Writer reveals bridge over troubled Waters

Irish Independent - Dublin, Ireland

John Waters has not been to AA in 18 months and he may not go back, writes Barry Egan

By Barry Egan
Sunday November 18 2007

Richard Harris used to quip he had formed a new group called Alcoholics-Unanimous. If you don't feel like a drink, you ring another member and he comes over to twist your arm. The Irish Times columnist and author John Waters has not been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in over 18 months.

In an interview for today's Sunday Independent LIFE magazine, Waters says he has gone through longish spells when he doesn't attend and then goes back again.

"This time it has gone on longer than usual," he told me.

"And I don't know whether I'm going to go back or not," he adds.

And the term 'alcoholic' does not sit well with him.

He says: "I'm not an alcoholic at all. I don't think of myself in those terms.

"It's like if you say you're religious, you're forever on your knees, bating your breast. And if you say you're an alcoholic it means you have a bottle wrapped in brown paper in your pocket. So these terms are not helpful. They are actually quite unproductive."

The last time John had a drink was July 29, 1990. At 3pm. A glass of white wine with friends in Balbriggan.

The writer remembers one evening "a fairly well-known writer" was in Waters' house when he got home from work.

Waters' girlfriend at the time had, he says, some anxieties about his drinking and this character, remembers Waters, "was kind of well-known for his own voyage in this particular area".

He kept following Waters around the house and trying to engage him in conversation about drink.

At one point, he locked himself in the bathroom to get away from him. Then he suggested they go for a drink.

"So I went out with him but I refused to drink, because he'd be able to see me in laboratory conditions," Waters laughs.

"He brought me to my first AA meeting. I found it interesting at the time, but it didn't really stick, and I went back drinking.

"A couple of years later I decided on my own that I had to stop but I hadn't scooped up enough of the AA picture to make me feel that it was worth going back to. So I stopped on my own," he says, in an interview to promote his deeply personal book Lapsed Agnostic about John, God and alcoholism.

"But I really had no understanding of what the process is. It is not actually just leaving down the glass. There is a whole reconstruction thing that needs to happen.

"You do need to connect with people who have similar experiences because your whole emotional structure is effected.

"It is completely left raw and unprotected in the absence of drink.

"So you have to find a way of dealing with all the things that come up," he says.

Something that came up that day during the interview in Dun Laoghaire was Waters' sex symbol status.

His smile widened when I told him that several women I know consider him a thinking woman's crumpet -- not least when The Irish Times hottie is pouting on Questions & Answers about fathers' rights, Dublin 4, and the famine.

"I'd much prefer people to think that of me rather than 'he is obsessed with the famine!'," he jokes.

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