“Was it an act of bravery when you gave up drinking?”
“I never really gave it up,” she said. “That isn’t how alcoholics do it. They can’t do it that way. You employ a lot of sideways thinking instead. One day at a time, easy does it, live and let live, all that. But the center of it is this: you give up believing you can control your drinking. That idea was a myth you told yourself, and that’s what you give up. The myth… What I do – what we do – to keep away from the first one… it’s not that kind of bravery. In spite of movies like The Last Weekend, I think what we do is pretty undramatic.”
Stephen King, Library Policeman, 1990
The first time I read this story I was in ninth or tenth grade and didn’t start drinking yet. I tried it on more than a couple occasions, yes, but I had not even come to buy it or have been to a single drinking party. So, I don’t even remember reading this chapter where the protagonist Sam meets the couple of people who turn out to be problem drinkers and who he’s yet to find out are going to cooperate with him to beat the ultimate evil of Eternal Librarian and Sam’s greatest fear, the Library Policeman. I don’t remember alcoholics or the candy that Sam used to beat the evil, so to speak, but I do remember getting freaked out a bit. After all, Sam’s greatest fear came from a very real situation of being raped by a person in position of power, something he denied has happened to him for decades. Thankfully, he didn’t become alcoholic himself to deal with that experience.
When I read this book again earlier this year, the above passage struck me between the eyes. It is always kinda nice and kinda freaky for a bit to come upon something you’ve missed in the process in the past. It happened to me writing a story 17 years ago about a problem drinking who eventually dies from it, and not realizing that I wrote a cautionary tale to myself.
I always respected Stephen King for his writing, freaky or not, but I came to respect him more after finding out he had a serious drinking problem and addiction to prescription pills, and that he was brave enough to come through by joining self help groups like AA and kept going forward after that, keeping his family and keep writing great books. His writing about problematic behaviors, family violence, and addiction in his scary stories always made more freaked out because I could feel the real terror of it. The real horror is not the ultimate evil with fangs and bat wings, it’s what people do to each other.
And the real bravery and relief is learning that people do get through those experiences and still manage to have a good life after, learning from trouble others cause and from their own errors.
p.s. as for The Last Weekend movie, I think I wrote it before, maybe I should revisit it one day 😊
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