Alcohol is a Trap for Grievers

Books about grief are not my favorite. I don’t find comfort in reading the details of someone else’s depression or hard time when I’m in the same, dark place. More conventional grief books tend to either lecture that their way is the one and only way to cope or guide us through a dreary depression without the triumphantly hopeful ending we all envision for ourselves. The only exception seems to be if that hard time is loosely related and recounted with the intent to entertain and inform.

With that in mind, every week this month I will present an unconventional book to read while coping with grief. Some books might not be for you. My mission isn’t necessarily to demand you read these books, although I highly recommend each one, but instead to promote the notion of using the whole bookstore to avoid being relegated to the eight books in the grief section. We are going to cover some important topics: alcohol and addiction, inspiration, health and identity.

I guess the idea to write about alternative books for grief has been in the back of my mind for a while but recently I felt an even stronger desire to spread the good word.

A friend, let’s call her Catherine, approached me the other day asking for suggestions for her friend whom we will call Julia. Catherine told me Julia’s mother committed suicide 10 years ago. Julia was in her early 20s at the time. Since her mother’s death she’s gotten married and had two children. When she asked me if I could email her a few grief resources, I, of course, said yes. Then she expressed her gratitude for my help and said Julia confessed to her she couldn’t keep curling up with a bottle of wine every night in front of the TV with a husband, two kids and a job. It’s very embarrassing to admit before I read Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety, I wouldn’t have thought twice about Julia’s wine habit.

Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety, written by Sacha Z. Scoblic, is a story of her life after coming out as an alcoholic. It may seem like a stretch to read a memoir about sobriety to cope with grief but in addition to providing you with a hand-held guide to defining your possible dependency on alcohol, Sacha’s story is similar to ours. She is forced to adjust to her new sober identity, leaving her former self behind. She encounters insensitivity and confusion about how to function in her new role, which is something easy to understand after experiencing a relabeling following the death of my mother.

In one section, she recounts a dinner party hosted by a friend who loves to soak each dish in alcohol. Sacha daydreams of her friend’s plot against her until she confronts the issue only to discover her friend was clueless to the sensitivity and happy to adjust.

Her underlying message, that people are a lot nicer than we think they are, seems like a good mantra to adopt. Simply telling people they are being insensitive or asking for something you need when having a hard time can be a hurdling feat but in the end it’s the proverbial sigh of relief we often crave.

In addition to learning how Sacha navigates her new identity she also teaches us, ever so subtly, how to define our relationship with alcohol. I asked the fantastic author herself to email me her assessment of Catherine’s friend Julia.

She wrote, “It’s tempting to escape to the bottle, but ask: How is that escape going to help your feeling of being overwhelmed? Oh, you say, it’s fantastic; I feel warm and cozy and I don’t worry about things. Indeed, at first it will numb you–for a few hours. But in the morning you’ll have a headache, give the kids junk instead of good food because now you’re late, forget your husband’s name, see the laundry you meant to do last night, arrive late at work, and do your job less efficiently, which in turn means things start to pile up at work as they are at home. Then you get home and, I’ve done it again, this life business is hard, I deserve a drink. And the cycle repeats. In other words, the bottle is not an escape; it is a trap. A seductive one, to be sure, but a trap nonetheless.”

More than the thought-provoking prose Sacha is clearly capable of, her book is a gift. She tells the story us the meaty part of the story. With the problem acknowledged from the onset, we can enjoy the bumpy road to the triumphant happy ending.

Sacha Z. Scoblic’s book is available on Amazon, here: http://www.amazon.com/Unwasted-Sobriety-Sacha-Z-Scoblic/dp/080653429X!

Click here to listen to an interview with the author on WHYY: http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2011/11/09/sacha-scoblics-lush-sobriety/.

 

Lauren Muscarella

More Articles Written by Lauren

Lauren started the blog Mama Quest (http://mamaquest.org) in May 2010 to share stories of her journey through loss after losing her mother in 2006 at age 20. The blog also serves as an outlet to pass on wisdom she received from her mother, who died of breast cancer at 52. After an overwhelmingly positive response to the blog, she launched Trauma to Art (http://trauma2art.com), a movement to support and facilitate creative expression from those who have experienced loss. Now Lauren works to build the Trauma to Art community while writing a book of creative arts therapy activities for confronting grief as well as preserving the memory of lost loved ones. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys volunteering, traveling, wine tasting, and learning to speak French.

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  • Thank you for this unique article and for pointing out the dangers of using alcohol to dull the pain of grief. As the author of seven grief resources, I must point out that not all of these resources detail depression. My book, Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life, for example, cites steps readers may take to deal with grief and craft a new beginning themselves.

  • Hi Harriet.

    Thank you for your comment. I have not read your book. I guess my point is that I don’t want to read any book with grief in the title. And all of the ones I’ve picked up have been preachy and seek to label. There certainly seem to be patterns that people go through, for some reason the industry calls them steps. I feel like coping with grief is universal in the sense that we deal with loss every day. We lose jobs. We lose friendships. I’d rather be inspired than reminded. I do have a question. What made you want to write that book? What inspires you? What makes your perspective unique? What if I don’t want steps? What if I want to figure some parts of grief out for myself?

    Much love,
    Lauren

  • Christina Smythe says:

    I agree. I know people grieve in different ways but resorting to alcohol would not help in properly recovering and dealing with grief. I would suggest surrounding yourself with people who can serve as your support system. If you live far away from them, I can suggest constantly talking and communicating with family and friends online. There is this application called Evertalk within Facebook that I found which allows people to create a separate space for loved ones they have lost to remember them and celebrate their lives. I have tried it myself when I lost my husband. I created a memorial page for him in Evertalk where I uploaded photos of him and posted other memories of him. The stories and messages from family and friends written in the guestbook within Evertalk also helped me a lot as they gave me comfort in that very difficult time. Anyways, I wanted to pass along the recommendation to check out Evertalk within Facebook. Their web site is http://www.everta.lk

    Hope this helps.

  • Jacklyn Johnson says:

    That is right. Seek help from friends or try grief counseling. Thanks for the heads up on the Evertalk page Christina.