Knapp is what she calls a "high functioning alcoholic."  She was a writer for a magazine who made it to work every day, paid her bills, and managed to accomplish all of that other life stuff.  Even though she was "high functioning," every relationship in her life was a mess.  Mom, her two boyfriends (who didn't know about each other), dad, friends, drinking friends – you name it, there was friction because of her drinking.  The irony, however, is she couldn't handle being with any of them unless she was drinking.

After a bunch of years (I forget exactly how many), Caroline Knapp decides she's had enough and ends her love affair with The Drink. So she checks herself into rehab, makes the commitment to quit for good, and writes this book.  I believe she was sober three years when the book was written.

Here's what I found most interesting: Knapp discovers the difference between casual drinkers and alcoholics.  She discovers that alcoholics drink to avoid life, and specifically, to avoid any pain associated with life.  Alcoholics choose to drink in lieu of facing their many life choices, mistakes, sorrows, and moments of cozy good.  They are uncomfortable in their own skin and drink to avoid feeling themselves in that skin.

Ultimately, she realizes that while she's chasing three bottles of wine with a pint of cognac, she's robbing her life of progress.  Every time she sideswipes the looking of life right between the eyes by getting drunk, she's stunting her individual growth.

I had never seen or heard addiction explained this way.  I found it rather eye opening.  Parts of life include pain.  And pain usually makes one grow stronger.  I suppose it's best just to deal with the pain so as to recover and grow strong.  Kinda like when weight lifters bench press and stuff like that.

I'm not a drinker now. I'm a full-fledged abstainer.  However, I have this personality that does not stop.  Once I start something, be it study, or spending money, or (hullo!) running, I cannot stop.  Therefore it would be in my life-growth's best interest to remain an abstainer.

p.s. Megan said to "pass the book on."  Anyone care to read it next?


Jessica said...

pick me! I wanna read it next!

did I tell you my goal is to read a book a week this year? Yeah. It's a little lofty. Let's see how I do.

rabidrunner said...

All right Zestica... it's yours. I'll mail it.

Winder said...

Ahhh. Bummer. Jessica beat me too it. At my rate Jessica would read it faster. So, can I be after you Miss Thing?

Sparks said...

I love what a reader you are. That it's often. That you're fast. And that you absorb what you read. And I love that you report on it here. I liked this book a lot. And I look forward to throwing more at you. Megan's writing degree is Amber's reading degree. It's the coolest.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Addiction is a curious thing. What's just as curious is the number of abstainers who are just certain they would be addicts (even though odds are they wouldn't). Right up there with that are the abstainers who are just certain the non-abstainers are going to become addicts, even though odds are they're not. Turns out there are plenty of people who try cigarettes, pot, meth, alcohol, and even heroin, and come away saying "meh. Not really for me."

Here's what I'd like to experience, though. I'd like to know what heroin feels like to an addict as well as what it feels like to a "meh, not for me." Because I bet the difference is significant. But there's no way to know just how significant, unfortunately.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Oh, and lemme play here: people who enjoyed "Drinking: A love story" also enjoyed "Dry" by Augustin Burroughs. You should check it out.

megan said...

I was laying in bed last night - 3 pages into a book I found via my uncle on GoodReads...could you please join it and start rating stuff??...anyhoo after 3 pages I thought I need to tell Amber to read this book (New York Regional Singles Dance: Memoir) I believe it was the profound excitement over her alliteration that made me think that...I have not finished the book but it made me think of you (ok so the writing is a bit lacking in some parts - but overall it's good for an occasional laugh) although now that I think about your book report book and this one I may rescind my recommendation...this may be a tad "too light" :)

rabidrunner said...

Sparks Megan, your education is also my education, and I thank you.

Prescott Megan, I welcome any recommendation. My book choices are rarely this intense. I enjoy light reading, I enjoy intense reading, I enjoy funny reading, I love wordy reading. Aside from stories about rape and other such violations, I like all reading. If it's interesting I'll like it, so send it my way.

Junkie, in my drinking years, I was a black-outer-er, and it didn't take much. It's quite creepy to end up in your bed at home and wonder how the hell you got there. I'm far too controlling for that kind of action, and that's mainly the reason I quit.

Also, I read an addiction study a while back (not sure where and can't find it now) that concluded that whether you get addicted to a substance relies on your tolerance for that substance. People who are MORE tolerant end up addicted. People who are LESS tolerant end up okay. Those sensitive to substances (the less tolerant crowd,) ingest said substances, then become bombarded, sick, etc and therefore do not become addicted. The muchiness is just too much!

Compare 'n contrast to the more tolerants, and the substance can be used (or abused) without it taking over... basically just adds a special edge (or removes an edge.) This was particularly true for smokers. They found that certain people's brain chemistry had a low tolerance for tobacco and couldn't handle it to begin with, so the adverse reactions overpowered the buzz. Made 'em quit before they were addicted.

Something to think about, I guess. I have read Dry. I went through a Burroughs kick a few years ago and read everything he had –- back before the book reporting, else I'd tell you when. My favorite of his was Magical Thinking.

Jessica said...

Winder-friend, it will find it's way to you when I'm finished. And I'll do my best to finish fast.