Sunday, December 21, 2008

over 600 responses to this blog in new york times

The New York Times December 8, 2008, 10:00 pm

It’s the Holidays. How About Just One?

I had my last drink nearly 16 years ago, so you’d think I would have assimilated pretty much every bit of unpleasantness associated with clean and sober life in a society that remains thoroughly sodden with alcohol. But I still can’t quite handle the holidays.

It’s not that I’m driven to drink; just to a certain uncomfortable distraction that doesn’t leave until the holiday season thankfully does. And it’s not just that the holidays seem to have been invented for the express purpose of promoting — no, necessitating — irresponsible alcoholic consumption.

There’s something in the alone-in-the-crowdness of the holiday party circuit, the forced pleasantries and laughter, the charge to be friendly and engaging — but only in a trivial and superficial way — that is very much like the existential condition of the alcoholic psyche. So the holidays not only remind me of drink; they remind me of how it felt to be a drunk.

In fact, I have frequently been overheard to explain to the sort of person who still finds it good sport to ask me how I came to be addicted to alcohol and what it’s like now to be stone cold sober, “You know how you feel at Christmas at the umpteenth family gathering or company cocktail party. You really need that drink, right? That’s the way I used to feel all the time.”

And as with one’s first adolescent love, a certain euphoric recall about the drinking life remains lodged in the psyche of any drunk no matter how many years he has remained sober. Even after 16 years, especially at holiday time, a tiny voice still occasionally visits, asking, “Why can’t you just have one?”

Addiction scientists have puzzled over what distinguishes the alcoholic psyche from the “normal” one, or even, the mentally ill one. While some association between abusive drinking and both bipolar disorder and depression has been found, your garden-variety drunk does not go on manic flights of fancy or hear voices or hallucinate; he isn’t even all that prone to clinical depression. The best I can say from personal experience is that we all tend to be afflicted by a low-grade dysphoria, a sort of constant melancholy that causes feelings of unease, isolation and dissatisfaction with life — an “inexplicable ache,” I once heard it called.

But is this nature or nurture? I personally READ MORE OF THIS BLOG

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