Fifteen million Americans a year are plagued with alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Many of them, like Caroline Knapp, started in their early teens and began to use alcohol as "liquid armor," a way to protect themselves against the difficult realities of life. In this extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Knapp offers important insights not only about alcoholism, but about life itself and how we learn to cope with it.
Freelance journalist Knapp began drinking in her early teens and continued unabatedly until she "hit bottom" in 1995 and checked herself into a rehab at the age of 36. During that time she managed to graduate with honors from Brown and have a successful career as a journalist, and few people suspected she had a problem with the bottle. Here she recounts the years of denial that helped her rationalize the blackouts, innumerable hangovers, broken relationships and family tensions characteristic of the alcoholic's story. Knapp interweaves her personal history with factual information about alcohol abuse, including frequent references to the AA meetings she's attended. Here's a confession utterly devoid of self-pity, an extraordinarily lucid and very well-written personal account of a common addiction that is filled with insights as well as a comprehensive treatment of the subject. The text reproduces a questionnaire for alcoholism made up by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. First serial to the New York Times Magazine and Cosmopolitan; Literary Guild selection; author tour. (June)
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1 . Learned a lot
Posted October 03, 2010 by Jennifer , Rochelle, ILRead a preview of this book in the O Magazine and decided to read it...it is an alcoholic's memoir...it gives great insight into alcoholism and how so many people have it but can still function in a day to day basis.....
Dial Press Trade Paperback
August 01, 1999
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Excerpt from Drinking by Caroline Knapp
A love story. Yes: this is a love story. It's about passion, sensual pleasure, deep pulls, lust, fears, yearning hungers. It's about needs so strong they're crippling. It's about saying good-bye to something you can't fathom living without. I loved the way drink made me feel, and I loved its special power of deflection, its ability to shift my focus away from my own awareness of self and onto something else, something less painful than my own feelings. I loved the sounds of drink: the slide of a cork as it eased out of a wine bottle, the distinct glug-glug of booze pouring into a glass, the clatter of ice cubes in a tumbler. I loved the rituals, the camaraderie of drinking with others, the warming, melting feelings of ease and courage it gave me. Our introduction was not dramatic; it wasn't love at first sight, I don't even remember my first taste of alcohol. The relationship developed gradually, over many years, time punctuated by separations and reunions. Anyone who's ever shifted from general affection and enthusiasm for a lover to outright obsession knows what I mean: the relationship is just there, occupying a small corner of your heart, and then you wake up one morning and some indefinable tide has turned forever and you can't go back. Youneedit; it's a central part of who you are. I used to drink with a woman named Elaine, a next-door neighbor of mine. I was in my twenties when we met and she was in her late forties, divorced and involved with a married man whom she could not give up. Elaine drank a lot, more than I did, and she drank especially hard when the relationship with the married man got rocky, which was often. She drank beer and vodka, and she'd call me up on bad nights and ask me to come over. The beer made her overweight and the vodka made her sloppy, and she'd sit on her sofa with a bottle and cry, her face stained with tears and mascara. I used to sit there and think,Whoa. I'd sympathize and listen and say all the things girlfriends are supposed to say, but inside I'd be shaking my head, knowing she was a wreck and knowing on some level that the booze made her that way, that the liquor fueled her obsession for the married man, fueled her tears, fueled her hopelessness and inability to change. But some small part of me (it got larger over the years) was always secretly relieved to see Elaine that way: a messy drunk's an ugly thing, particularly when the messy drunk's a woman, and I could compare myself to her and feel superiority and relief. I wasn'tthatbad; no way I wasthatbad. And I wasn't that bad. I had lots of rules. I never drank in the morning and I never drank at work, and except for an occasional mimosa or Bloody Mary at a weekend brunch, except for a glass of white wine (maybe two) with lunch on days when I didn't have to do too much in the afternoon, except for an occasional zip across the street from work to the Chinese restaurant with a colleague, I always abided by them. For a long time I didn't even need rules. The drink was there, always just there, the way food's in the refrigerator and ice is in the freezer. In high school the beer just appeared at parties, lugged over in cases by boys in denim jackets and Levi's corduroys. In my parents' house the Scotch and the gin sat in a liquor cabinet, to the left of the fireplace in the living room, and it just emerged, every evening at cocktail hour. I never saw it run out and I never saw it replenished either: it was just there. In college, of course, it was the