Olivia Laing’s second book, “A Trip to Echo Springs,” takes its title from a line in Tennessee Williams’s play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It’s an apt phrase for a book about writers and alcoholism, with its combined dose of the sublime and the helplessly mortal. But “Echo Spring” is only the liquor cabinet, named after a brand of whiskey, as discussed in a review in the New Statesman
Alcoholism and addiction are two the biggest categories by which people are “othered.” To many a substance abuser is a celebrity, a skid-row drunk, or maybe your crazy Uncle Bob––but it’s always someone else, not you or the person sitting next to you. Hence, there is shame attached to this illness for the afflicted and those close to them. The fact is the one in ten people have problems with drugs or alcohol, numbers that tend to be much higher within creative communities. And most of them battle heroically with this problem in the face of a society that views them as derelict, dishonest, or morally bankrupt.
Users don’t fit typical stereotypes, as over 75% are productively employed and many highly successful. Among people who get flashes of brilliance from occasional mania, the numbers go to 85%. Science has recently shown that genuine addiction (as opposed to occasional binging) results from faulty brain wiring that those afflicted can contain, but never correct (See forthcoming DSM V).
This is why a TV show like Rehab with Dr. Drew should be a good idea––a program that treats addiction as the illness that it is. Continue reading “Addiction, television, and courage”