“If you’d asked me what the most grotesque thing about alcoholism was, I’d have said—indeed, I did say over and over to anyone who asked—and plenty who didn’t— it wasn’t the physical stuff, it wasn’t the sordid, humiliating death stuff . . . it was the sadness. I called it my angst. A suitable august Germanic word for a basement depression that was fathomless and occasionally erupted in gasping panic. And even when locked away, it would seep out and sour every other emotion, like bitters in milk. Alcoholic despair is a thing apart, created by the drink that is a depressant, but also the architect of all the pratfall calamities that fuel it. Alcohol is the only medication the drunk knows and trusts, a perfectly hopeless circle of angst, and it is all powered by a self-loathing that is obsessively stoked and fed. And it’s that—that personally awarded, vainly accepted disgust—that makes it so hard to sympathize with drunks. Nothing you can say or do comes close to the wreaths of guilt we lay at our own cenotaph.
There is something infuriatingly comic about drunk unhappiness, with its operatic tragic warble so out of proportion to the seedy, spivvy slapstick of its reality. From the outside it’s so obvious, so easy to resolve. Just stop. Stop drinking. Stop crying. Go to the dentist. Say sorry. Get a job. Be nice.”
Excerpted from Pour Me A Life © A.A. Gill, 2015, 2016. Reprinted with permission of Blue Rider Press.
A.A. Gill was born in Edinburgh. He is the author of A.A. Gill is Away, The Angry Island, Previous Convictions, Table Talk, Paper View, A.A. Gill is Further Away and The Golden Door, as well as two novels. He is the TV and restaurant critic and regular features writer for the Sunday Times, columnist for Esquire, and contributor to Australian Gourmet Traveller. He lives in London and spends much of his year travelling. He has been nominated for more awards than he has won.