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The Devil Inside

"We choose our own path. Our values and our actions, they define who we are." —Stefan Salvatore, The Vampire Diaries

Ever one to have her finger right on the pulse, I have recently begun watching The Vampire Diaries (please note my sarcasm here - if you are unaware, TVD first graced our screens back in 2009. It’s only taken me 15 years to get on board). Other than developing a massive crush on Ian Somerhalder, TVD has caught my attention because of the stark similarities it throws up between being a vampire, and living with alcohol use disorder. 

Stefan Salvatore (on-screen brother of the lovely Damon, played by aforementioned Ian Somerhalder) speaks, in one episode, of his compulsion to drink human blood - he has no control over this urge, and it makes him fearful…fearful that one day it will consume him and he'll no longer be able to resist it. He knows it’s wrong, he doesn’t want to drink blood, he has no wish to kill anyone. And yet…there is this thought he lives with, day in, day out; the thought that everything would be ok if only he could just drink fresh human blood. 

Stefan has spent years abstaining from human blood, desperate to live as a “normal” person, resisting the latent and murderous urge that resides deep within his soul. But then, after being given blood in a life-saving mission by his girlfriend Elena, he gets a taste for it again. He begins fantasising about killing people, sucking the blood from their necks. He steals bags of it from the local hospital’s blood bank, hiding them in a basement fridge and drinking them in secret. 

Elena and Damon begin to notice a difference in Stefan. He seems lighter and more frivolous, less encumbered by worries. At first, Stefan appears to be getting away with it, like he has discovered the perfect balance - pretend to be human on the outside; give yourself over to the dark side behind closed doors. 

But then it all begins to unravel. 

His compulsion to kill starts to grow, sprawling and gaining traction like an out-of-control weed. It’s rampant, bubbling over at inopportune moments and rendering Stefan, post-feed, crippled with self-loathing, regret and inner torment. His erstwhile oasis of calm has been enveloped by an uncontrollable desire to suck blood from the bodies of humans. He loses sight of his once precious grasp on humanity. At the merest hint of blood in the nearby vicinity, his face contorts and the vampire is unleashed yet again. He can’t stop himself. 

And the only solution, as realised by Elena and Damon, is to force him to go cold turkey. They lock him away from temptation and wait for Stefan's desire to kill to dissipate; give him time and space to find his way back to a path of goodness, purity and connection. Starve him of the fuel that is keeping his self-loathing alive. 

Does any of this sound familiar? 

The following lyrics, from the song Diamonds by The Boxer Rebellion, similarly reflect this inner torment:

I'm no good next to Diamonds

When I'm too close to start to fade

Are you angry with me now

Are you angry cause I'm to blame

Never wanna hide the truth from you

Just hang my head what I put you through

I wasn't good enough

When what's done is done love

When it's all said and done.

This living with the feeling that you are not good enough; that no matter what you do, you can’t measure up, is so familiar to me. Diamonds is about not meeting the perceived needs and expectations of a lover. It reminds me of all the days I spent wanting to die because of that compulsion to drink. When I lived between a rock and a hard place - drinking, or desperately trying not to drink. Neither of these places brought me peace - both were exactly like Stefan’s struggle of either wanting to kill and drain the blood from the necks of innocent human beings, or giving into the compulsion and then being forced to live with the self-loathing. 

I wasn't good enough. I hung my head at what I did. I was to blame.

The condition of AUD can be unbelievably cruel and painful to manage. We can only escape its torment through abstinence, and that means letting go of the want, the desire, the absolute belief that everything will be ok if you give into your strongest urges. It means putting your faith in something you can’t see or feel yet. It means accepting that this compulsion is never going to leave you alone, as long as you keep feeding it. That the elusive “one last time” will never happen - not until you are prepared to face weeks of wanting something and not having it. 

The Vampire Diaries provides us with a brilliant metaphor for AUD. It has helped me gain a new level of understanding and compassion for myself and everyone else who has been affected by this condition. If you haven’t yet watched it, try it - you might find it helps you in the same way. 

And, as a bonus, if you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll also get to rest your eyes on Ian Somerhalder. 

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