Ken Burns, with PBS, recently did a three part, six hour documentary on the life of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s was not an easy life, most especially, it seems, because he kept trying to live the life of the image he’d created of himself and which was impossible to do.
Part of that image was his hard drinking and hard living, with big game hunting and abusing women thrown in. Indeed, he created a disastrous prototype “writer” that all too many would-be writers would attempt to replicate to their doom.
I don’t quibble with the portrait of the writer as a self-destructive victim of his own making.
I do quibble with a bit in the third episode were another writer notes that “he suffered from alcoholism which we all know is an incurable progressive disease…”
Burns is usually a very good fact checker and it’s hard to blame him for assuming “what everyone knows” is true – even though it isn’t. Not even close.
But this is an example of how the mythology gets spread and perpetuated and everyone comes to believe the “big lie.” Follow that up with “AA Works – and is the only thing that does” and it’s no wonder Hemingway, and other creative sorts in particular, put a gun to his head at 61.
Was he a self-destructive, excessive, image reinforcing drinker? Absolutely. Was there any way out of his condition other than a 12 gauge shotgun? In his time and place, probably not. Did the drinking contribute? Yes. But so did numerous concussions, habit, life style, his sexually confused up-bringing and the image of himself he created and couldn’t stop trying to live up to.
Most of us have some Hemingway in us – especially the self-destructive part, or “imposter” feelings, or an imaginary self we want to become. Hard to do if you are also going to sign up for being powerless over an imaginary disease and fear the only escape is by rigid conformity to an abusive and exploitive cult.
So quit the self-flagellation! You may not be Hemingway, and you can be thankful for that, but you are not powerless, doomed, or reduced to life-long membership in an infantile cult – unless, of course, you want to be.
Otherwise, there are a lot of ways back out of the rabbit hole, including a return to your pre-pandemic “normal,” moderation, harm reduction, abstinence, and/or whatever combination of these possibilities you elect.
Don’t let yourself be bullied into submitting to “what everyone knows” regardless of what TV show they cite. You’re better, and much more powerful, than that.
A Return to Normal
If you’re like a lot of folks, the past year has seen an escalation in your alcohol consumption. While you haven’t been able to go out to your favorite bars and restaurants, or attended parties, sporting events, and social gatherings and holidays, you have been able to up your “at home” consumption.
Yes, cocktail hour has steadily moved from 5:00 p.m. to 4:00, to 3:00 to noon to… And since you don’t have to worry about driving there’s been no reason to limit the number of drinks.
Throw in anxiety, boredom, and marital friction and it’s easy to understand why alcohol has done what it does best – expand to fill the available space.
If you’ve also consumed the 12 Step Kool Aid then you are doomed since you obviously have fallen prey not to Covid, but to the “disease” of alcoholism.
If you haven’t fallen for the 12 Step nonsense, you may still be feeling lost in a condition a recent New York Times article called languishing – not depressed, but not exactly thriving either. A condition many of us would refer to as the “blahs.”
The cure for all of this? Without pretending it isn’t difficult, the old advice to get back on the horse that threw you isn’t a bad rule of thumb.
Go back 18 months and if your life was better then than now, well you have a road map to get back to your “old normal.”
If you were plagued (pardon the expression) by many of the same problems, worries, lassitude, and, well, blahs, then maybe it’s time for some short-term assistance?
What do you think?