Comfort where you will


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Category: Profiles 02 Sep 07


“Fill it up, fill it up. Fill up the emptiness; fill up what feels like a pit of loneliness and terror and rage; please, just take it away now. Our society has become easy solutions to that impulse—the search for an external solution goes on. Most alcoholics I know experience that hunger long before they pick up the first drink, that yearning for something, something outside the self that will provide relief and solace and well-being. People talk about their fixations with things—a new house, a job they’re desperate for, a relationship—as though these things have genuinely transformative powers to heal and save and change their lives. The need cuts across all backgrounds, all socioeconomic lines, all ages and sexes and races.”

Caroline Knapp, journalist, author of Drinking - A love story.

The cover caught my eyes while I was in the most delightful bookshop I have been to in Trinidad and Tobago, situated modestly on Patna Street, behind Long Circular Mall—The Readers Bookshop.

“A love story.” It said.

Every woman is a sucker for that.

I looked at it again. The complete title was Drinking—A love story, by Caroline Knapp.

I bought it. Not because I am a drinker. The opposite. My husband calls me a cheap date. One glass of wine and I’m under the table.

I bought the book because this jumped out at me: “In the end I don’t suppose it matters where you get your addiction from. You get your comfort where you can.”

Disappointment, regret, rage, inadequacy, yearning, grief, frustration? We all feel it. All that human stuff. Some of us eat to keep it at bay. One woman I know drinks 19 cups of tea a day. Some run 19 miles a day.

Some men need “new” women. A woman I know is addicted to “trying out” new men. The empty feelings disappear for a few hours when she is with them to resurface after they’ve vanished. Some shop on-line obsessively. Some are addicted to porn, anorexia, and bulimia. Cigarettes. Or alcohol.

Not all addictions are bad but you rarely hear people say. “I am addicted to eating sensibly.”

We all do it. I am addicted to the Internet.

Get away from life

Knapp is an award-winning journalist and an Ivy League graduate. She began drinking when she was just 12 and continued until she “hit bottom” at 36. She was too drunk to know when her father died.

She was drunk when she nearly dropped and broke the skull of a child of a friend of hers. She woke up in strange men’s beds not knowing what happened. She forgot where she parked her car.

She spent hours plotting how to hide her addiction. Where to buy the next bottle. Taking swigs in the bathroom. Stashing drinks in the car. Taking out empty bottles of alcohol in the middle of the night.

In between she had a successful career as a journalist. Few people suspected she had a problem with the bottle.

She described herself as a “high-functioning alcoholic” like the many people she encountered at AA, she was, she wrote, “smooth and ordered on the outside; coiling and chaotic and desperately secretive underneath, but not noticeably so, never noticeably so.”

She once saw her reflection in a shop window and saw an attractive well-dressed woman and was astonished since it didn’t reflect the chaos inside her. Like all addictions, it made her feel good for a while and empty afterwards.

The story is compelling because it is ultimately about the “comfort” we seek to get away from our own lives, and how often this “comfort” is a death wish, as powerful as opposite as willful as the will to live.

To be continued


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur