There’s no doubt that Don Draper likes a drink every now and again…and again…and again. The battle with alcoholism is the character’s main overarching problem. Alcoholism is often a sign of other underlying issues, but it’s hard to do a lot of growth when you’re self-medicating by booze or drugs. It’s certainly gotten him into trouble: vomiting at funerals, marriage wrecking affairs, almost drowning in a pool, punching a minister, being thrown in jail, etc.
But, there’s clearly a good guy in there. Don’s not a malicious, uncaring guy, but he’s very defended. And that’s because of his alcoholism — when his feelings get even just a little bit intense, BOOM: there goes the bottle. Happy, sad, painful, whatever — boom, he drinks. There’s no way any specialist would get anywhere with him with medication or psychotherapy until he gets sober. He’s a damaged guy, but he’s intelligent. He’s the poster child for the myth that if you love your job, have a beautiful wife and an amazing apartment, then you can’t be an alcoholic. He represents that era of excessive consumption and a bottomless search for fulfillment.
So Don needs rehab and AA before anything else gets solved. But the idea that he would be able to stay sober in an environment where there’s constant access to alcohol is unlikely. He would also probably need a medically supervised detox. For Don Draper, the idea of going through life without alcohol would be like ripping a Band-Aid off a third-degree burn. That’s how noxious his issues probably feel to him.
This Drunk Like Don Draper infographic lays out the health risks he’s facing: increased chance of dementia, depression, stroke, neuropathy, heart and liver disease, as well as a staggeringly high mortality probability.