Writers and Addictions

June 2, 2015


To start this blog I want to state that addiction doesn't only haunt writers. Many people suffer from addiction. It is, however, said that every single writer is a substance abuser. So what makes the ordinary person avoid substance abuse and the writer dive right in?


No matter what the substance, there is a special kind of truth to what’s being said. Whether you’re drinking fourteen cups of coffee every a day or drinking alcohol to get to that certain easy-to-obtain mind-enhancing place to complete the work. There are many different kinds of addictions out there, not all of them are bad for you and at the same time not all are good for you either.


Many people do not understand why or how other people become addicted. Many just assume that drug abusers lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behavior. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes a lot more than good intentions or a strong will.


Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her. (This definition is straight from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.)


We creative types, spend so much time with our anxieties. The fears of not being good enough, of looming deadlines, critics, our material or lack thereof.  All of these things can send us seeking relief in booze and dope. Struggles with our inner-demons can make it almost impossible not to have that one go to and no one knows inner demons better than writer. 


The muse has always been a serious subject for writers. It’s always asked, “Where does the inspiration come from?” Unfortunately some writers use booze to travel to their dark side, they aren’t looking to sedate their anxieties. These people believe that their source of addiction help them become a better creative genius.


We’ve all heard it, a writer’s life is a lonely life. Too often writers and poets are working alone at home, in a publisher’s cubicle, or in cabin retreat where they can succumb to the deadly combination of isolation and addiction just by the boredom of it all. Being alone with the voices in your head doesn’t always end well.  You can be your worst critic and when it’s just you dancing that dangerous tango with the bottle things can get dark quickly.


You’re not alone. 


Lots of famous writers struggle, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote 60,000 words in just six days. The reason was cocaine. Of course, the drug mentioned in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde involved a white powdery substance.


The great Stephen King, master of horror and cocaine! King churned out thousands of pages of work year after year. In his memoir, "On Writing: 10th Anniversary Addition: A Memoir of the Craft," King tells us that for years, his drug and alcohol addictions were so bad, he can barely remember working on some of his best-known best-sellers.


Think you’ve heard it all? Charles Baudelaire wrote with a pet bat in a cage on his writing desk.


Yeah, we all have our rituals and substances. A writer's audience is and always will remain invisible to them. When I sit at my desk to write it’s just me and my characters. The readers are the last thing on my mind. Do I want to make them happy? Of course, but doing the work is not a team effort. It’s a solo process and the pressure can be crushing. 


Drinking for me is a slippery slope. I used it a lot when I was younger to dull the thinking process. To make the monsters on my shoulders a little less noisy and flip on my autopilot. Fortunately, life is a lot better now that I live on my own. Not that my parents use to lock me in a closet or beat me senseless, but living with them did have its demons.


Let’s just say, they have their expectations about what a child should do to earn their keep and because of it I had to mute out a lot of myself. It was a pressing weight consistently on my shoulders, one that I never handled well. I still don’t handle it well. 


But I'm still learning.  

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