The James Dean complex

17 Jul

3:02 pm

(And no, I don’t mean a closet case who died before he had the chance to come out!)

I’m pretty sure all addicts, regardless of substance of choice, have a James Dean complex. I’m going to discuss it, of course, as it pertains to the seemingly socially unacceptable habits of smoking, drinking, and/or doing hard drugs.

It’s not something you haven’t thought of: What happens to your persona when you quit drinking, stop smoking, or flush your hard drugs? You’re no longer “hip.” You’ve lost your “cool.” You can no longer identify with what our society has outwardly shunned but inwardly normalized to be “exciting,” (i.e., daring/rebellious). So, who the hell are you now?

James Dean (or, the characters he played, at least) represented the misunderstood outcast. Smoking was a form of self-expression, a persona. And he was a BADASS mothafucka for it! Every man wanted to be him and every woman wanted to fuck him. Why? Cuz he threw caution to the wind, did what he wanted against everyone’s better judgment. While smoking was made to seem cool and sexy in order to sell the smokes back then, though, public health mandates and general common sense have evolved (along with medical studies). Yet, we still seem to idolize or desire to emulate (or become, in our fantasies) the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” lifestyle — despite our “evolved” best judgments! We still think, on some level, that overdosing rock stars and hard-boozing journalists are living more exciting lives than us. Addicts are as much addicted to the drug as to the persona. They cultivate their personas and then they become them. In my case and I know others, we become not only identified with our habit but also emotionally attached to it.

I had a friend from grad school who nearly killed himself the year of our studies. He drank so much booze and did so much coke that he ended up triggering a latent autoimmune disease inside his body. The last time I saw him was a few days before graduation; he looked white as chalk and about to fall over. Next thing I know, he’s in the hospital within a few hours of death. He missed graduation and was ordered to strictly avoid booze and drugs for like, the rest of his life if he wanted to keep it.

I went out for “drinks” with him a few days after graduation. It was in a word, weird. I’d only known this guy as a chain-smoking, beer-guzzling, damn-fine journalist. He may even have been Hunter S. Thompson’s actual reincarnate. How would he live and who would he be without his smokes and booze? Would he even be able to be a good journalist? (Turns out, yes, but I’ve lost touch with him to even know if he’s drinking and/or smoking again.) I know he must have struggled with these questions. (A life-threatening disease probably helped him reach some smart conclusions pretty fast, though.)

I’ve always worried about being too shy and socially awkward — AGAIN — once I quit drinking. So far, that hasn’t really been the case. And, I’m drifting steadily away from actually wanting to be *that person,* wine glass dangling precariously from one hand, the other holding me up on the bar while I laugh too loudly at some stupid, unattractive man’s “jokes.” However, while I may no longer define myself by it, I still feel an emotional attachment to the act of drinking wine. I miss it. I miss drinking at night. I miss drinking while watching movies. I miss drinking and having sex. I wonder if the sex is less exciting…and then I feel a sense of being deflated, of having lost something. I equate wine with feeling and being exciting (because I never thought I was?), and so I suppose that is the persona I used drinking to acquire, hold/wear, live out. What if I’m no longer that “badass?” What if I’m no longer fun, sexy, or sexually attractive? What if people were attracted to that kind of crazy, and now that I can’t and won’t go there, they don’t want to come along for ANY ride with me? Drinking is my island; and, you’re telling me I can never escape to that island again?

It’s confusing, and the only advice I can give myself after a few weeks of being sober is, You just have to wait and see. Live out your days, confront life and being and friendships and sex SOBER, and then get back to me and tell me that it’s either better or worse than when you were doing it drunk. With perspective comes better choices; maybe I will decide that yep, all those things ARE actually better while drinking/drunk. Or, maybe I won’t…

3 Responses to “The James Dean complex”

  1. thirteenpointoneandone July 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Wow. I wonder if my drinking is what triggered my celiac disease? Jeez. That would be awful. They do say though, things like that are usually what trigger them.

    Anyway, great post. I can relate completely. Wine was my thing.. i’m still learning to be me without it. All I can do is go one day at a time.

    • drunkydrunkgirl July 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

      It could be. I’m not sure what causes that. How do you know you have it? The symptoms sound a lot like what happens just from drinking too much… Is is something you can get tested for?

      Yeah, wine. Wine is really acidic and fucks with your digestive system; I think I’m still recovering, actually, “down there.” LOL

      • thirteenpointoneandone July 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

        I suspected that I had it after one night when I’d had too much beer. A friend on twitter said to me “have you every looked into Celiac disease?” and i said no. As soon as I started reading about it, I knew tha’ts what it was. I went to my doctor and got the blood work. They said my bloodwork tested through the roof positive. Turns out, I’ve probably had it my whole life and the drinking is probably what pushed it into overdrive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


One family's journey to longterm recovery from alcoholism


Trying to ace sober living

absorbing peace

my walk away from alcohol


recovery from booze, a shitty father and an eating disorder

Violet Tempest

Dark Urban Fantasy & Gothic Horror

Walking in Sober Boots

Footfalls on a Path of Recovery

Sober Mormon

Navigating life after Mormonism

Ditching the Wine

Getting myself sober; the ups and downs

The Sober Experiment

Start your journey of self discovery

Sober and Well

Live your best life free from alcohol

The Phoenix Files

The Outspoken Opinions of S.M. Phoenix


Filling my Cup with What Matters

winesoakedramblings - the blog of Vickie van Dyke

because the drunken pen writes the sober heart ...

I love my new life!

Changing my life to be the best me. My midlife journey into sobriety, passions and simple living/downshifting.

Sunbeam Sobriety

Just a normal lass from Yorkshire and her journey into happy sobriety


Welcome to my journey to end my addiction to wine!

Without the whine

Exploring the heart of what matters most

Find Your Sober Glow!

5 and a half years sober - inspiring and supporting women to live their best sober life!

New Beginnings

My Journey to Staying Sober.

Sober Yogi

My journey to wholeness


A sobriety blog started in 2019

A Spiritual Evolution

Alcoholism recovery in light of a Near Death Experience

No Wine I'm Fine

An alcoholfree journey in New Zealand with a twist


I am a retired teacher who quit drinking and found happiness! After going deaf, I now have two cochlear implants!

Life Beyond Booze

The joys, benefits and challenges of living alcohol free


In reality I was barely functioning at all - life begins with sobriety.

Mental Health @ Home

A safe place to talk openly about mental health & illness

Faded Jeans Living

By Dwight Hyde

Moderately Sober

Finding my contented self the sober way

Sober Courage

from liquid courage to sober courage

Musings Of A Crazy Cat Lady

The personal and professional ramblings of a supposedly middle aged crazy cat lady

Life in the Hot Lane

The Bumpy Road of Life as a Woman 45+

Wake up!

Operation Get A Life


A psychiatrist blogging about her own demons and trying to deal with them sober

Storm in a Wine Glass

I used to drink and now I don't


I got sober. Life got big.

Laura Parrott Perry

We've all got a story to tell.

Finding a Sober Miracle

A woman's quest for one year of sobriety

Dorothy Recovers

An evolving tale of a new life in recovery

Lose 'da Booze

MY Journey towards Losing 'da Booze Voice within and regaining self-control

Life Out of the Box

Buy a product, help a person in need + see your impact.

Laurie Works

MA., NCC, RYT, Somatic Witch

Drunky Drunk Girl

A blog about getting sober

The Soberist Blog

a life in progress ... sans alcohol


Getting sober to be a better mother, wife, and friend


the musings and reflections of one person's mental amusement park


-Postcards from The Cauldron

Guitars and Life

Blog about life by a music obsessed middle aged recovering alcoholic from South East England

%d bloggers like this: