Saturday, 24 December 2016

Stephen King on Booze

We are in Scotland for the festive period, hunkered down around blazing fires, keeping out storm Brenda who is raging outside.

(Don't you just love the names they pick for storms? Brenda sounds like she'd be more at home in the Bingo Hall or with a knitting circle rather than flooding roads and knocking down power lines).

Whenever I get to take a break from the frenetic Christmas supermarket shopping and last minute present buying and wrapping, I've been reading Stephen King's book: On Writing.

I bought this book because it was about writing. Little did I know, it also covers King's alcoholism, about which he writes brilliantly.

King says that when he first realised that he was an alcoholic his immediate reaction was to be incredibly careful not to let anyone know, otherwise someone would tell him to get control of his drinking.

Telling an alcoholic to control his drinking, he writes, is like telling a guy suffering the world's most cataclysmic case of diarrhoea to control his shitting.

Eew, but we know what he means, don't we?

King says it's been almost twelve years since I took a drink, and I'm still struck by disbelief when I see someone with a half-finished glass of wine near at hand. I want to get up, go over, and yell 'Finish that! Why don't you finish that?' into his or her face. I found the idea of social drinking ludicrous - if you didn't want to get drunk, why not have a Coke?

Well, quite.

But the really fascinating thing about King's story is how his subconscious was crying for help through his writing.

It was, apparently, many years before King realised that the alcoholic writer and ex-schoolteacher who starred in The Shining was actually himself. He had been up to his neck in denial, but somewhere, deep inside his brain, in the part that writes the stories, he knew.

Ten years later, in 1986, he wrote Misery, a title, he says, which accurately described his state of mind. The hero - a writer again - is tortured by a psychotic nurse. The nurse, Annie Wilkes, he says (with the benefit of hindsight) was coke, Annie was booze, and I decided that I was tired of being Annie's pet writer.

The book which followed Misery was Tommyknockers, which King says he wrote with cotton swabs stuck up his nose to stop blood from his cocaine ravaged nostrils dripping all over his typewriter keys.

In this novel, alien creatures get inside your head and start messing about in there. The upside to this alien activity for the host is boundless energy and a superficial intelligence, but in exchange they give their soul. King writes it was the best metaphor for drugs and alcohol my tired, overstressed mind could come up with.

So, if you're tempted tomorrow to have just the one glass of wine with your Christmas lunch, then remember that alcohol is not your best friend, your greatest fan; she is a crazy obsessive with a penchant for amputation (or 'hobbling' in the film version). She will get inside your head and she will steal your soul.

Get the hell out of there before it's too late.

(If you need more motivation, then read this one: Relapse Stories)

Love to you all, and have a very, very merry (but sober) Christmas! It'll be awesome! See you on the other side....

SM x

P.S. I've just been told that the storm is actually Barbara, not Brenda. Still more redolent of home knitted jumpers and self sufficiency than 100mph winds....


  1. Thanks SM for the robust reminder. I am anticipating my 1st AF Christmas for a long time with both trepidation and excitement (now 8 months sober which I don't want to jeopardise.)Happy Christmas xx

  2. Hi SM, The link to “Relapse stories” is definitely recommended reading, and a very timely reminder to myself, and no doubt many others at this time of year. It is all too easy to forget the reasons why we gave up alcohol in the first place, and for that sneaky, devious Bitch/Demon to use the opportunity to fool us into remembering what we used to think of as the “Good” things about drinking alcohol.
    Every area of my life has improved massively for the better since I quit drinking alcohol, and I can't think of one single thing that has not improved because of it. Or for that matter any single thing that would be enhanced by my returning to drinking again.
    Reading through your “Relapse Stories” has just reminded me of all the reasons to stay strong and focused on why I started this journey in the first place, thank you for that.

    Wishing SM and everyone else a very happy Christmas.

    Steve Green.

  3. Heading into my first sober holiday season and I feel strangely at peace with the decision. I am looking forward to savoring every minute and remembering the finite details. Should be wonderful. Happy holidays to you and yours. Hope the storm passes soon.

  4. Wonderful analogy Stephen King makes to drugs and alcohol in his writing - he is a genious. Actually one of my favourite pieces of writing he penned is his introduction to The Far side Gallery 2 by Gary Larson. Stephen writes: "Like a chill in a dark place, good cartoons are momentary frisson; they are a hit like a drug that is addicting but does no damage; does, in fact, good".
    Merry Christmas SM x

  5. What really struck me about Kings books was his love of scope. Clearly a bad sign...

    I agree with him. I never really understood social drinking.

    Merry Christmas.


  6. Merry Christmas SM hope the storm isn't too bad. A few days ago I was thinking maybe I would drink Christmas Day, but I'm not going to. I can't afford yet another day 1. It's never worth it. X

  7. Happy Christmas sm!!!! My first sober one in 24 years (apart from
    Being pregnant) currently sat watching my girls play with all their toys and I'm feeling amazing! This time last year I was hiding being sick with a hangover. I can not thankyou enough for your blog, inspiration and advice. You have changed my life, literally!

    Have a fab Christmas
    Hurricane Barbara hit us on Friday/Saturday ( preston, Lancashire) we survived!! Xxxxx

  8. Merry Chrismas SM! Thank you for this...I'll have to read up on Stephen King as I did not know he was an alcoholic, although thinking of all his films it seems quite right. You contribute so much to the blogging world and I love following your journey!

  9. Merry Christmas SM. Successfully sober and having the best time. Why has it taken me 35 years to realise this. Strangely just finished reading a Stephen King, love creepy stories at xmas. I also agree with the social drinking thing - only thought it through lately but what is the point of one drink. Doesn't even taste that nice!

  10. I love Stephen Kings stories-and Misery especially. I never put it together that Annie was his addictions, but it makes so much sense. He referred to her as "the goddess" and she delivered the tide (painkillers) interesting!

    Merry Sober Christmas everyone. I had a merry day, but happy to be in my jammies drinking peppermint coffee now. I was gifted a few bottles of wine which I promptly re-gifted hehehe.

  11. I'm here at day 1 (not for the first time, but definitely for the last). I had 3 months sober, thanks to your blog, but for some unknown reason decided that 1 glass of wine on holiday in November was a good idea - obviously it wasn't. Anyway, next Christmas Day will be my 1-year soberversary - here I go!!

  12. It's so hard but you can do this!!! One day at a time xx

    1. Thanks Ang75 - feeling determined this time!

  13. I could also never understand anyone leaving a half a glass of wine! wtf?! I used to finish everyone's leftover wine after a dinner party. Classy stuff:) I didn't know Stephen King was an alcholic. The story Misery makes so much sense in that context. xxx