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 I 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.