Doctor Sleep: A Message For Alcoholics?
In his most recent novel, Stephen King has revisited one of his most beloved characters, the little boy from The Shining, Danny Torrance. He’s all grown up now in this so-called sequel called Doctor Sleep. We say so-called because the Danny of this new book doesn’t much resemble the little boy who was terrorized by the loving father driven to madness by ghosts and alcohol abuse in the 1977 original story.
Danny has been cursed with his father’s downfall, the irresistible taste for alcohol that drove his father to redrum—that is, murder. More than one reviewer has wondered if King’s own alcoholism fueled his writings in either the first or second book.
King has confessed that during the late 1970s, when he wrote The Shining, he was drinking so heavily that he would sink into drunken rages, and he wanted nothing more than to pick up one of his two children and beat them. That image played so heavily on his psyche that it wasn’t hard to imagine Jack Torrance chasing his little boy Danny down the halls of the Overlook Hotel, hollering about beating his brains out. If you’re seeking recovery in an alcohol treatment center, you undoubtedly have a few haunting memories of your own.
King has also admitted that he always loved his beer, which he drank in copious amount to chase down the cocaine he also couldn’t resist. The two drugs brought on frequent nosebleeds—his wife would often find him typing madly, determined to finish a page or a chapter before stopping to staunch the blood flow. He also switched to mouthwash whenever he had to interact with the people out in the world beyond his books, as specifically recalled by his editor when he directed his first film, Maximum Overdrive.
In the late 1980s, King’s family staged an intervention, and he has been sober ever since. He has his protagonist in Doctor Sleep—young Danny all grown up—attending AA meetings, just as King himself does. Danny discovers that instead of the old ghosts from the Overlook, he has more to fear about the real ghosts, the things that haunt us from the misty depths of an alcoholic haze.
There is, in fact, a valid point to Danny’s inheritance of drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes from his mother and father: Most addicts reproduce habits that we’ve seen in family members around us. Whether addiction is genetic or environmental, sustained from observing the people we love most, just about any alcoholic can draw a family tree and will find uncles, grandmothers, parents, or siblings sitting on just about every branch.
But King also invokes his experiences at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, even though he doesn’t like to come right out and say that this-or-that is the AA way. The reason for that is the fact that AA is different for each and every person who experiences it. That’s why it’s so important to try a variety of AA meetings when you’re working on your recovery, because you might not like the first two or three meetings that you go to but the next one after that will fit you to a T.
If you’re concerned about your alcohol abuse, your best options might be going into recovery in an alcohol treatment center. Take a good book with you to pass the time.