Less Is More…More Or Less


I have heard alcoholism called “the disease of more”.  I have also heard it been called “the disease of perception”.  There are some other comparisons that it’s been made to, and they are all valid in their own ways.  But for some reason, “the disease of more” always struck me as being closest to how I view it.  I suppose it’s how one sees themselves in relation to alcoholism.  And considering that selfishness and self-centeredness are the root of our troubles, “more” seems to be the apt desire and word for what we were like.

Or, at least how was like…and how I can still be at times.

I first encountered the term in Caroline Knapp’s classic memoir, Drinking: A Love Story. I don’t know of any alcoholic who hadn’t read that book while still drinking.  I certainly was active when I read the book not once, but twice.  I needed to connect in some way, to read about an alcoholic.  One of those people.  And to see that perhaps I was one of them.  In fact, it probably galvanized what I already knew.  Amongst other things.  And even though I drank for years after reading her book, the term of “the disease of more” always clung to me.

Here are some of the reasons that I identify with alcoholism being about “more”:

  • When I was younger, I never felt that I was good enough for anything or anyone.  Even myself.  I needed to be more.  I needed to be better than everyone is school, I needed to be the best at what I did, and I needed to do more of what I was doing to feel ok.  Being me wasn’t enough, for whatever reason.  So I needed to construct a form of me that seemed ok, but thirsted for something deeper.  This was stuff that I felt as early as 8 or 9 years old.  It would be a constant in my life, as I would find out.
  • As I moved through life, I felt that I deserved more. What I was getting, in terms of an overall picture of where I was, didn’t jive with where I thought I needed to be.  I needed more to bridge that gap.  I didn’t see that where I was is exactly where I needed to be.  It felt that I was given the wrong set of clothes or something…there wasn’t enough of what I required. So I needed more to fill in the blanks.  If I got a car, I needed it to be a better car.  If I got a girlfriend, she needed to be a better girlfriend.  The grass was always greener on the other side.  More would complete me, I thought.  I thought wrong, of course.
  • I couldn’t get enough of me.  I hated myself, but I needed more of me hating myself to get my fix and keep the self-pity going.  I needed to feel more just to feel normal.  It is said that we need to be treated extraordinary just to feel ordinary.  I needed to be extraordinary just to feel ordinary.  And I rarely got that on my own.  I needed more to get to that level of expectation that would simply fail me soon after.  I needed perfect scores on tests to just feel that I wasn’t a total moron.  I needed so much attention from girls to feel that I wasn’t the ugliest man alive.  I needed more love from people to feel that I sort of mattered.  More expectations meant more resentments later.
  • Obviously, I needed more to drink.  What I had wasn’t enough.  Even if I had too much, more was I still needed and craved.  My body and mind doesn’t have an “off” switch when it comes to booze.  It never had and never will.  Ever. Alcohol made me feel good early on in my drinking years.  I could talk to women, I was funnier, taller, sexier, more pleasant, able to feel ok in my own skin, shinier, more open, more playful, more in tune with who I was.  So if a little bit could do that, imagine what more alcohol could do?
  • The feeling that more was what I needed, in all aspects of my life, began to become a way of life itself.  Certainly less of something was not going to work, so I worked hard at doing more of the things that I thought served me, but were clearly antithetical to my growth and development as a human being.  I wanted more money, more prestige, more possessions, more attention, more ego boosters, more friends, more prais, more, more, more, more and more.  What do you have?  Gimme more.  I want it all.  And now.

And it went on and on from there, of course.  Countless examples of my avarice and greed and the craving of alcohol and people and everything else abound not only in my drinking days, but the years preceding, and even into sobriety.  Taking away the drink never took the wanting of more away from me.  It just stopped booze from getting into my body.

So what did this never ending desire for more do for me?

It drove everything and everyone that meant anything to me away.  Jobs dissipated, people walked away, my family didn’t know what to do with me or how to help me, my reputation suffered, I lost hobbies, I endangered myself and others, I wounded my soul, I took unnecessary risks, I hurt myself, I put myself in role of the fool and found myself wanting even more.

The ironic thing is that in the end, I ended up just getting emptier and emptier.  I could never ever achieve the more that I craved in my life.  It became a mirage.  An anchor.  A death sentence.  More didn’t do anything for me than just want to die, because there was something about more that I didn’t understand.  I didn’t need more.  I didn’t know what to do with more.  More, as I learned, was the thing that robbed me of myself.   That robbed me of being closer to the Creator.

I needed more Him, less me. Still do.

So less is what I started to get…and continue to strive for now.

Less allows me to view things in simpler ways, to not worry or stress as much (or at all in some situations), to take things easier, to not take things at face value, to not take on things that aren’t mine to take on, to ease up on myself and others, to relax, to have more clarity, to be of more use to others, to simplify things.  I am not caught up in me as much.  I don’t carry the weight of taking more on when I really don’t need more.

And in the end, in a roundabout way, less is more.  In the lessening of my life, I have actually gained more.  I have more spiritual attunement, I  have more love and affection to and from those who are important in my life, I have more of me to give to others, I have more enjoyment in life, I have more centeredness, I have more open feelings, I have more of a sense of purpose in my life.

Don’t get me wrong – I still have some of the old more‘s that infiltrate my life today and twist me around at times.  Sugar, self-pity, attention, self-deprecation, scrupulousness, isolation…some of the many examples of things that knock on the door and ask me to come out and play.  And sometimes I answer and get my overalls and rainboots on.

But I am a work in progress.  Oh am I ever…and as long as there is less ego and more humility, less nonsense and more honesty, less judgement and more openness…well, then I am on the right path.  I am being guided to where I am needed.  I am shown glimpses of what I was meant to be.  I guess.  More or less.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Good Morning Paul,

    I love when I get to begin my day with one of your posts, it is a perfect start! I wish I could argue the point, but (sigh), I cannot. And it’s amazing, once the fog of active addiction is lifted, how much the “disease of more” theory applies to all areas of my life. It takes slightly less dangerous forms… soft pretzels, chips, diet soda, how many pre-school computer games I can play before a kid need me (yes, I did say pre-school, even though my kids are currently 13 and 10, they have outgrown these games long before I did)… Funny story along this line: we are renting seasons of the show Lost from the library, and watching them with our kids; this is the first time for the kids, the second time around for my husband and me. Talk about “disease of more” in action… we have kept the kids up past their bedtime every night this week to get in “just one more show!” And each night as they go to bed, I am toying around with the idea of jumping ahead!

    I guess the fact that I am aware of this behavior is the progress, and I always have the hope that growth is possible. The fact that I am sober for almost 17 months is proof that ANYTHING is possible!

    1. Congrats on the almost 17 months! I would have thought it longer, to be honest…you’re very in touch with self (in a good way) and His will and work a great program. Fantastic!

      I think we certainly can transfer that “more” (in a negative way) to other things, as opposed to the “abundance” that Lisa speaks of in her comments here (she’s good, eh? ha ha) My more-ness certainly can be detrimental, but also gathering the goodness of life isn’t. I never thought of that side of the coin when writing the post. Sigh. Oh well, that is why I need to have brilliant people like you and the others show me other facets of things.


  2. Less of the obsession to completely focus on me creates room to focus on others. I’d like to think I’m a better friend, daughter, sister and wife now that I’m sober. I’m far from completely selfless but I’ve definitely improved! I really relate to needing more of hating myself back then. I’ve always found it odd that those of us who are the most insecure are also the most selfish.

    1. Hi Karen – love the comments. I think what you said about improving in the selfless category. Will I ever be selfless? I am not sure, but I try, and the awareness surrounding that and the actions involved are important to me. And also what you said about those most insecure, being most selfish…I can relate, at least for me. I can’t speak for anyone else, but my insecurities certainly had me lashing out more and focusing on me, me, me.

      Great stuff – thanks.


  3. Lisa Neumann says:

    Enjoyed the last two posts, but stopping here for a few words. I think life is a disease of “more.” I do not see this as an alcoholic related issue (although most addicts fit the bill). I like to look at my “moreness-issues” (yes, I know, not a word) as abundance issues. I enjoy abundance. I like to think the world, as I understand, is abundant. The issue is calling forth abundance for healing rather than the decadence of it all. For me, alcoholism is a disease of indulgence. I still remember the first time I heard “self-will run riot” and “instincts gone astray” truer words were never spoken.

    On that note, I’m going to have my 10,000th detox shake. I’d rather have a doughnut, but that won’t work any longer. Sighhhhhh … I mean yeah !!!!

    xox Me

    1. Lisa – again, with just a few words, you have completely changed the complexion of things for me. Abundance. What a stellar word and your ideas surrounding that, indulgence and the moreness-issue (I do enjoy that word). I can’t argue what you’ve said…it makes total sense.

      Thanks for shining the light…as usual.

      Love and light,

  4. sherryd32148 says:

    I wish I had more time to say how much this post touched me…how much it meant to me. It always feel great to know you’re not the only one.

    But I don’t have time so I’ll just settle for…

    Thank you.


    1. Thank YOU Sherry for all that you have touched me with. We certainly aren’t alone, are we?

      Great having you in my corner 🙂


  5. Al K Hall says:

    Thank you for this, brother. Trying to have Less in my life. What a great goal to reach for. i still suffer from the disease of more in a lot of what i do and a little ‘less’ is what i need right now. This sis the best thing i’ve read today.

    1. Hey Al – thank you for the kind words. I too want less. I find lately I have been accumulating more stuff between the ears and I am not too happy about it. Sigh. But less, wow, how clean and clear is that? I wish things “lessen” for you where you’re at now. 🙂


  6. Erika says:

    Oh, Paul! The need for more speaks to all of us addicts! I don’t feel like I’m worthy or enough, especially today, I feel like no jobs will want me, I feel I’m too old, I feel less all the time! And, I think what you discussed with lovely Karen Perry about how selfish we are resonates so much with me, too!!!
    I’ve just ranted in your blog once again. I am happy you awaken that rant with your posts. Thanks Paul!

    1. You call that a rant? lol. I’ll show ya a rant or two…ok, ok…I’ll not rant. Some of my posts are long winded yet subtle rants…ha ha. Words can be gentle, yet intentions not. That’s something I need to work on, of course.

      I have days like you describe. Probably more than less lately, to be honest. Self-pity is relentless in me at times. And in general. But I find that looking towards gratitude gets me out of self, or helping someone, no matter how small it is.

      You’re where you need to be. And so am I. Even if we both don’t want to be there. But actions! They will open things up for us, illuminate the way, as well as His guidance 🙂


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