I've read a number of books which describe alcoholics as having 'a hole in the soul'.
Often alcohol addicts talk about having felt different from other people all their lives. They describe a childhood of standing on the outside, looking in.
For these people alcohol, from the moment they first experience it, begins to fill that hole. It makes them complete. It provides the answer to the question they couldn't put into words.
But the hole never totally goes away. They pour more and more booze into it and it just seems to leak out of the bottom. Very quickly, and horribly young, they find themselves completely cornered by the wine witch.
Sometimes there's a specific reason for the 'hole in the soul.' David Goldman from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the US states that "the strongest single predictor for both alcoholism and depression is having been sexually abused or traumatised in childhood."
Ann Dowsett Johnston quotes a counsellor in her book 'Drink' saying "A lot of young girls report that their use of alcohol is not to party. Life is hard, and it's a way to put life in the corner."
Whenever I read stories and statistics like these, I feel guilty.
I have never felt that I had a 'hole in the soul.' I always felt part of the crowd, never different. I had an embarrassingly happy and privileged childhood. Alcohol didn't make me feel complete, or heal a wound. I never saw life as 'hard.'
I drank for far more selfish, and cowardly reasons.
I saw myself as one of life's optimists. My glass was always half full, not half empty. (Ironic really, as in actuality my glass was either totally full or, a few seconds later, totally empty. Repeat ad infinitum).
Life always came easy to me. I had a happy family, top exam grades - without trying too hard, and lots of friends. I walked into one of the best universities in the world, and then one of the top graduate jobs in the ad industry.
I was always upbeat, gliding through life. I didn't believe in drama, trauma or navel gazing. I subscribed to the 'stiff upper lip' and 'just get on with it' school of life.
It's only now I see that I spent my whole life not dealing with any negative emotions or experiences, but ignoring them. I used alcohol not to fill a hole, but just to adjust all the dials to make life that bit smoother and easier.
Feeling stressed? Have a drink! Scared? Drink! Bored? Drink! Confused? Drink!
In fact, my charmed life turned me into a total coward. I stayed with the same company for twenty years because it was all going well, it was easy, I was comfortable, why change? Ditto my refusal to discuss moving the family out of London.
For decades I avoided any situation which might involve conflict, change or - God forbid - failure. I drank not because my past had been too hard, but because it had been too easy.
And now, ironically, I see that in drinking to avoid any negative emotion and quash my fear of failure, my life became the mess I'd so desperately tried to avoid.
I've spent decades not growing, learning or moving forward, but desperately treading water in a sea of Sauvignon Blanc, my head just poking above the water, shouting "it's all going swimmingly!".
But now I'm learning, slowly, how to deal with all those day to day ups and downs. I'm getting braver. I don't fear change so much, in fact I'm started to embrace it.
Onwards and upwards!