Drinking: A Love Story Summary

Caroline Knapp

Drinking: A Love Story

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Drinking: A Love Story Summary

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Both personal and informative, Drinking: A Love Story is a 1996 memoir by the award winning freelance journalist, Caroline Knapp. In it, she writes of her life as a functional alcoholic. Outwardly, she was a successful high achiever leading a full happy life. As her drinking grew more and more out of control, she needed to work harder and harder to hide the effects it was having on her life. Knapp started drinking while still a teenager and continued until, at the age of thirty-six, she hit bottom and could no longer cope. In a bid to turn her life around, she checked into a rehabilitation facility.

Knapp painstakingly recounts her love-hate relationship with alcohol. She discusses the ways her drinking interfered with her relationships, how it confused her emotions, and made her thoughts unclear. Although she remained in a near-constant state of denial during her struggles, she was aware that the addictive nature of alcohol compromised her emotional and personal growth. While working as a journalist, she remained driven and productive. By contrast, her personal life was deeply affected by her drinking. Viewed from Knapp’s perspective, readers see the extent of her alcoholism, the depths to which it dragged her, and the struggles she endured as she attempted to regain her health and her life.

The author was first introduced to alcohol by her firsthand observations of her father’s drinking while she was growing up. He would return home from work each day and turn to alcohol as a way to relax. What Knapp did not know at the time was that her father was living a double life. At home, he created the façade of being a happy family man with a successful professional life as well. At the same time, he was involved in an extramarital affair. Knapp explains that the close relationship she had with her father made his influence on her all the more powerful. At the same time, she felt that she could not really connect with her father because he always seemed to be trying to get into her thoughts. The best way she could find to feel comfortable when she was with him was to drink.

In Drinking: A Love Story, Caroline Knapp not only talks about the details of her life and descent into alcoholism, but also about the nature of addiction itself. When she was in her twenties, she suffered from anorexia. Controlling her intake of food was the only way, at that time, that she felt she could control some aspect of her own life. Eventually she found help to deal with the eating disorder, but at the same time, she increasingly turned to alcohol to help deal her with her feelings. While drinking more made Knapp feel as though things had gotten better and easier in her life, the actual result was that she simply did not have to deal with her problems. She continued to look for love and acceptance in her life.

Eventually this search led Knapp to a man named Julian, with whom she had a lengthy, but unhealthy, relationship. She hoped that being in a relationship would help her heal her emotional wounds, but as it turned out, Julian did not approve of her desire to change herself and continually criticized her for trying to do so. While still attached to Julian, Knapp entered into a relationship with Michael. Unlike Julian, Michael was a loving and caring man, who showed her the kind of love she had long been seeking but which, up to that point, she had not found. She found herself feeling conflicted. She still wanted to be desired by Julian, but at the same time, she wanted the unconditional love she was receiving from Michael.

Echoing the behavior she had seen years earlier in her father, Knapp continued to live a double life, unable to give up either Michael or Julian. This situation served to fuel her dependence on alcohol, which served as a way to deal with uncomfortable facets of her life. During this time, both her mother and father died which further increased her dependency. By this time, she was getting drunk every night and having blackouts. Knapp’s incentive to get her drinking under control arrived when she came frighteningly close to seriously injuring the daughters of a close friend. After this distressing incident, the book describes Knapp’s arduous journey to sobriety. Upon entering rehab, she attended daily meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. Knapp writes that every day continued to be a struggle, but that she was finally able to live her life as she wanted to.

The book gives a detailed personal history of the effects of alcoholism and, at the same time, includes much information about alcohol abuse and about Alcoholics Anonymous. With the ability to apply a journalist’s objectivity, Knapp manages to be insightful while not evoking feelings of pity.