A therapist and writer reflects on how alcoholism unexpectedly overtook her at midlife.
Cohen (Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship with Shopping, 2014, etc.) “didn’t fall in love with alcohol early in life.” From adolescence onward, her real addiction was romance. Boys were her “salvation” from the pain of feeling unlovable. Only later was she able to admit they were what she used to stay away from relationships or when she got into them, “keep a foot out the door.” After Cohen left an unfulfilling first marriage in her late 30s, she flung herself into the dating world by sleeping with a series of men over the next year. The last man, Bob, was one to whom she felt an especially intense attraction. Wine became their aphrodisiac of choice, “lubricat[ing] our conversations and enhanc[ing] our already fiery libidos.” When they first got together, the author only drank when she was with him or with their friends. Her drinking worsened after she realized that Bob still felt a deep attachment to his first wife. Despite going to the gym, Cohen began gaining weight; she knew it was the amount of wine she had been drinking. Eventually, her relationship with Bob settled into a predictable cycle of withdrawal and reconnection. Marriage only made the situation worse between them: Eventually Bob took a lover and paraded her in front of Cohen. After the author fell deeply in love with another man who, like Bob, could not detach from a previous relationship, she finally began to work on her intimacy issues and start a moderation management program to lessen her use of alcohol. Unapologetic in that it offers no trite “darkness to light” narrative about alcoholism, Cohen’s book instead offers a sharp-eyed look at what it means to be a midlife female unable to cope with either personal demons or the heavy external social pressures placed on women.
An intimate and unsparing book of self-reflection.