I read Allen Carr’s book about quitting drinking just a few days after I, well, quit drinking.
I highly recommend it for anyone to read, whether they feel they have a problem with drinking or not. It really does make you look at alcohol in a different way. The first couple chapters are essentially a sales pitch for the book, which I didn’t really need, and the whole of it is written in a self-help style that can be a bit cheesy. But its message is simple, straightforward, and yet somehow revolutionary. At least, it was exactly what I needed to read when I was on day 3 and still feeling shaky and in shock about what had happened.
Like Jason Vale, he talks about the nature of alcohol, that it is addictive and anyone who drinks can become addicted. He uses the metaphor of a pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant that lures flies and other other insects with its sweet nectar, luring them further and further in until they can’t get out even when they try. The difference between a “normal drinker” and an “alcoholic” is merely one of degree. He says, in fact, that anyone who drinks is somewhere on that slide toward the middle of the pitcher plant. I don’t know if I believe that is universally true, but there is definitely some truth to it. I turn back to Jason Vale: he suggests, as a rather delightful thought experiment, that you substitute the word “bananas” for “alcohol” when you hear someone talk about how they don’t have a problem with alcohol: I never eat bananas before 5:00… I only eat them a few days a week … I decided to cut back to just one banana a day… I don’t eat bananas during the week but on the weekends I like to cut loose and eat the whole bunch … If you heard someone talking like this about their banana intake, wouldn’t it sound like they had a problem with bananas? Would they sound like “normal” banana eaters?
In Carr’s book, he goes through all of the reasons that people say they drink and dismantles them one by one. For instance, when people say they “like the taste.” Pure alcohol tastes terrible (and is very poisonous); it is the things that we put into it that sweeten and dilute it that we say we like the taste of. And yet, somehow no one wants to drink a non-alcoholic drink that tastes just like straight vodka, scotch, brandy, even wine. And even non-alcoholic beer is a tiny, tiny market compared to the market for alcoholic beer. So if we really liked the taste, wouldn’t we want to drink things that taste like that, whether or not they had alcohol in them?
Of course, I was most interested in the chapter where he talked about people who say they drink alcohol to relax or cope with stress. Here he made an interesting point that I feel I am coming to see the truth of, over these last weeks. He says that since drinking alcohol is debilitating, you are actually less able to cope with stress overall. And that in itself creates more stress, which creates an increased desire to drink, in a vicious circle.
At the end he encourages you to celebrate the fact that you don’t drink alcohol anymore, that you are off the merry-go-round. Tell yourself “I’m free!” when you see alcohol or see someone drinking. And this is actually quite powerful. When I first read this, as I said, it felt almost revolutionary, a “the scales have fallen from my eyes!” moment. And it’s still there in my head, a little spark, penetrating old thought processes and old assumptions. Making me listen differently when I hear people talk about alcohol. For instance, at that dinner party I mentioned in my first entry, one of the guests poured himself a glass of wine, offered it to my husband and me, which we declined, and then to one of the other guests. This guest smiled and said “Sure, just so you don’t have to drink alone.”
“Just so you don’t have to eat bananas alone …”