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Review of "Drunkard"

By Neil Steinberg
Plume, 2008
Review by James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA on Nov 10th 2009

Drunkard is one man's harrowing account of his battle with alcoholism and struggle for sobriety. The author, Chicago Sun Times columnist, Neil Steinberg, chronicles his drinking life with uncompromising candor. Married, with two young children, he tries to balance family and vocation with his self-proclaimed love of alcohol. He spends leisurely lunches at bars and taverns, stops for a "quick one" between errands, and hides spirits of all kinds within his home. Eventually, the booze-filled life takes over, threatening his marriage, and leaving him hopelessly adrift. He ultimately enters a rehabilitation program, graduates, and finds himself coping with after-care support through AA. There is relapse, partial recovery, then relapse again. In the end, he seems to have found his way, as he writes: "You can't imagine the delight of having the urge fade--the absence itself is a powerful motivation not to drink. To not have the obsession hit you in the face each morning when you open your eyes. To have other things occupy your mind. A joy. What madman would wake the beast by pouring booze on it again? Not me. Not today."

The pleasure from reading Steinberg's book comes from the challenges he portrays so candidly--trying to be a proper husband and father, meeting his professional obligations, reconciling his disdain for AA against the guidance it gave him. Truly, the book speaks to the ravages of alcoholism and the courage required to overcome it. Steinberg writes with self-deprecating humor which frequently takes the sting out of the many compromising situations he finds himself in. And, too, there is suspense--will he extricate himself from his demons or never really come to grips with his problems? I finished the book believing that that Steinberg had achieved and would maintain sobriety. Add Drunkard to the memoirs of alcoholism penned by Pete Hamill, Augusten Burroughs, and Caroline Knapp--honest, penetrating, redemptive.


© 2009 James K. Luiselli


James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA is a psychologist affiliated with May Institute and a private-practice clinician. Among his publications are 6 books and over 200 journal articles. He reviews books for The New England Psychologist.