Being a person who gets ’clingy’ to various things during depressing times, but not really addicted in the true sense of the word, I have wondered possibly too often about what makes me reach the state where I feel that I am dependent on a particular activity or object in order to feel the most basic form of happiness. Self-pity, I conclude, is the main culprit. Mind, I can't convince myself that that's all there is to it. After all, why do I continue to get stupid attachments if I've got it all figured out how to prevent them?
Enter this book. Be introduced to a man of respectable, educated origin, demeanour and occupation, who has a family, money and respect. During the fifteenth year of his marriage, he starts to quarrel with his wife, whom he has begun to call by "too damned efficient", and he has begun to have issues with his business. One fine day he shares a bottle of wine given by a friend of his over dinner with his wife (after a quarrel of course). Inexplicably, having been a man who formerly drank beer only occasionally, he suddenly acquires an unquenchable thirst for alcohol, seeing it only as an escape from his multiplying troubles.
"That glass and a half of musty red wine could not have had such a great effect on a sober man like me; and yet, the alcohol transformed the whole world for me. It made me believe there was no estrangement, no quarrel between Magda and myself; it changed my business troubles into successes, such successes that I had 100 marks to give away, not a considerable sum of course, but in my position, no sum of money was quite inconsiderable...Not only had I deceived [Magda] about the state of my business affairs, but I had fortified this deceit with the gift of money...Ah yes, it was alcohol that made me do it. When once I had understood, when once I had realised to the full, what a liar alcohol was, and what liars it makes of honest men, I swore to never to touch a drop, even to give up my occasional glass of beer".
Ah, the folly of self-promises like these. Sadly, Herr Sommer's affair with alcohol does not end here. His psychological and physical demise escalates to enormous proportions, without a single chance for repentance until his self-inflicted, maniac end. However, the speed of his journey varied. When he was spiting his wife his degradation and self-damage accelerated, but when he had been thoroughly weaned and scared off alcohol by the horrors of prison and mental patient rehabilation, as well as filled with hope by the idea that his wife would rescue him, it came to a standstill. The main thing I learned from the story, I suppose, was that addiction is a result of pride and lying to oneself, and refusal to seek help when you need it the most. Why not seek help, as he correctly asked himself. Because your helpers are the very people who epitomise everything you are not at the miserable state you've gotten yourself into.