For my write-up today on Stephen King’s Needful Things, I will talk about Danforth “Buster” Keeton. Danforth is a town selectman who has developed a gambling problem, and he’s getting on the radar of the authorities because he has been embezzling money on account of his gambling problem. Danforth does not appear to acknowledge his own role in his difficulties, however, for he blames his “persecutors” rather than himself. Danforth did not always have a gambling problem. He was student council President in high school, and he made straight A’s at a business college. He was responsible, he was organized, and he was going somewhere. But when the head selectman, Steve Frazier, invited him to the race-track, Danforth went and got caught up in the excitement of the game and his surroundings, and he was also happy to have won some money. Danforth rarely felt as if he were a part of anything, but he now felt included in something.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff there. The narrative that I have heard from twelfth-step recoverers is that sobriety can help a person to go places—-that alcoholism is an elevator that only goes down. In a sense, that is true. Granted, as far as I know (and that is a key phrase, for there is a lot that I do not know, and I could be wrong even on this), studies do not indicate that people who don’t drink make more money than those who do drink. Some have even referred to studies in which the opposite is shown to be the case. But I do believe that alcoholics do better—-financially, socially, etc.—-when they do not drink, for drinking often does cost them relationships, money, and (in some cases) even their freedom.
The problem is that many with alcoholism or addictions feel as if they are outsiders. I’ve heard stories from real-live people about this, but, to return to the imaginary world of our novel (or, actually, Stephen King’s novel), Danforth felt empty, even though he was going somewhere professionally. Danforth was a part of things, for he was on the Board of Selectmen, and he had a wife. But he only felt like he was a part of something at the track—-and the track also appears to be the only place where he experienced excitement.
I think that recovery includes a variety of elements. A significant part of it is to try to help people with addictions to feel less like outsiders. This is attempted through recovery groups, and also through the twelve steps, which help people to identify how they have wrecked their relationships. Rather than blaming other people (as Danforth did), people with addictions take a good hard look at themselves to identify where they were at fault (which is not to say that they were necessarily the only ones at fault in their situations). People have told me that they experience happiness when they become a part of a community and deal with their personal baggage, and they gain hope when they get advice on how to deal and to cope with the challenges of life.
One factor in the lives of many addicts is a craving for drama and excitement (which was what Danforth sought at the race track). I do not know how that problem is addressed in every case, but I do know that many recovering addicts get to the point where they are tired of drama: they simply want for life to run smoothly, and, for them, that is more likely to happen when they are sober.
On a related note, I really liked the latest episode of Desperate Housewives. Carlos is developing a drinking problem, and that is causing him to miss meetings at work. When a rich client learns that Carlos has a drinking problem, he demands to see Carlos right away. Right when we think that the client is about to chew Carlos out, the client shows Carlos his sobriety chip and tells Carlos his story about his own recovery. The client is there to help Carlos, not to chew him out.