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Exploring Famous Writers and Alcohol Use

The combination between writers and alcohol has long been classic literary trope. Famous literary minds ranging from Dylan Thomas to Ernest Hemingway and Eugene O’Neil have all fallen under alcohol’s spell. Jack Kerouac, a prominent poet of the 1960s beat era, died due to liver cirrhosis. Kerouac’s cirrhosis occurred due to years of alcohol abuse; despite attempts to try, it seemed to have a power over him. Elizabeth Bishop was a poet who wrote about her relationship with alcohol as a binge drinker.

Additionally, there have been at least 6 notable literary Nobel Prize winners who have battled with alcoholism strengthening stereotypes of the “alcoholic writer.” This pairing has lasted since the beginning of the careers of notable writers and has captures the minds of many. It has sparked the question of why writers drink. The idea of the tortured artist, the mad genius, or wounded writer can contribute to accepting ideas of writers who drink, thus allowing other writers to justify or minimize their condition to the detriment of their own lives and the lives of those who love them.

Drinking to Escape Writing Anxiety

According to popular publications, some theories as to why writers and alcohol are so connected involve the need for a writer to relieve anxiety that is associated with writing. The writing process can create much vulnerability and perfectionism, thus causing the writer to need assistance feeling calm. Putting one’s feelings out there for the world to see can further complicate emotions bubbling up from underneath the surface. Additionally, the drive to be famous by “writing the Great American novel,” or to achieve fame filling the footsteps of many great writers can be stressful. The solution may seem to be buried underneath a glass of hard liquor, which temporarily seems to soothe momentary writing dread.

Writing encourages time alone and the discipline of consistent action. Imagine how squelching writing fears with a drink can add up. If a writer decides to have 2 or 3 drinks each time he or she decides to write and writes daily, this can equal 10 or more drinks weekly. The idea that alcohol enhances writing has not been proven by factual resources; however, many do believe the truth emerges when one has had a drink or 3. However, there are many long-term threats caused by drinking high amounts of alcohol, including binge drinking, a dependency, or a tolerance. At its worse, writers can develop serious health problems associated with alcohol, such as alcoholism, withdrawal symptoms, delirium tremens, or cirrhosis.

Writers and Depression Linked

There are numerous reports discussing the relationship between writers and depression. Health.com noted writing was one of the top 10 careers with “high rates of depression.” This can be because of the fluctuation in stability freelance writers experience. The financial challenges freelance writers or writers looking for continual fame once their career has declined can create pressure and low moods. In some cases, there were links between bipolar disorder and creative types, including writers.  Alcohol can be an easy, but poor coping mechanism for raising low moods.

Writers often feel overindulging drinking can be part of the lifestyle. Famous writers have been known to encourage and admit to drinking. To quote Kerouac, “Don’t drink to get drink. drink to enjoy life.” The Great Gatsby writer F. Scott Fitzgerald is known to say, “Here’s to alcohol, the rose-colored glasses of life” to describe alcohol’s effect and allure. Lastly, Ernest Hemingway, who is remembered for may colorful views on alcohol, one being, “I drink to make other people more interesting.” The quotes reveal a desire for drinking to enhance life’s mundane details, opening new possibilities to the writer’s imagination. It may never be clear as to why writers choose alcohol rather than other drugs like stimulants or opiates, but feelings of loneliness, pain, depression, and pressure have been commonly suggested as reasons

Find Help Today

Drinking heavily to escape from underlying mental or emotional distress can lead to fatal consequences. Consider getting treatment if you are a writer falling under the myth of the drunk writer. Contact a treatment expert for guidance for recovery and support.

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