When celebrities quit drinking

As much as I try to minimize my exposure to the news - and trust me, I do try - I somehow was smacked in the face with a headline just the other day. Maybe I made the mistake of opening Microsoft Edge, rather than Google Chrome, like a frickin’ neophyte. For some reason, the homepage for Edge defaults to msn - behavior which has been neither expected nor desirable for a solid ten years - and msn is always giving me their weird version of “breaking news.” One person cheating on another should only make headlines if it means I get two Christmases. I was surprised, therefore, to see a headline I actually cared about: “Anne Hathaway elaborates on why she’s done drinking.”


I’ve loved Anne Hathaway ever since The Princess Diaries. It was shocking and revelatory to realize that a haircut and contact lenses would bring out my inner (and by that I mean outer) princess, should I choose to go that route. And once, on a family road trip, we stopped at the Mall of America - weird move, I know, for a buncha Quakers - and the only thing open was the movie theater. We saw The Devil Wears Prada. In my family, each person likes maybe one or two things total. Needless to say, the odds of liking the randomly selected movie were not in our favor. But we did like it. Everyone liked Devil Wears Prada. Thanks, Anne.

CREDIT: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Nevertheless, when I saw that Anne Hathaway had “given up drinking,” I did not expect to relate to her reasoning. Hathaway has become somewhat of a social/cultural/political spokesperson in recent years (it's all the same when the president communicates via Twitter), and in general I don’t relate to spokespeople. They are always busily caring about things other than themselves, getting a type of mad about real-world events that I typically reserve for imaginary internal calamities. With that in mind, I was sure that Anne Hathaway would be “giving up alcohol” in an attempt to save the turtles or the democrats or something. But surely, she was not giving it up for herself.


“My issue is I just love it. So. Much. But the way I do it makes me unavailable for my son.” Wowza. That’s a period after so and much. Maybe I can relate to Anne’s reasoning more than I thought. Now granted, I didn’t read the actual article; the full thing was published in a magazine, so I would've had to wait 3-5 days for snail mail like it’s the goddamn pony express. But I did find Tatler magazine’s online summary of their own summary of Anne’s summary of why she quit drinking, and if there’s one thing I can appreciate it’s a fine reduction. Here’s an excerpt:


Elsewhere in the interview she's open about her struggle with alcohol and her decision to stop drinking last year, explaining that she just can’t do moderation: “I will never be that person who can nurse a glass of wine throughout an entire evening.


“...I could have seen myself being a teacher. Or going into the military. Or being some kind of do-gooder with a death wish. But more likely than anything else I would have been an alcoholic,” she jokes.


Now, when I first read this, I carefully assessed myself: Anna, are you frustrated by this? (I swear, I’ll make a very attentive mother some day, so long as my daughter mirrors my every angsty reaction and is just a tiny bit irrational.) After all, Anne said she would have been an alcoholic, not that she is or was. In a recovery meeting, claiming that one might have turned into an alcoholic feels a little off, because it’s truly the thoughts - and not the behaviors - which qualify you. If Anne Hathaway would have waltzed into a recovery meeting, we would have asked for her autograph before showing her the door.


(Not true: the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. She would have been a welcome - albeit a weirdly hot - addition to our clan.)


(Did I say clan? I meant cult.)


No, I decided graciously. I’m not irritated by this. What Hathaway is talking about is the stages of alcoholism. If she had continued drinking the way she did currently, she is afraid of what would happen. She is afraid that she wouldn’t be the mom she’d like to be (“it makes me unavailable for my son.”) She even predicts that the only thing saving her from becoming a "gutter drunk" (her words) was her career. It’s probably true that Hathaway’s drinking wouldn’t resemble that of an alcoholic to an outside observer, and it might even be true that sitting in an AA meeting would provide her with a long list of things she hasn’t done yet. She, like a lot of people - me, for example - is taking the common recovery saying quite literally, whether she knows it or not: “You don’t have to ride the garbage truck all the way to the dump.” You can hop off any time, and the earlier you do, the easier it is. Even if the disease has taken root, it hasn’t progressed much yet; and if it hasn’t taken root at all, all the better.


I must say, I love that someone with this much influence has decided to take such an unexpected and unpopular stand. As a Wisconsinite, I know as well as anyone that people really don’t like to look at their own drinking. As much as I lament the fact that the behavior of generations Y and Z is shaped largely by celebrities and “influencers,” in truth the implications are good: stupid trends are quick to catch on, but so are the very powerful ones. It only takes a couple of people to make a once-loathed lifestyle (sobriety) look very cool. Very vegan, very SoulCycle. So thank you, Anne Hathaway: just for you, this week I’ll return the favor and skip the plastic straws.

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