The Alcoholic Self
I wanted to share a bit from the research I am doing (slowly and haphazardly) for my thesis (which has yet to be completely decided upon). I have known that this book would serve as my jumping-off point for about two years now. Last night, I finally dug into it a bit and pulled out some gems which I thought would amuse you.
The Alcoholic Self
“The self is divided against itself… Narcissistic and self-centered, the alcoholic self uses alcohol as a mirror, seeking in the self-reflections that alcohol offers a truer picture of itself. Yet alcohol, for the divided self, fuels a resentment toward others and an inner hatred of self. The unstable, inner self of the alcoholic runs to violent emotionality, madness, insanity, and imaginary fears. The emotional and sexual relations the alcoholic has with others are similarly distorted by alcohol’s effects. The alcoholic is unable to present a ‘true’ picture of self to the other, for he or she always sees the other through alcoholically clouded streams of consciousness. Hampered by alcoholic amnesia and alcoholic aphasia, the alcoholic lives within a distorted world of self-other relations. Symbolically and interactionally attached to dominating emotional associates from the past, the alcoholic lives out a maddening inner self-drama that is scripted by resentment and hatred” (p 195).
Alcoholics and “Normals”
“[A]ctive alcoholics take to the extreme the assumptions and principles that structure the lives of ordinary people. Ordinary individuals live bad faith, lie and deceive themselves and others, and engage in distorted human relationships. Ordinary individuals also experience negative emotions, hold onto resentments, experience time inauthentically, and believe in willpower and self-control. Such persons also develop divided selves and live out imaginary self-ideals that have little to do with the worlds of the ‘real.’
“What sets the alcoholic off from the ‘normal’ are the lived experiences that accompany his or her self-definitions. The individual’s divided self leads him or her into the world of alcoholic dreams and fantasies; that world soon takes over the alcoholic’s life. As the alcoholic moves farther and farther into it, his or her distance from normals and normal everyday life increases. The alcoholic becomes an outsider to society, almost by choice” (p 196).
Alcoholic Time and “Normal” Time
[this part made me giggle]
“‘[N]ormal’ time (1) is grounded in the present, (2) is not experienced fearfully, (3) is reflectively grasped as being part of ongoing purposive action, (4) is not lodged in the past or the future, and (5) does not give rise to the feelings of self that are located in the past. Normal time informs the present in a purposively useful fashion. Alcoholic time demolishes the present” (p 197).
All references from:
Denzin, Norman K. 1987. The Alcoholic Self. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.