“Let’s just say, on occasion, the police were involved and emergency rooms and courtrooms” — Raymond Carver Talks About Drinking

Literature, Writers

More from Raymond Carver’s 1983 Paris Review interview

INTERVIEWER

Could you talk a little more about the drinking? So many writers, even if they’re not alcoholics, drink so much.

CARVER

Probably not a whole lot more than any other group of professionals. You’d be surprised. Of course there’s a mythology that goes along with the drinking, but I was never into that. I was into the drinking itself. I suppose I began to drink heavily after I’d realized that the things I’d wanted most in life for myself and my writing, and my wife and children, were simply not going to happen. It’s strange. You never start out in life with the intention of becoming a bankrupt or an alcoholic or a cheat and a thief. Or a liar.

INTERVIEWER

And you were all those things?

CARVER

I was. I’m not any longer. Oh, I lie a little from time to time, like everyone else.

INTERVIEWER

How long since you quit drinking?

CARVER

June second, 1977. If you want the truth, I’m prouder of that, that I’ve quit drinking, than I am of anything in my life. I’m a recovered alcoholic. I’ll always be an alcoholic, but I’m no longer a practicing alcoholic.

INTERVIEWER

How bad did the drinking get?

CARVER

It’s very painful to think about some of the things that happened back then. I made a wasteland out of everything I touched. But I might add that towards the end of the drinking there wasn’t much left anyway. But specific things? Let’s just say, on occasion, the police were involved and emergency rooms and courtrooms.

 

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