The Lion, The Witch, and The Addict

Occasionally I run across things in unexpected places that, nonetheless, I relate to drug addiction, alcohol abuse, alcoholism and general dysfunction.

Laura Miller is a literary critic for the online magazine Salon.  A lifelong reader, she has some interesting things to say about readers and reading in general, but I was especially taken by the first paragraph of her recent book about the Narnia novels, by C. S. Lewis, which I offer below.

In one of the most vivid memories from my childhood, nothing happens. On a clear, sunny day, I’m standing near a curb in the quiet suburban California neighborhood where my family lives, and I’m wishing, with every bit of my self, for two things. First, I want a place I’ve read about in a book to really exist, and second, I want to be able to go there. I want this so badly I’m pretty sure the misery of not getting it will kill me. For the rest of my life, I will never want anything quite so badly again. The Magician’s Book

Miller goes on to speak of her long-term relationship with Lewis’s writing, and her analysis is fascinating to a lover of young people’s fiction like me.  What really struck me, however, was the similarity of her feelings, expressed in the paragraph above, to my feelings about alcohol and drugs.

I was introduced to amphetamines at age sixteen, and alcohol two years later.  I was enthralled.  Both drugs made me 10 feet tall, smarter, no longer shy, able to say what I was thinking (while impairing the quality of my thought), and generally an all ’round clever fellow.  I thought. I was able to overlook the fact that the first made me talk — boringly and nonstop — and caused me to lose a lot of sleep, while the latter made me violently ill the first time I drank in quantity and many times thereafter.  The young are resilient, and we tend to remember the good things and forget the bad (as do most of us as adults, unless we’re getting off on a resentment of some kind and don’t want to let our superior feelings go).

But chasing that first high, that first drunk and those feelings, occupied a lot of my time for the following 27 years.  I came close a few times, early on, but as time passed and my addictions claimed more and more of my attention, the moments of enjoyment became fewer.  The last few years were mostly depression and misery, except for the relief of that first drink or the next hit of drugs.  Those fleeting, unattainable feelings had become the focus of my life.

They remained that way until I got clean and sober, and began to discover that comfort — occasionally happiness, even joy — are found far more reliably sober than they were when I couldn’t even recognize the opportunities.

Anyone relate to any of that?

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