Each week, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.
Anna David is the author of the novels Party Girl (HarperCollins, 2007) and Bought (HarperCollins, 2009), and the editor of the anthology Reality Matters (HarperCollins, 2010); her memoir, Falling for Me, covers her attempt to re-fashion her life around the recommendations Helen Gurley Brown made in 1962′s Sex and the Single Girl. She’s appeared repeatedly on the Today Show, Hannity, Red Eye (Fox News), CNN’s Showbiz Tonight, and various other programs on Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, CTV, MTV News, VH1 and E.
A contributor to The Daily Beast, Details and Maxim, Anna is currently the Executive Editor of the addiction and recovery website The Fix and visits colleges across the country to talk about addiction. She’s been on staff at Premiere and Parenting, a fulltime freelancer for People, a contracted reporter for Us Weekly and a sex columnist for Razor. Her celebrity cover stories, first-person essays, and reported pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The LA Times, Vanity Fair, Cosmo, Redbook, Self, Stuff, TV Guide, Movieline, Women’s Health, Esquire UK, Teen Vogue, and Variety, among many other publications.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Anna David: Two memories vie in my mind for first drink—I was about 12 in both. Memory one is vodka snuck from my friend Maria’s mother’s liquor cabinet vodka bottle before Maria and I went to meet two boys at the beach and another, white wine at an Easter party that I went to with my mom. The first involves discovering the terrible taste of vodka, feeling sick on a bus and one of the boys throwing up and immediately announcing that he’d forgotten until then that he’d eaten carrots earlier. The second involves a sundress, a beautiful party and meeting a cute boy named Chris, so I’ll pick the second one. Though it should be noted that the night ended with me vomiting (vomiting, it should be said, was a central theme in all my high school drinking experiences,) but the moments leading up to that were quite magical.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
I had my last drink on November 18 of 2000. I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have quit drinking if it hadn’t been for drugs, but when I announced that I was addicted to drugs but not alcohol and thus needed to quit the former but not the latter I was informed, much to my horror, that it was all the same: that a drug was a drink was a drink was a drug. I argued, I lobbied, I even drank. But then, later that night, I also did drugs. So from there, I bought into the if-I-drink-then-I’ll-do-drugs “gateway drug” argument. It wasn’t until I’d been sober for at least a year that I could see that I always drank alcoholically; I was just always surrounded by other people who did as well and my world was so insular that I didn’t understand that it was possible to, say, walk into a party and not immediately hightail it to the bar for shots.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
I definitely drank more in college. The thrill of escaping the responsibility of driving (all the action took place on campus where I went), combined with the fact that there were no parents to sneak past when I came in, caused the floodgates to open with abandon. Drinking was ridiculously fun for me then: it gave me such freedom and confidence and seemed to be an escape route into an array of exciting experiences I would never have otherwise had. If my relationship with alcohol could have stayed the same as it was for me in college, I would never have quit. But alas, it—or me, or the combination of the two—changed.
Has drinking ever affected, either negatively or positively, a relationship of yours?
For a certain period of time, drinking affected all of my relationships; I would cry and fight and create drama whenever I drank. It wouldn’t be a real night out if it didn’t involve me losing it and demanding that the cab driver pull over and let me out because I was never going to speak to my boyfriend again.
Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?
I think the culture I grew up in influenced my drinking. For all that it was illegal to drink when I wasn’t of age, it was entirely condoned. And it wasn’t just my parents; everyone in our community seemed to look at drinking as entirely benign. I don’t fault my parents for the way they treated it because I think had it been something that was forbidden, I would have only sought it out all the more. But even when I got in trouble for drinking, there were never any real repercussions. I remember when I was in high school, my friend got pulled over and cops searched her car. I had a beer in my bag and got a citation but the whole thing ended up being a bit of a joke: I had been wearing a poodle skirt as a coat (long story but I’d been in a dance show earlier that night and it was cold) and I remember the cop laughing as he wrote that down. I was supposed to have to perform community service and go to court but I ended up getting out of it by writing an essay about why I drank.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
Most of the books and movies I love about addiction are actually about drugs: movies like Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream and books like Permanent Midnight and Heroin From A to Z are, to me, as addictive as any drug. But my two favorite writers—Fitzgerald and Martin Amis—certainly sprinkle a lot of drink throughout their books. In Amis’ Money, the narrator John Self may announce, “Unless I specifically inform you otherwise, I am always smoking a cigarette,” but he’s also pretty much always got a drink in hand. When writers or filmmakers can create characters whose lives are falling apart as a result of their relationship to some substance and can articulate how and why that’s happening—sometimes, like in Amis’ case, hilariously—I’m always impressed.
What did you like most about drinking?
I loved the way it seemed to give me access to a world I would otherwise not be able to inhabit: it made me feel like anything could happen in a given night. The problem, of course, was that anything could happen in a given night.
Why do you choose not to drink?
Because I can’t do it responsibly. Because I can’t do it and not want to call my old drug dealer. Because one drink doesn’t relax me; it only energizes me and makes me want more. Because I can’t get out of my own way if I drink. Because my life is better sober. Because, towards the end of my drinking, I didn’t have a life anymore.