Saturday, August 16, 2008

Blog crawl -- Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 7

Bloggers are starting to read -- and post on -- Neil Steinberg's memoir "Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life."

First up: Paige Dropping Pounds which records "the journey -- to my goal of weighing 160 lbs."
So I read this book called Drunkard by Neil Steinberg. The cover had lime green lettering with a large ice cube and it screamed "You need to read me!" from the shelf of a Barnes & Noble and I purchased it on Friday night. I was done by 3:30pm on Saturday. It is not a thin book. It is the memoir of one man's struggle with alcoholism.

But it is not just for alcoholics.

It is a book for anyone facing an addiction, anyone trying to climb a mountain, anyone who is not perfect, and anyone who maybe thinks they in fact are perfect... and they've always wondered what the other side is like. I'm pretty sure that having read this book is going to be one of those important turning points in this journey for me. I can't be certain, but I have that feeling... that mattering feeling you get when you know something is important.

It's not a how-to book. I like those. The lists and forms and calendars in them make me feel calm and in control.

Drunkard is a tale, a chronology, a documentary. It is honest and it does not suppose to tell you there is hope for you... the only message is "This is my story" ... not to discount the actual many messages... but really, that's the bottom line. ***

The catalyst to change for the Drunkard in the book was a night in jail. The law forced him into rehab. No one is going to force me into anything over weight loss. There is no crime. There are no legal ramifications. There are mostly only serious health consequences... those clearly aren't having any effect on my actions...

But this book, this book opened my eyes to the true nature of my habits... almost all of them... they are an addicts habits. The cravings, the needs, the price and joy in the ritual, the feeling that it my god damned right to do as I please if it makes me feel good, the shame, the disbelief at how much of a choke-hold it has on your day-to-day life, the unforeseen triggers, the unfolding hell with strict, dark, blinders on.

But it opened my eyes -- and reminded me that if I am to eliminate some habits or activities or joy -- that I better find something to replace it with. Hopefully I'll be willing to keep my eyes open long enough to make some real, actual, measurable, progress.
As someone who has occasionally struggled with weight, I too have found myself wondering, "Why couldn't I have a health problem that everyone else would take seriously and allow me to take seriously?"

Nobody questions when a drunk doesn't want alcohol in the house -- everyone understands that "self control" isn't going to help him limit his intake to "just one beer." But when a fatso doesn't want high-calorie, low-food value foods to come into the house, everyone expects him to just exercise some "self control" and have "just one cookie."

That said, if given the choice, I'd rather be a fatso than a drunkard.

Of course, that's actually a false choice -- you can always do both.

Next up, The Hedy Experience, a blog by a Chicago writer with a "
unhealthy yet purely intellectual crush on Neil Steinberg" who wrote two lengthy posts on the topic of Drunkard.

The First:
Read Neil’s book if you’d like a better understanding of why alcoholics do the batshit crazy things they do. Read it if you’ve always been skeptical about Alcoholics Anonymous and the whole higher power thing.

Don’t read it if you want a juicy, emotionally charged account of Neil’s battle back to sobriety. He’s a journalist. Plus, he just ain’t that kinda guy.

And the jury’s still out if Neil is the sort of guy to stay sober.
The Second:
Having grown up in a family where alcohol was literally non-existent, I can’t begin to know what it’s like living with an alcoholic.

I do know that it means a cycle of profound pain and anger and disappointment and grief for those touched by it. And I’ve seen how that deep, in-your-bones brand of hurt bruises generations because it changes people and their relationships and their view of the world.

But here’s the deal.

Anytime learning about a topic takes me from a place of anger and judgment to a place of compassion and understanding, I feel like I’m growing a bit and doing my part to become a better citizen.

I wrote on this for one reason and one reason only: Because Neil Steinberg’s book Drunkard transformed my perception of alcoholism. This is a Very Big Deal, as Mom can attest. She was shocked by what I wrote because we’ve argued repeatedly (and sometimes rather loudly) about the alcoholism/disease thing over the years.

Beyond the small miracle of changing my narrow opinion about alcoholism, Neil’s book has me assessing our family history to determine if we’re at risk of allowing it to ruin our lives. It's entirely possible. And it is frightening.

Again, I can't imagine what Neil's drinking put his wife and children through. But his book helped me understand that alcoholism isn't about wanting to hurt your spouse or family, it's about your body and your brain making it damn near impossible to avoid hurting them.

And that kind of pain is simply unimaginable.
Unimaginable, but for too many families, all too real.


This may be the last Steinbook Roundup for a while. The references are slowing way down and Mrs. SCAM says I should write about something else anyway. (She's kinda pissed about Mr. Steinberg's context free piece about The University of Chicago honoring the name and ideas of economist Milton Friedman.)

So, unless there is a sudden flurry of Steinbook activity, please don't be surprised when future posts referencing Mr. Steinberg are metaphorical kicks to his shins. But until then, go buy the book.

Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 6
Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 5
Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 4
Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 3
Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 2
Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 1

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