The loneliness of addiction

"For me, [alcohol] was never my lover; it was always my powerful enemy."

Published January 30, 2018 6:58PM (EST)


Here’s a quote from the late, great David Bowie, from a 2000 interview: "Drinking even one glass would kill me. I'm an alcoholic, so it would be the kiss of death for me to start drinking again. My relationships with my friends and family has been so good for so many years now, I would not do anything to destroy that again. It's very hard to have relationships when you're doing drugs and drinking, for me personally anyway." Those words illustrate the kind of isolation that come along with substance abuse.

In this episode of "The Lonely Hour," I talk to Gerardo Gonzalez, the chef at at Lalito restaurant in New York City who comes from a family of people who struggle with addiction. (At the time of the interview, Gonzalez was the chef at El Rey, which is why I say that in the audio.)

"I've witnessed first-hand relatives who slowly withdrew from the family . . . getting deeper and deeper into that addiction," he says. "You can provide support . . . but at a certain point, when the person is so self-destructive, you kind of have to step back and let them run their course. Otherwise you're going to get involved in that destructive energy."

Next I talk to Reina Zelonky, a family therapist whose work focuses on managing substance abuse and healing relationships. "One of the old sayings is that one's greatest love affair is with a substance because in a lot of ways, substances are consistent," she says. "They're reliable . . . in a way that relationships [sometimes aren't]. So a lot of the work that I do, in working with individuals who are trying to remove substances from their life or have a different relationship with substances is really looking at the other relationships in their life and breaking old, negative patterns."

And finally, I talk to Anne Bainbridge. Now sober, she has dealt with alcoholism for much of her life. She's also my mother.

"For me, it was never my lover; it was always my powerful enemy — my most hated, most feared and invincible enemy," she says. She relied on alcohol, but she also detested it — and herself.

"I don't know a single alcoholic that is not also lonely, unless he's so over the edge that he doesn't know what's going on," she says. "And looking back now, I can see, it's like a downward cyclone. I would begin to get depressed, and then I would begin to isolate, and as you isolate, you become more lonely and depressed . . . it just feeds on itself, round and round and round."

Listen to the full episode below.

By Julia Bainbridge

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