Hemingway fishing with his drink, gun and son "Jack"
50 years ago today on July 2nd 1961 Hemingway committed suicide.
I admired Hemingway for his fame as a writer, his stories and his macho two fisted manly drinking lifestyle. I think I set out in life to emulate Hemingway and other manly men like him from the days of my first thoughts on the subject. I have empathy for the many biographers and psychiatrists who have struggled over the years since his death to explain this complicated alcoholic and self-centered legend of American letters.
Like Hemingway I found out early in life that alcohol could suppress the many demons within me. There was enough material in my life to produce a good Death Of A Salesman type novel, the family dramas, the bigger than life domineering father figure, the disappointments and the expectations. I joined the army in 1965 at 18 to escape and “be a man” and see the world. After the Army I lived in France and Spain hoping to connect in some subconscious way with Hemingway’s bohemian early days. It always included excessive drinking, debauchery and risk taking.
Later my personal selfishness exacerbated by alcohol led to my abandonment of my basic responsibilities to my wife and children. Of course, my parody lacked the talent, fame, war and money. But on a much smaller scale it mimicked the emotional turmoil which I tempered with drink. The near death experiences, accidents, bar room brawls and occasional thoughts of suicide became recurring daily events.
It was not until I turned 42 that I realized that drinking was an endgame. I relished in it even though I was slowly dying inside and out. Many alcoholics reach a jumping off point where life with or without alcohol seems impossible. Many unfortunately choose to end it like Hemingway did, unable to comprehend a way out while believing their lack of control is a sign of weakness.
Remarkably, I found a solution that worked for me. I feel that many experts and biographers complicate things when it comes to analyzing the reasons for the self-destructive lifestyles of troubled alcohol and drug abusing individuals, like Hemingway. I believe egomania underlies the demise of most of these individuals. Outside influences play a large part certainly in shaping the eventual self-destruction, but ultimately it comes down to the responsibility of the individual to realize that their personal defects are at the heart of the real problem.
I don't condemn men and women like Hemingway who are caught in this trap. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."