My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
One of my all time favorite books. If you haven’t, you should definitely pick this one up.
I’ve discovered that I’m all about the soul searching memoirs. Anything that has to do with addiction or some kind of abuse fascinates me. The courage that people have to put their life out there on the line for the world to read is inspiring.
Caroline Knapp had a drinking problem, I’m sure deep down she knew it from the beginning. But hindsight is 20/20 and she takes us on her journey of self discovery and redemption. I found myself sitting at a bus stop at three in the morning, thanking God that the MTA decided that lights were a necessity for people waiting for transportation. It allowed me to finish this book and not worry about ruining my eyes.
Drinking is a lot of things to a lot of people. It can be an ice breaker, escape, a friend, an enemy. It causes families to break apart, disease and sometimes, even death. But those are cold views on what drinking effects. People rarely talk about the causes. Knapp does that for me in this book. She shows not just the effects of alcoholism but some of the reason why people get trapped by it.
Below is an excerpt from the book:
One morning you wake up and open your eyes. Your head feels like it weighs way too much, so much it hurts to move: you feel a throbbing behind one of your eyes, or in your temple. A sharp pain, a steady ache. Your brain hurts, as though the fluid between your brain and skull is thick and inflamed. You feel mildly nauseated and you can’t tell if you need to eat or if eating would make you sick. Inside, everything feels jittery and loose, like a car with bad wiring.
Next to you in the bed is a man. Perhaps you know him, perhaps you don’t.
You experience a moment of disoriented panic – what happened? exactly what happened? – and you take a quick inventory. Are you naked? Clothed? Is there any evidence of birth control? An empty condom wrapper, your diaphragm case lying on the floor? You close your eyes: you want to pretend to be sleeping in case he stirs; mostly, though, you want to collect your thoughts, try to patch the evening back together.
Bits and pieces come back to you. You remember the early part of the evening clearly, the first few drinks, the way you started to loosen up. Perhaps you remember dancing, or sitting in a corner with this man, somewhere dark – a bar, a restaurant, a quiet room away from the main party. Then things start to get a little blurred. You remember laughing you were making jokes, or laughing at his jokes. You felt giddy and light and you had a sense of freedom, as though some secret part of you were rising up, a part you rarely have access to when you’re not drinking. This felt like a kind of relief: sober is dry and uptight; drunk is fluid and liquid and loose.
Here is a link to read a longer excerpt, the whole of Chapter 6 I believe, from Drinking: A Love Story
- Book Review: Half a Life: A Memoir by Darin Strauss (saytaina.com)