In Greek mythology, Sisyphus or “Sisyphos” was the king of Ephyra. He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top, repeating this action for eternity. This is exactly what it feels like when in the throes of addiction, it manifests in the “glorious joys” of feeding the addition, the hellish lows of knowing that it hollows out your psyche and distorts your reality. The great psychoanalyst, Carl Jung once observed that “every addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” I sometimes wonder if Jung was indeed an addict because only an addict understands what another addict experiences’ and only an addict understands addiction, no matter our insightful and empathetic the therapist.
No addict starts on this path wishing to be an addict, nor contemplating the possibility, that’s never the goal. The goals are numerous and cover a broad range of reasons including, the wonder of all wonders, experimentation and it’s not age-specific. This means that like me you may start experimenting much later in life. Contrary to the vast body of information available to the consumer of alcohol or narcotics, it is never discussed when the consumption is social because it happens in an environment of congeniality, fun and well-being. No-one hands out an AA booklet obligatory with the first glass of bubbly they innocently pour you over a Xmas dinner or because you’ve reached an important milestone in your career, oddly that would be counter-intuitive? The nearest analogy would be you wishing to learn to drive a vehicle, almost everyone and their dog will regale you with their first time, the dangers you will face on the road, and reel off comprehensive statistics on road fatalities every year. No-one asks you for a “licence to drink,” before handing you you’re first “coming of age” beer, just you’ve arrived at the cusp of adulthood now.
The effect of my first drink as it coursed through my virgin innards was wildly exciting, bring on feelings of euphoria, confidence, I never thought I lacked, and a sense of security, a security of assuredness that I had finally arrived, that I was part of the “in-group.” My upbringing boarded on the type of purist Calvinism that would’ve made John Wesley smile with approval. I was so far removed from the culture of drinking, that I had no idea there was a difference between malts, beers and wine. We were taught that all wine is bad and shown its dramatic social ills of abuse and marital “slow-motion” torture when the husband was drunk. The first time I saw people consume alcohol and behave respectably was a radical psychological conundrum for me, because I have never experienced it and, unbeknownst to me, I lacked social context.
I had contemplated having a drink for a while before I took the plunge, but the thing that set me back is that I had no idea where to start, we didn’t have the internet at the time and whilst I’m somewhat of an epistemophile, it did seem a tad weird for me to pop-in to my local library to question that buxom young librarian about the vagaries, or choices of my first libation. If not socially acceptable, then indeed it did seem socially inept for someone who had just moved to the “big city’ and was desperate to hide his country bumpkin proclivities. And anyway, there was also the niggling element of pride, after all, how can “boy wonder” not know, a hideous and damaging label that I had unwillingly dragged around since I crawled out the caves…….