WIP: I'll Drink to That! Or Not. . .

I write about many, many things I haven’t experienced. I research until I feel comfortable with the subject and then I write about it from a character’s point of view. But today I got stuck revising the chapter in which a central character begins to drink.
Hmm. First I have to explain that I’m a tee-totaler. I’ve never had a drink, although I’ll taste a companion’s wine, beer or whatever.  I’m not a prig and have nothing against those who do drink. Growing up, we had a fully-stocked bar in our rec-room, but the booze was mostly for my parents’ friends. No one in my family was or is much of a drinker. As a therapist, I saw firsthand how alcoholism could destroy families and individuals and I feel lucky that it was a non-issue in my household.  If there is an “anti-alcoholism” gene, I think it runs in my family.
The reason I never drank as a teenager was because I was deathly afraid of throwing up. That kept me dry and sober into young adulthood, when I realized I didn’t like the taste of alcohol. I once mentioned to an old high school friend that I thought it was interesting that the group of girls we hung around with never got into drinking. She laughed, and told me they just didn’t invite me when that was the planned activity. (ouch!)
People think about the pressure adolescents are under to drink, and it’s certainly there. But they don’t think about the pressure, subtle or otherwise, adults are under to drink. For decades I was told I simply hadn’t found the right drink for me yet. Even now on occasion, I feel a bit “noticed” when a social event centers around drinking. I wonder what it’s like for recovering alcoholics. They must be some of the strongest people in the world.
Anyhow, I struggled with this scene a bit today as my character begins her journey into alcohol abuse. I felt concerned about writing the scene on a couple of fronts: first, I wanted to be accurate in what she was experiencing as she drank and how it impacted her feelings about herself, because unlike many of the experiences I write about, most people know what this one is like; and second, I wanted to maintain the reader’s sympathy for her. She is doing some very unsympathetic things. It’s going to be a challenge to keep the reader engaged with her and I’m cognizant that I need to find ways to do that. I hope I’m succeeding.
Meanwhile, it’s nearly one am! I’m putting in some late nights at the computer as I head toward my deadline, but I’m really enjoying it. Now, though, I’m going to have a drink (of water) and go to bed.


  1. Ashley on June 2, 2007 at 1:18 am

    I hate to sound malicious or something akin to that, but lucky you with not having to deal with alcohol in your family (more than having it around for your parents friends). Both my parents are alcoholics (although if you ask, they’ll deny it) and I’ve lost 2 good friends to alcohol related deaths. Even with all this, i must admit that when it comes to drinking, i’m the bartender behind the drinks- much like the person who hates having their picture taken but loves being behind the camera.
    Good luck with keeping the reader’s sympathy for the character, it will be a challenge- but one that I’m sure you will rise to and beyond. Can’t wait for it to be out on the shelves.. even though i’ll finish it about 3 hours after i buy it 😛

  2. Diane Chamberlain on June 2, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Ashley, i’m sorry your life’s been touched in that way by alcohol, and believe me, I know I’m lucky it was never a problem in my family. My first serious personal encounter with the problems alcohol can cause came when I was 18 and fell in love with a guy who drank. He was one of those drinkers whose personality changed from sweet and loving to emotionally cruel. Not having any experience with drinkers, I was blindsided. It opened my eyes to what some people go through every day in their families.
    It’s fascinating that you’re “the bartender behind the drinks.” I guess that’s good in that you’ve managed to stay nonjudgmental and maybe bad in that you enable. I understand it a bit because I love being with people who loosen up when they drink. It’s fun; no doubt about it.
    Love the analogy of the photographer. That’s my John! Hates to be the one getting his picture taken.

  3. Kathy Holmes on June 2, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Oh, my heart goes out to anyone whose life has been touched by alcohol abuse. However, it’s sad to me to see alcohol viewed as being one extreme or the other. From my years of living in two different wine countries–Napa and Oregon–wine is a complement to the food. You don’t have to overindulge. But, in my writing, I also depict overindulging to signify a character is having a problem dealing with an issue. But this is also a note to self to try using something new. 🙂
    Interesting post.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on June 2, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Interesting, Kathy. I’ve hardly every used overindulging to show a character having a problem dealing with an issue, and I think it’s because my mind doesn’t think about drinking. That’s probably why it’s hard for me to write about this character.
    You’re so right–most people find the middle ground with alcohol and can enjoy it safely.

  5. Krysia on June 3, 2007 at 12:01 am

    My mother was an alcoholic from the time she was 14 til she married my stepfather when I was 13. I remember carrying her up the steps when she was to drunk to walk. She wasn’t a good mother, ever. After my parents divorce my dad became the alcoholic and my mom remarried to a recovering alcoholic and doesn’t drink anymore. But my father has always been a good father, which is odd, alcohol usually gets in the way of that. I’m just glad i’m not. but it’d be a good excuse for the dumb things i do.

  6. Diane Chamberlain on June 3, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    You’ve sure had a lot to deal with in your family, Krysia. Glad you turned out so well!

  7. Margo on June 4, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Alcoholism is foreign ground for me. While growing up my parents enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner, and they always had alcohol available for the friends that they entertained…but that was it. I enjoy a glass of wine when dining out but that’s the extent of it. My husband is diabetic so no alcohol for him unless it’s a special occasion or 1 glass when eating out. Growing up I knew of friends out ‘partying’ but I just wasn’t interested and preferred staying home and painting till 2 in the morning or reading a good book or watching late late movies with a huge bowl of ice cream. I feel very fortunate but am sad for those who aren’t.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on June 4, 2007 at 11:09 am

    margo, it’s those huge bowls of ice cream that will probably do us in in the end!

  9. Margo on June 4, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Lol, you’re probably right!

  10. Ashley on June 4, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Being the enabler almost gives you more control over the drinker, sometimes. If they don’t listen when you say “you’re done”, you find some pretty creative ways to substitute minimal (or no) alcohol for the alcohol component of some drinks.
    Besides, everyone knows that “ice cream therapy” beats drinking your troubles away any day 😛

  11. Julie on June 4, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    This is an interesting topic, Diane. I’m not a big drinker at all, though not a teetotaler. I have maybe 3 or 4 drinks a year, and often don’t finish those. As horrified as everyone is by alcoholism, it’s ridiculous that we have to explain to those we socialize with why we’re not drinking. It makes me silly and sometimes sick, and I’d rather not worry about what I said later or have to turn in early because my head is spinning! 🙂 It’s annoying that one of the things I’ve worried about when considering what happens when I get published is being put in those situations where I look like a prude for not drinking. Arrgh. Glad to see I won’t be completely alone. Hehe.

  12. Diane Chamberlain on June 5, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Hey Julie, when you get published let’s hang out together! Isn’t it funny, the things we worry about?
    I just visited your blog–love it! And I love the picture you have at the top of it. I promise to come back when I’m not on deadline.

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