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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Addiction: Life in a Bottle

Whether it’s alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, addiction’s grasp can be hard to shake -- but it’s possible, and it’s worth it.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

As an aspiring novelist in his early 20s, Carl (not his real name) equated the glamorous life of writing with boozing.

"Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and more contemporary writers were known as big boozers. If it was good for them, why can't it be good for me?" he thought.

But he didn't get the results that he wanted when he drank. The words wouldn't flow and plus, he realized that his attitudes related with drinking and writing had isolated him from the rest of society.

Because he felt "too good" for the mainstream work-world while he was an alcoholic, he thumbed his nose at an admission to law school, and didn't initially seek employment that would make use of his master's degree in writing. Instead, he worked as a taxi driver and eventually as an editorial assistant for a publishing company to make ends meet.

It wasn't until he started going to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings that Carl recognized how self-destructive he had become -- getting drunk with his passengers as a cabbie and calling in sick as an editorial assistant to cure a hangover or to quench his thirst for drink.

When he became sober, Carl felt a lot better about himself and felt a sense of belonging with the rest of the world.

"I began to bring my full energy to the workplace, and not hold myself in reserve because I was saving myself for a bigger life as a writer," says Carl, now in his 50s. He notes that his shift in attitude opened opportunities for him. He was promoted to an editor position, and one of the short stories he wrote as a hobby even won a literary award.

This story is not much different from others with addiction in that their obsession with something -- in Carl's case, alcohol -- controls their behavior and attitudes about life.

Addicts need to satisfy a hunger, and that need takes on a higher priority than other responsibilities, including work, says Lawrence S. Brown, Jr., MD, MPH, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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