I believe it was a ’56 Buick. I know it cost $50. It was my first car and I drove it mostly drunk, as I was drinking quite a bit in the Army. I would leave Ft. Dix sober, it being only Friday afternoon, drive the two hours to Brooklyn or Manhattan, and begin a weekend of drinking, hitting the road late Sunday afternoon snookered, sometimes not remembering to start the windshield wipers in a driving rainstorm.
How can a person not die that way? Five of our seven Nobel Prize-winning writers were alcoholics. The list of hard drinking writers, male and female, American, Brit, and everything else, is as long as your arm (if your arm is the length of the Jersey shore). For me, it was a passing problem. But what’s the story with all those other writers? What’s the connection between a bottle of Scotch and a well-told story—or a well-made painting?
Part of the problem is that creative folks have an extra dash of energy that is very hard to quiet. The act of creation itself doesn’t quiet that energy—in fact, sometimes it increases it, as creating can produce adrenalin and excitement. Alcohol has traditionally come in handy to take the edge off all that energy and make a person feel “quieter and more normal.” There are other ways to get this same result; but traditionally creative and performing artists have used alcohol and other drugs to deal with their excess energy.
Another part of the problem is the existential part: it has always been hard for creatives to keep meaning afloat. For some people, meaning is a lifelong problem; and alcohol becomes a convenient meaning substitute, a substance to use and a place to go to not have to think about meaning for a while and to not be pestered by meaninglessness for a while. I have a lot to say about this issue in books of mine like The Van Gogh Blues and Rethinking Depression.
If you have a troubled relationship with alcohol (or any other drug), I recommend that you pick up my book Creative Recovery, which is the only book around that describes a recovery program specifically for creatives. I wrote it with the addiction specialist Dr. Susan Raeburn and readers have found in very valuable. So, if alcohol is one of your demons, please take a look at Creative Recovery.
You can find Creative Recovery here:
You can find The Van Gogh Blues here:
You can find Rethinking Depression here: