Addiction Through the Ages

From http://score.addicaid.com/

Substance abuse and addiction is not just a modern construct. For centuries, people have struggled with the effects of drugs, alcohol, and other mind-altering substances, including caffeine and tobacco. Although cultural acceptance and stigmas have changed throughout the years, drugs and alcohol have been a significant part of history and many cultures. Learn more about the history of addiction with the the 3 other infographics in the 4 part series: The Industrial RevolutionWorld War II and BeyondThe Zero Tolerance Era.

 

History of Addiction - The Bronze & Iron Ages

 

History of Addiction - The Industrial Revolution

Sure who’s Counting? How to Engineer Addiction?

Sure who’s Counting?

Here’s a great longread from The Verge called Engineers of Addiction about the psychology of slot machines and the tech industry.

“Bally Technologies, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of slot machines.

Compared to the cacophony of a casino floor, Bally’s showroom was practically monastic, the lights low and the room silent apart from the soothing hum of two dozen hibernating consoles…

the expansion of gaming generally is the expansion of slot machines specifically — the modern casino typically earns 70 to 80 percent of its revenue from slots, a stratospheric rise from the 1970s when slots comprised 50 percent or less.

…increasingly, the psychological and technical systems originally built for slot machines — including reward schedules and tracking systems — have found admirers in Silicon Valley.

In the factory, Trask and I passed a ProWave cabinet, a design released by Bally in mid-2014 that features a 32-inch concave screen, like an even more curved Samsung TV. Trask claimed that putting the same exact games on curved screens increased gameplay 30-80 percent…

…Game designers are charged with somehow summoning the ineffable allure of electronic spectacle — developing a system that is both simple and endlessly engaging, a machine to pull and trap players into a finely tuned cycle of risk and reward that keeps them glued to the seat for hours, their pockets slowly but inevitably emptying. As we stood over the gaming cabinet, Trask told me about the floor of the MGM, home to 2,500 machines and hundreds of different games. Trask’s mission, as he saw it, was simple: “Our job is to get you to choose our game.”

The prototypical slot machine was invented in Brooklyn in the mid-1800s — it was a cash register-sized contraption and used actual  playing cards. Inserting a nickel and pressing a lever randomized the cards in the small display window, and depending on the poker hand that appeared, a player could win items from the establishment that housed the machine. In 1898, Charles Fey developed the poker machine into the Liberty Bell machine, the first true slot with three reels and a coin payout. Each reel had 10 symbols, giving players a 1-in-1,000 chance of hitting the 50-cent jackpot if three Liberty Bells lined up. The three-reel design was a hit in bars and became a casino standard, but for decades gaming houses considered them little more than a frivolity — distractions for the wives of table-game players. Accordingly, casinos were dense with table games, and slots were relegated to the periphery.

That began to change in the 1960s, when Bally introduced the electromechanical slot machine. The new rig let players insert multiple coins on a single bet, and machines could multiply jackpots as well as offer up smaller, but more frequent wins. Multi-line play was introduced: alongside the classic horizontal lineup, players could now win with diagonal and zig-zagged combinations. The new designs sped up gameplay and breathed life into the stagnating industry.

William “Si” Redd, the bolo tie-wearing Mississippi native who oversaw some of Bally’s new projects during the era, was instrumental to that renaissance. “The player came to win,” he said, “he didn’t come to lose, [so] speed it up, give him more, be more liberal. Let him win more, but then [you make money] still with the speeding up, because it was extra liberal.” In other words, the new machines lowered slots’ volatility — gaming parlance for the frequency at which a player experiences big wins and losses.

In the 1970s, Redd left Bally and founded another gaming manufacturer that was later renamed IGT. IGT specialized in video gambling machines, or video poker. Video poker machines could be designed to have even lower volatility, paying players back small amounts on more hands. And video poker’s interactive elements made them extra engrossing, turning them into an enormous success: people lined up to play the first machines, and the game’s ability to command a player’s complete concentration for hours gave it a reputation as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

“If you were to take $100 and play slots, you’d get about an hour of play, but video poker was designed to give you two hours of play for that same $100,” Redd said at the time, instructing game designers to lengthen the time it took a poker machine to consume a player’s money.

Redd also acquired the patent for the newly created Random Number Generator, which computerized the odds-calculator behind the spinning reels and allowed game makers to control volatility. A modern slot machine, at its core, is nothing more than an RNG going through millions or billions of numbers at all times. When a player hits a spin button, they are simply stopping the RNG at a particular moment. Everything beyond that — the music, the mini-games, the actual appearance of spinning reels, Rachel, Monica, and the rest of the gang keeping you company — is window dressing to keep you hitting spin.

IGT now makes 93 percent of the world’s video poker machines and is the largest manufacturer of video slots in the world. Its Wheel of Fortune franchise spans every kind of slot machine — reels, curved screens, and massive installations with enormous physical flourishes.

…certain principles undergird most games. First, there’s a vague aesthetic uniformity: colors tend toward the primary or pastel, franchise tie-ins are a must, and the game soundtracks are typically in a major key. Meanwhile, the multi-line wins introduced by Bally have become an unintelligible tangle: modern slots offer players upwards of 50 and sometimes 100 different winning combinations — so many that without the corresponding lights, sounds, and celebration, most casual and even advanced players would have trouble recognizing whether they’d won or lost.

To keep players gambling, all slots rely on the same basic psychological principles discovered by B.F. Skinner in the 1960s. Skinner is famous for an experiment in which he put pigeons in a box that gave them a pellet of food when they pressed a lever. But when Skinner altered the box so that pellets came out on random presses — a system dubbed variable ratio enforcement — the pigeons pressed the lever more often. Thus was born the Skinner box, which Skinner himself likened to a slot machine.

The Skinner box works by blending tension and release — the absence of a pellet after the lever is pressed creates expectation that finds release via reward. Too little reward and the animal becomes frustrated and stops trying; too much and it won’t push the lever as often.

Like video poker, most multi-line slots rarely pay large jackpots, instead doling out smaller wins frequently. “They’re imitating the formula of video poker, but they’re doing it in a slot formula,” Natasha Schüll, an associate professor at MIT who has researched slots for 15 years, says. In 2012, Princeton University Press published Addiction by Design: Machine Gaming in Las Vegas, the culmination of her research and a deconstruction of the slot machine.

Schüll says modern slot machines essentially continued the trend started by Redd so as not to jolt players too intensely in the form of losses — or wins. “Too-big wins have been shown to stop play because it’s such an intense shift in the situation that you’ll kind of pause, you’ll stop, you’ll take your money and leave,” says Schüll. Stretching out gameplay with minor rewards, Schüll says, “allows you to get in the flow of, another little win, another little win.”

As a result, modern slots pay out on approximately 45 percent of all spins, instead of the 3 percent of traditional slots. “The sense of risk is completely dampened,” Schüll says. “Designers call them drip feed games.”

That analysis is supported by a 2010 American Gaming Association white paper. “Lower-volatility games often have greater appeal in ‘locals markets’ than in destination resort markets like Las Vegas or Atlantic City…Customers tend to play these games for longer periods of time…” In other words, lower volatility games paved the way for gaming’s wild expansion nationwide.

The advent of bonus games has also helped bolster slot machines’ popularity: instead of just winning money, certain combinations can trigger mini games. In the IGT showroom, Lanning showed me the company’s forthcoming Entourage game, in which a bonus game has the player match portraits of characters. In the industry, it’s called a pick-em bonus. “Those are the most popular features,” Melissa Price, the senior vice president of gaming for Caesar’s Entertainment, told me. “Customers enjoy ‘perceived skill’ experience.”

And then, there’s the emotional appeal: Price told me the company commissioned a study to find out why people love the Wheel of Fortune line so much. “People said it was as much about the brand as anything,” she said. “People said, ‘That brand — I used to hear it in the living room at my grandma’s house, I’d hear that wheel spinning because my grandma watched it. It reminds me of my grandma.’ I mean, how can you compete with that?”

8bit_casino_score_addicaid

Price and I spoke on the floor of Harrah’s Las Vegas at 9:00AM — the slots players were already at their machines, or perhaps they’d been there all night.

Tracking

As long as a player has her Total Rewards card inserted in the machine, every time she hit the spin button the system recorded the size of her bet, what game it was spent on, at what time, how long she’d been playing for, and so on, until she hits the “Cash Out” button on the machine, at which point all the data is encapsulated in her file, along with all the other games she has ever played at a Caesar’s casino.

Player tracking systems revealed more than a pit boss ever could: over time, Harrah’s can create a portrait of the person’s risk profile, including how much money a player typically loses before they stop playing and what kinds of gifts to give them to keep them on the gaming floor. Sometimes, that can be a penthouse suite; other times, it can be as little as giving a player $15 in cash. In 2012, This American Life charted the lurid and unsettling extreme of how these systems can be used in a story about a Harrah’s in Indiana that enticed a woman to keep playing with unlimited hotel suites, diamond jewelry, and free trips to the Kentucky Derby. The perks fueled her gaming habit until she was $125,000 in debt.

…Jack and Singleton say they’ve both earned “Black Cards” through Sugarhouse’s player tracking system, meaning they’ve each spent more than $10,000 here. Jack says the casino has comped them four cruises so far; Singleton says she threw her card away because it reminded her of how much money she’d spent. I had more questions, but at a certain point it became apparent that Singleton was no longer listening.

“She’s in the zone right now,” said Jack.

The “zone” is at the core of Scüll’s theory about the success and proliferation of slot machines. She heard the term over and over again in her 15 years of research — the players repeatedly told her that they played to zone out, to escape thought.

To understand the zone, you first have to understand “flow,” the concept developed by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to describe a hyperfocused state of absorption. During “flow,” time speeds up (hours feel like minutes) or slows down (reactions can be made instantly) and the mind reaches a state of almost euphoric equilibrium. Schüll, in her book, describes Csikszentmihaly’s four criteria of flow: “[F]irst, each moment of the activity must have a little goal; second, the rules for attaining that goal must be clear; third, the activity must give immediate feedback; fourth, the tasks of the activity must be matched with challenge.” For most of their history, slots easily fulfilled the first two criteria; after lowering volatility, they fulfilled the third criterion, and with the introduction of multiple lines, endless bonus rounds, and the occasional mini-game, they finally fulfilled the four criteria.

The “zone” is flow through a lens darkly: hyperfocused, neurotransmitters abuzz, but directed toward a numbness with no goal in particular. When Singleton emerged from the zone, I asked her again why she found the slots so compelling. “I lost my husband two years ago to throat cancer,” she explained. “He was the love of my life, and I started doing this just to — I was out of my mind and spent a lot of time at the cancer center.” Jack had lost his son to pancreatic cancer. As they told their stories, Jack and Singleton hit the spin buttons and the machines blared so loudly that their words were lost in the noise.

Singleton says she never recovered from the pain of her loss, and that’s why she keeps coming back to the slots. Jack echoed that sentiment: “I don’t have to think. And I know I can’t win.”

“Right, so you know that,” said Singleton.

“Every now and then…you get something,” Jack agreed.

“But it’s never what you lost.”

“Because I don’t care whether I win 38 cents or 600 dollars.”

“You just want to see them again.”

Singleton rifled through her wallet filled with $100 bills. “I’ll be right back, guys,” she said, and went off to get change.

Back at the Bally showroom, Trask and I had sat in front of the company’s new Duck Dynasty game. “There’s never been more slot machines in the world than there are today,” he said. “And that’s proliferation not just in the US, but abroad.” His hand rested on the game’s display, his index finger next to a reel symbol of a cast member sticking his tongue out and playing air guitar. Scientific Games’ market now includes 50 countries on six continents. This spring, the company announced it was planning on providing 5,000 of the 16,500 machines recently authorized in Greece.

The industry is also preparing for the eventual deterioration of its key middle-aged demographic and competition from free-to-play mobile games. “People only have so much leisure time and there’s a lot of activity on iPhones,” Price told me. At one point in the Bally’s warehouse, Trask said, “You know how you get people younger to gamble? Hand them a fucking telephone.”

The industry seems to be working on the same hunch. In 2011, Caesar’s acquired Playtika, an online casino games company that offers free and paid mobile games. A year later, IGT acquired the free casino games app DoubleDown, which runs as both a stand-alone mobile app and through Facebook.

The company now offers online table games and a good sample of its portfolio of slots, including Wheel of Fortune, to mobile players. Earlier this year, the gaming giant appointed former Zynga studio manager Jim Veevart as DoubleDown’s vice president of games. And last year, Churchill Downs Incorporated, which runs seven casinos in addition to its Kentucky Derby racetrack, acquired the free games company Big Fish Games.

Meanwhile, the tech sector is adopting the principles of slot design for its own purposes. In the early aughts, the tech writer Julian Dibbell devised the concept of ludocapitalism, a term inspired by watching World of Warcraft players mine gold in the game to making a living in real life. Ludocapitalism was an attempt to explain the growing gamification of society through technology. Dibbell admits the concept’s parameters are vague, but at its most basic it identifies that capitalism can harness the human play drive for better or worse — and that increasingly, games aren’t allegories that say something about our lives; they are our lives. As people move toward more data-driven existences where points are accumulated from health apps (the subject of Schüll’s latest research) and status is accumulated in identifiable quantities on social media, gamification becomes so total that it can sometimes mask whether what we’re doing has any inherent utility outside the game that surrounds it.

Within gamification, Schüll also identifies slotification: we slay an endless procession of monsters with no progress of narrative, mine endless digital coins for no other reason than their aggregation, hit spin on the slot machine with no big payoff. “It’s this ludic loop of, open and close, open and close; you win, you lose, nothing changes,” Schüll says. Writing in The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal tapped Schüll’s concept of the ludic loop to explain the inextricable entrancement of flipping through Facebook photos: you push a button over and over, primed for an eternally fleeting informational reward.

Mr.Burns.Casino.Score.Addicaid

A more exact replica of a slot may be Tinder. The mechanics of the dating app mirror the experience of playing slots: the quick swiping results in an intermittent reward of connection, followed by the option to either message your potential date or “Keep playing.” Tinder recently launched a premium version that allows the user to undo an accidental “not interested” swipe, essentially monetizing mistakes made while in the automatic rhythm of the zone.

“I can’t tell you how often I’ve been approached since the publication of my book by Silicon Valley types who say things like, ‘Wow, the gambling industry really seems to have a handle on this attention retention problem that we’re all facing,’” Schüll told me. “‘Will you come tell our designers how to do a better job?’”

Last year, Schüll heard from Nir Eyal, a tech entrepreneur who founded and sold two startup companies that produce advertisements in free-to-play games. “[Eyal] showed me his copy of my book, and it had, like, hundreds of hot pink sticky notes coming out of it,” she told me. In his 2003 book Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products, Eyal laid out his “Hook Model” of product development that works on basic behaviorist principles: a trigger turns into an action turns into a variable reward turns into a further personal investment back into the product. Last year, he invited Schüll to speak at his Habit Summit, hosted at Stanford. Schüll gave a talk on the “dark side of habits,” placing slot machines on the undesirable end of the habit spectrum.

Eyal told me he invited Schüll to offer a less self-congratulatory, “rah-rah” voice to the conference. Although the conference focused on how to build habit-forming tech products, “These techniques — they have a dark side,” he said. “If not used appropriately, or if used for nefarious purposes, then they don’t always benefit the user.”

Still, it was difficult to determine whether Schüll’s slot research has been received as a warning or a how-to guide within tech. Eyal criticized slot machines for what he said was a business model dependent on addicted players — “that industry, I have a problem with,” he said. But Hooked is in many ways tech’s version ofAddiction by Design: his model of successful product design is a loop going from “trigger” to “action” to “variable reward” to “investment” and back again. In his trigger section, Eyal uses Instagram to illustrate how emotional pain can be a powerful motivator to use a product — in that app’s case, the mostly insubstantial pain of lost memories. He writes, “As product designers it is our goal to solve these problems and eliminate pain…users who find a product that alleviates their pain will form strong, positive associations with the product over time.”

I asked Eyal what distinguishes mobile games or dating apps from slot machines. He gave a range of answers that sounded at once comprehensive and somewhat defensive — that tech addictions never really plummet to the league of gambling addiction; that people prone to addiction will be addicted no matter what — before finally admitting that, in a sense, everything functions like a slot machine.

“All content needs to be made interesting. What you’re doing as a writer is introducing variable rewards into your story. Everything that engages us, all pieces of content are engineered to be interesting,” he said. “Movies aren’t real life, books aren’t real life, your article isn’t real life. It’s manufactured to pull us one sentence after another through mystery, through the unknown. It’s a slot machine. Your article is a slot machine. It has to be variable. So just because an experience introduces variability and mystery — that’s good!”

“I think the answer is, it’s okay to addict people as long as your business model doesn’t depend on it,” he said, as if finally finding the answer to a problem that had long seemed without a solution. “That’s the answer,” he added. “That’s the answer.”

[h/t: The Verge, by @asthompson]

From

http://score.addicaid.com/engineering-a-new-breed-of-addicts/

Look Out!

Produced by Xie Chenglin, a student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in China, the video shows people going about with their heads down, obsessed with what’s happening on their smartphone instead of what’s happening in the world around them. No one really behaves this extreme (but selfies taken with disasters as the background have been a worrying trend recently). This short is an over-the-top, satirical video — emphasizing the severity of the problem — without chastising the viewer, so the message actually gets through.

 


http://score.addicaid.com/watch-this-animated-video-on-smartphone-addiction/

Just One More…Game?

 

 

 

punchout score addicaid gif

Getting beatin at the fight with addiction sucks!   The American Psychiatric Association decided that enough evidence exists to include video game addiction as a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as internet gaming addiction.

APA suggests the effects (or symptoms) of video game addiction may be similar to those of other proposed psychological addictions. Video game addiction may be like compulsive gambling, an impulse control disorder.

There is a GREAT interactive article at NYTimes.

My score was 3080.  Can you beat it?

a winner is you score addicaid

 

From

http://score.addicaid.com/just-one-more-game/

 

 

Don’t Keep Taking The Medicine!

“The addiction piece, I have to say, is a huge part of my life. Not just my own, but that of many people I love. The helplessness around that, and learning to deal with that, and all the various 12-step programs I’ve been a part of over the years, and how much they’ve helped me, and how hard it is to love somebody who is going through that and remain distant enough to not let it crush you each time. All that stuff is of tremendous interest to me. That keeps me very deeply involved in Jackie’s journey.”

– Edie Falco on her own struggle with addiction

 

 

Liz Brixius, who co-created the show, says Falco and the producers had a specific vision for the character. “We wanted a picture of a woman with addiction on TV that wasn’t pathetic or slovenly or slurring her words,” she says. “Like, somebody who is still incredibly competent at what she does.”

Brixius says it helped that she, co-creator Linda Wallem and Falco all had struggled with alcohol addiction themselves many years ago. “It’s something that we know so well,” she says. “It’s the idea that, there is — no matter where you’re going — there’s always an undertow pulling you in a different direction. And that’s your addiction.”

http://score.addicaid.com/nurse-jackie-is-tvs-most-honest-depiction-of-addiction/

The Heavenly Gifts of Alcoholism?

“The victim of a malodorous disease which renders him abhorrent to society and periodically degrades him is also the master of a superhuman art which everybody has to respect and which the normal man finds he needs.”

 

Ransacked souls all who drank like fish and wrote like fallen angels.

I mentioned yesterday in a comment to a follower how alcoholism and addiction seem to be intertwined with extraordinary creative talent. It is as if heavenly creative vision can coincide with a slide into alcoholic hell.

Here is a piece which touches on this theme.
A theme I will write about again at a another time.

“There are a lot of writers with drinking problems. There are a lot of drinkers with writing problems. Alcoholism can practically be described as the American literary disease. But why are there so many alcoholic writers?

Why, in America especially, are the production of literature and the consumption of destructive quantities of alcohol so intimately intertwined?

Which came first, the bottle or the typewriter? For much of the 20th century, literary distinction and alcoholism were strongly linked. An oft-cited fact is that five of the first six American Nobel Prize winners—Lewis, O’Neill, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Steinbeck—were alcoholics.

Olivia Laing, author of The Trip to Echo Spring, battens on to six of these sad, brilliant cases, all men, in an attempt to solve, or at least shed light on, the paradox that their desolate and haunted lives yielded “some of the most beautiful writing this world has ever seen.” Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Berryman—ransacked souls all who drank like fish and wrote like fallen angels.

Laing’s method of investigation is to undertake what’s called in AA-speak a “geographical,” a meandering journey, mostly by train, to the significant loci in these writers’ lives, in a gamble that the spirits of place might offer deeper insights than the usual critical and biographical approaches.

She begins with Fitzgerald and Hemingway; the former deluded himself that alcohol was essential to his literary inspiration, while the latter deluded himself that he had everything, his drinking and his depression and his multiple psychic and physical wounds, under stoic and manly control.

Continuing with John Cheever, who’s Journals (published in 1991) offer a profoundly mixed reading experience —sordid instances of sexual abasement and alcoholic excess and poisonous animus directed at his wife and family, all rendered in the most exquisite prose imaginable. Cheever’s surface image as the winsome, WASPy squire of suburbia masked profound social and financial anxieties and resentments and a hidden hyperactive homosexual life conducted in the furtive shadows.

The AA commonplace “You’re only as sick as your secrets” could be the motto on the Cheever family crest. Like so many alcoholics, Cheever had the perversely impressive ability to deny the unpleasant facts of his own behavior; Laing cites instances where Cheever waxes peevish about his wife’s conjugal coldness, failing to grasp that sleeping with her sodden husband could hold no appeal whatsoever. And yet, in 1973, after 28 days at the Smithers Center in New York City, “by some miracle” Cheever emerges from his slough of self-pity and morbid narcissism never to drink again—a resurrection symbolically repurposed in his one fully achieved novel, Falconer.

 

Raymond Carver, Cheever’s close friend and boozing companion, managed to stop drinking in the final years of his life as well. As Carver confessed, “He and I did nothing but drink.” Carver’s life rivaled and perhaps even exceeded Cheever’s in alcoholic abjectness, if not in louche sexual content; his was the blue-collar version, replete with unpaid bills and demeaning employment and the near-total absence of glamour.

When faced with a helplessness to control or even understand one’s dreams and desires, one can have recourse to two forms of surrender: a giving up, which Berryman and Hemingway chose in its most extreme form, suicide; or a giving over, Carver’s happy choice, to the cosmic gamble that is faith. And with that, Carver finally completed his climb out of the wreckage of a life of privation and physical and moral squalor.

After dying of lung cancer, Carver was buried in Ocean View Cemetery. Next to the grave is a notebook where visitors leave messages, including many from people struggling with alcoholism for whom Carver is a saint of sobriety. It is no accident that the stories of Carver’s final years are stunning in their spiritual amplitude and their intimate association with mystery.

Take a final word from Edmund Wilson, from his great essay on human frailty + strength and the tangled roots of artistic creativity, “The Wound and the Bow”:

The victim of a malodorous disease which renders him abhorrent to society and periodically degrades him is also the master of a superhuman art which everybody has to respect and which the normal man finds he needs.”

 

From

http://score.addicaid.com/why-are-there-so-many-alcoholic-writers/

Porn Addiction

This entertaining ASAPScience video explains how porn addiction effects our brains and how it changes the way we perceive sex, leading to the same brain activity associated with alcoholism and drug addiction.
Porn: it’s the number one topic for internet searches, but do we ever consider how pornography can have lasting neuroplastic effects? Discover the hard science behind the ‘porn epidemic’ – the internet’s drug of choice.

ASAPScience is by Mitchell Moffit (twitter @mitchellmoffit) and Gregory Brown (twitter @whalewatchmeplz).

Is Mad Men about Don Draper’s Denial or Society’s?

Following on from yesterday’s Infographic on Don Draper’s gradual descent into alcoholism in the the superb series Mad Men we now look at how alcoholism and addiction has been portrayed in this series.

“It’s no secret that Don Draper, Mad Men’s chief protagonist struggles with alcoholism. In fact, much of the show revolves around excessive and abusive drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous has been the pink elephant in the room for years on Mad Men. The show is damn good entertainment, but we should all keep in mind that in the end the story is a tragedy and Don Draper is bound to hit rock bottom.  Below is NPR’s take on why we should pay attention toMad Men’s depiction of alcoholism.

AMC’s Mad Menis coming to a close after almost eight years. It’s hard to overstate the phenomenal, uncommon level of cultural saturation it’s achieved.

It’s also something that’s gained undeniable poignancy with the announcement that Jon Hamm, the actor who portrays the alcoholic Don Draper so indelibly, recently emerged from a stint in rehab for alcohol addiction.

An Uneasy Relationship?

There’s no denying that Mad Men can make drinking look really good. A huge proportion of the show’s gorgeously styled scenes take place in or around the wood-paneled bars, lounges and restaurants of the era (Episode 1, Season 1 even opens in one.) It’s a world populated with slick movers and shakers, where confidence is non-negotiable, and those endless martinis are part of the ineffably cool image.

Early on in Mad Men’s run, even over-consumption was frequently played as wry, jet-black comedy. Think of Don goading colleague Roger Sterling into guzzling multiple daytime martinis, then engineering a 23-floor stair climb that leads Roger to publicly lose his lunch. Or Don constructing his kids’ playhouse while pounding beers in the sunshine, unable to perform his paternal duty without lubrication.

But as Seasons 4 and 5 chronicle Don’s slide into outright alcoholism, showrunner Matthew Weiner’s treatment of this theme becomes much darker. Virtually all of the least-flattering moments for Draper, this apparent paragon of retro masculinity, come courtesy of an excess of booze.

One of his most cringe-worthy lows comes when, jellified by award ceremony celebrations, he conducts a pitch for Life cereal totally hammered. The episode doesn’t just represent the start of Don’s slide into full-blown alcoholism. (It’s the first time we see him suffering a significant lapse in memory.) It also shows him committing the unforgivable sin of being bad at what he does.

An even greater blow to the myth of Don Draper comes in the award-winning episode “The Suitcase.” He vomits loudly in the SDCP bathrooms and grapples pathetically with the equally drunk adman Duck Phillips. The dapper Don of the previous seasons is replaced by a tragic figure with sick stains down his shirt.

As the ’70s draw ever closer and Draper gets more tragic, Weiner’s intent all along is becoming fantastically clear: to peel back the lie of sharp suits, constant conquests and liquid lunches to show us the unsightly reality (and terrifying future) of the Don type. In the same way that Reaganites mistook Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” for a jingoistic sing-a-long, we all fell for Weiner’s expert “Don Draper trick.”

The fallacy of the Draper lifestyle — that someone could ever drink and philander so much, yet have his family life, career and health survive unscathed — should have been obvious.

Whoever’s Selling, We’re Buying

An interesting coda to all this: Jack Daniel’s sponsored Mad Men’s first season.

Before Season 1 had even premiered, a consumer group lodged a complaint against the show’s producers with the Distilled Spirits Council. The group claimed that Jack Daniel’s was violating industry codes that prohibited alcohol marketing, as well “depictions of irresponsible drinking, overt sexual activity or sexually lewd images.

So, almost eight years later, we know our show about a sophisticated Old Fashioned drinker was a tragedy all along. But if there’s one thing at which humans excel, it’s overlooking the uglier elements of something for the parts that look, well, better.”

 

For me this subtle, superb piece of writing points not only shows clearly and brilliantly the descent into alcoholism but to the fact that alcoholics are often high achieving, charismatic individuals before their descent into alcoholism as typified by Don Draper.

It also points to not only Don Draper’s denial about his alcoholism but society’s problem with accepting alcoholism in others especially in those charismatic talented individuals we look up to and want to be, to emulate.

Society wants these guys to be true but not the alcoholism.

Sorry guys alcoholism and addiction is often the price of this talent.

Think not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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juantetcts

The Courage To Shift is my Life Coach business that focuses on moving the client from victim, to VICTOR, regardless of their personal goals! Is there anything in life that you would like more of?

Mast Cells & Collagen Behaving Badly

My journey with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, M.E. & Mast Cell Disease

athingirldotcom

never judge a girl by her weight

praythroughhistory

Heal the past. Free the present. Bless the future.

allaboutbeingalive

tackling the teen life

Espiritu en Fuego/A Fiery Spirit

Espiritu en Fuego -- A Fiery Spirit Expressing Herself

tired of treading water

Ditching the drink and waking up

Musings of a Progressive...

Transmissions from the heart, because in the end, we're all just walking each other home.

Sober Bean

Life, Sober

John Wreford Photographer

Words and Pictures from the Middle East & Balkans

emmapalova

EW This WordPress.com site is about Emma's Writings.

Darlene A. McGarrity

Novelist & Whimsical Word Sleuth

12-STEP PHILOSOPHY

Recovery from Addiction is a New Relationship with Self, Others and the World

toddwash

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Recovery and Wellbeing Partnership 07531 507 686

Affordable, Available, Effective Treatment

luchopardo's Blog

A great WordPress.com site

Jack Stem's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Sober Again

Living life sober, without fear

claw marks

letting go and never letting go.

Svens Bericht

Erfahrungsbericht eines Anonymen Alkoholikers

Linda Amato

I AM MORE THAN BOOKS

Kindness Blog

Kindness Changes Everything

Fifty Shades of Truth and BS

Exposing abuse under the guise of BDSM & related reflections on self-recovery.

Musings of a mad woman

Bipolar is my superpower

Untangled

A Blog about PTSD, and Mental Health, with a bit of poetry sprinkled in along the way.

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

[Celebrate Recovery At The Grace Place]

A Christ-Centered Recovery Program

Wasted in the Wasteland

We are at war with addiction

Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Mental Health Headlines

Headline stories in mental health and addiction

A hangover free life

Waking up to the sobering reality that booze is the problem not the solution

Girl's Crazy Thoughts and Ideas :)

My thoughts rule my Tangled world.

1 Minute 12 Steps

My endless opinions on recovering one minute, one day, one life at a time.

jkevinmchugh

Just another WordPress.com site