Drinking : a love story

by Caroline Knapp

Paper Book, 2005




New York : Bantam Dell, 2005.


"It happened this way: I fell in love and then, because the love was ruining everything I cared about, I had to fall out." So begins Drinking: A Love Story, journalist Caroline Knapp's brave and powerful memoir of her twenty years as a functioning alcoholic. Knapp writes that she loved liquor the way she loved bad men and, like all tragic love stories, hers is a tale of seduction and betrayal, a testament to the alluring but ultimately destructive powers of addiction. Fifteen million Americans a year are afflicted with the disease of alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Caroline Knapp, for example, started drinking at age fourteen. She drank through her years at an Ivy League college, through an award-winning career as a lifestyle editor and columnist. Publicly she was a dutiful daughter, attentive friend, sophisticated professional. Privately she was drinking herself into oblivion, trapped in love relationships that continued to undermine her self-esteem - until a series of personal crises forced her to confront and ultimately break free of the "liquid armor" she'd used to shield herself from the complicated battles of growing up. Caroline Knapp's ruthless self-examination, moral courage, and singular ability as a writer inform this remarkable memoir with many new insights about alcoholism, but more important, with many profound insights about life.… (more)


½ (301 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member karieh
“Drinking: A Love Story” – even the title is compelling. And the first line – “It happened this way: I fell in love and then, because the love was ruining everything I cared about, I had to fall out.” And the love to which she is referring is, of course, with alcohol.

And she’s
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right…although I never thought about alcoholism that way before. There are many similarities between this love and the love for someone who seems perfect at first but turns out to be life changing in the most destructive ways.

“I loved the way drink made me feel, and I loved its special power of deflection; its ability to shift my focus away from my own awareness of self and onto something else, something less painful than my own feeling. I loved the sounds of drink: the slide of a cork as it eased out of a wine bottle, the distinct glug-glug of booze pouring into a glass, the clatter of ice cubes in a tumbler. I loved the rituals, the camaraderie of drinking with others, the warming, melting feelings of ease and courage it gave me.”

Seductive, isn’t it?

Caroline Knapp is painfully honest as she tells her story, seemingly holding nothing back as she tells the reader about her theories on her own alcoholism, about the factors in her life, physical, emotional and circumstantial that may have contributed to this deadly love. While I am very fortunate to not share that love, I sympathized with her many times as she described her life.

“Growing up, I never heard my parents say “I love you,” not to us and not to each other. I never heard them fight either. That’s something else.”

I must have read that line a dozen times in disbelief. While she never describes any physical abuse, the idea that a child grows up not hearing “I love you” several times a day from their parent just breaks my heart.

I once worked with a man who was a recovering alcoholic, and I remember him asking me if I was able to have just one drink at a sitting. I told him I was, that sometimes that drink would go unfinished. He shook his head and told me that he couldn’t imagine taking a first sip of a drink and then not ending up blacking out at the end of an evening. So this section resonated with me.

“My mother didn’t drink that way. Neither did my sister. They’d have a glass of wine at dinner – a single glass – and if you tried to pour more, they’d cover the glass with a hand and say, “No, thanks. I’ve had enough”. Enough? That’s a foreign word to an alcoholic, absolutely unknown. There is never enough, no such thing.”

That thought is chilling to me – that once the drinking starts – it never stops.

The description of the elaborate planning that goes into being a “high functioning alcoholic” (as Knapp describes herself) seemed exhausting to me. Visiting different liquor stores each day, making up parties and events to explain the volume of the purchases, hiding booze in closets and plants. Though much of Knapp’s story comes through in the carefully strengthening voice of someone who has lived through a nightmare and is carefully rebuilding, sometimes she is able to look at her past life with humor.

“Recycling is a problem to the active alcoholic: you have to see all those bottles, heaped together in the recycling bin, and that can be a disconcerting image. Luckily, I did most of my solitary, alcoholic drinking in communities that didn’t then recycle, so I’d pile the bottles into a heavy plastic garbage bag and lug them out to the curb or heave them into a Dumpster, hoping no one nearby heard all the glass clinking and rattling as I went along.”

Caroline Knapp’s story is a compelling one, a look at the destruction that the love of drink can have on a life, on several lives as she talks to people she meets in AA, on a country as she gives chilling statistics and facts. And it’s a story that doesn’t have a happy ending.

As the book comes to a close, she is still sober, but she is the first to admit that the odds are against her and that it is a daily, hourly fight to stay that way.

“I once heard a woman say that as an alcoholic, a part of her will always be deeply attracted to alcohol, which seemed a very simple way of putting it, and very true. The attraction – the pull, the hunger, the yearning – doesn’t die when you say goodbye to the drink, any more than the pull toward a bad lover dies when you finally walk out the door.”

Because, of course, while closed, that door is still there, and can be opened once again.
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LibraryThing member elliottrainbow
I first this book not long after I left rehab (for drinking, of course) on the seventh day. I would occasionally read it again during periods of sobriety - and heavy drinking. I've never read a book on alcoholism quite like it but now that I've been sober for almost nineteen months, I don't think I
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can read it again if I want to stay sober. Let me explain...it's such a wonderful, fascinating, hypnotic book, that for an alcoholic to read such detailed chapters about drinking and the obsession of it might make me want to take a drink. Until I read this book I thought I was the only alcoholic that truly LOVED drinking and all of its rituals. I also thought I was the only alcoholic that thought about the good drinking memories I had and not just the ones concerning sickness, jail, car accidents and broken relationships. I was saddened to read that a few years after this book was published, Caroline Knapp died of lung cancer (her father and mother both died of cancer). She was a wonderful, thoughtful writer and I hope she is at peace.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
This is great reading for anyone involved in any way with an alcoholic, and who isn't? Caroline Knapp says so many pertinent things: (at the beginning of her drinking) I loved the way drink made me feel, and I loved its special power of deflection, its ability to shift my focus away from my own
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awareness of self and onto something else, something less painful than my own feelings. - Alcoholism is a disease of more (I've heard that from other alcoholics, they can never get enough. There's no end point to their drinking). - When you're actively alcoholic, you don't bother to solve problems, even petty ones, in part because you have no faith in your ability to make changes. You get so used to being a passive participant in your own life... - (on deciding to go into rehab) I felt like I was giving up the one link I had to peace and solace, my truest friend, my lover. (or as Norman Mailer said) sobriety kills off all the little "capillaries of bonhomie." - (at the end of her drinking career) My life was so woefully embarrassing. It was embarrassing and tedious and exhausting and in the end, what was the point? You drink to avoid those painful choices and you wake up in the morning and all those choices are still with you, still unfaced; all those unresolved problems are hanging around your neck like pieces of lead, weighing you down, keeping you from moving forward. - ...thinking or acting alcoholically...the search for an external solution ..."My husband is acting like an idiot," a woman said at a meeting. "I have to remember that the solution is not "Get a new husband." What an excellent book to read, especially this time of the year.
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LibraryThing member peonygoat
An excellent memoir about one woman’s drinking and coming into recovery.
LibraryThing member dukedom_enough
I've had the good fortune not to be touched by the addiction of anyone close to me, but I was very impressed by Knapp's memoir of her drinking problem. She was a terrific writer.
LibraryThing member Pamici
A thorough and honest look at one woman's addiction, it's roots and consequences. Not exactly an easy book to get through. As she pointed out, the path of an addict can be very tedious, in spite of the drama inherent in it. This book was much the same.
LibraryThing member satyridae
Very powerful memoir by a high-functioning alcoholic in which she relates her drinking history and her first couple years of sobriety. Knapp was an excellent writer, and a brave woman.
LibraryThing member nmele
Caroline Knapp's memoir of alcoholism is moving and, like Pete Hamill's memoir, both humorously self-aware and hard-nosed in examining the writer's addiction to alcohol. Otherwise, this is a different book and one which has inspired me to reexamine my own attitudes toward addiction, addicts and the
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ways I cope with emotions.
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LibraryThing member revslick
Caroline gives her story of addiction to alcohol moving toward recovery. It is well written and gives some good incite for those that struggle to understand addiction or how a person can become addicted without past trauma or a genetic link. My only critique is it is 89% drunkalogue. I don't mind
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drunkalogues but the intriguing journey is that of recovery, which she glosses over and spends very little talking about besides saying it was painful at first and has changed her life for the better.
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LibraryThing member dysmonia
Caroline Knapp was a gifted writer, and the story of her struggle with alcohol is beautifully told.
LibraryThing member dickmanikowski
Well written story of the author's descent into alcoholism and her achievement of sobriety. Great insights about the dynamics of addiction and of recovery through institutional treatment and active and continuing participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
It is difficult to ready any story about a fall from grace, especially one written as honestly and bluntly as Caroline Knapp's. The story winds its way around different out-of-control drinking; when Knapp drank, why she thought she drank so much, the people she affected with her drinking, all the
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denials along the way. At times her stories seemed repetitive and meandering but that perception comes from the why of it all. Knapp was clearly in pain and had trouble rationalizing her rage. She brought two points home: you don't need to have suffered a trauma to become addicted to anything and once you recognize your problem, your addiction is never again a normalized behavior. In the world of alcohol, most people think nothing of having a cocktail with friends, a beer after work. All of that became off limits to Knapp once she accepted her addiction. It is clear Knapp had an addictive personality. She was drawn to obsessions and performed rituals while drinking, rituals about food consumption to the point of anorexia, rituals in how she fought with her boyfriends. Even after sobriety, Knapp was drawn to obsessions concerning cleanliness and being constantly aware of how large a role alcohol plays in our society. Even the words "champagne bunch" grated on her abstinence. In the end, Knapp was resolved to take one day at a time. She couldn't set large goals for herself while her drinking was larger than her resolve. She was smart to know that every day was a major victory. Her story ends unresolved but hopeful.
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LibraryThing member AlcoholLibrary
Journalist Caroline Knapp grew up in a well-to-do but emotionally distant home, close but never comfortable with her psychoanalyst father. She relates the progression of her alcoholism, her overlapping and related addictive patterns (anorexia and body image, unhealthy relationships and infidelity),
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and her eventual recovery through AA.
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LibraryThing member DrJSH
Caroline Knapp's "Drinking: A Love Story" is an absorbing account of her own years-long experience with alcoholism. The book is engaging, whether someone has never tasted alcohol or whether someone, too, struggles with substance dependence. I remember feeling sad when I learned Ms. Knapp passed ~
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16 years ago. So much to offer ... .
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LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
Knapp's memoir, novel?, is accessible and poignant but the thematic structure of the book lends itself to circular and pedantic reflections on her alcoholism. I didn't get enough of her to really care about her plight or the struggles of her family. But her observations on the obfuscation of the
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self and avoidance of pain in drinking gave me much to ponder as I consider my own relationship with alcohol.
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LibraryThing member amandanan
Beautifully written. A lot of her words hit close to home, having alcoholism in my family and seeing it up close and personal.


Physical description

xvi, 286 p.; 21 cm


0385315546 / 9780385315548
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