In addition to the physical and mental health issues, alcohol affects how Don behaves socially. How Don interacts with people while sober is entirely different then when he is drunk. Don describes this to Helen as him being two different people; “Don the drunk” and “Don the writer”. The writer half of Don is the successful and loving person he wants to be. Don the drunk is completely irrational and inconsiderate, doing anything to gain access to alcohol. Don speaks of the two halves as if they are fighting each other and that Don the drunk is winning.
This drunk side begins to take over his social life, changing how he acts and thus how others see him. Mary Valmas mentions in her study on alcoholics that “alcoholism has been associated with emotional abnormalities and diminished social cognitive functioning as well as neuropathology of brain area underlying social processing abilities” (2998). Don shows many examples of this abnormal social behavior as a result of his alcoholism. When confronted by the land lady Don lies to her so that he can steal his brother’s rent money to go out and buy alcohol.
This shows that Don is willing to manipulate others to get what he wants. This manipulation does not go unnoticed as those around him start to lose trust for him and realize the drunk he has become. As the film progresses, Don’s social behavior worsens. He begins to treat the bartender less like a friend and more like something that should just dispense alcohol at his will. In response to this the bartender tells Don to leave and not return, leaving him with no bar to go to. However, this will not stop Don because he will go to great lengths to find a drop of whiskey.
He then resorts to stealing a women’s purse to pay for the tab he accumulated from drinking at a club. He even goes as far as to rob a liquor store in broad daylight for one bottle of whiskey. Resorting to these crimes proves that Don has sacrificed his social life to prolong his disease. With what could be a prosperous man, Don instead is slowly becoming just another town drunkard. Don has aspirations to be a successful writer and was on the right path until he let alcohol get in his way. Don was an exceptional writer in college, on track to have a productive career.
He turns to alcohol after his career is not as promising as he had hoped. The alcohol only brings his career to a complete halt, and he has not progressed as a writer ever since. The fall of his career has a significant impact on Don. His self-worth dwindles as he feels he does not amount to anything more than just a drunk. What hurts him more is that he is unable to get past his drinking to start writing again. He knows the alcohol keeps him from writing, but he cannot give it up. Without a career Don becomes financially dependent on his brother.
By doing this Wick enables Don to keep drinking, but Wick loves Don too much to kick him out. What starts as a collapse of his career develops into Don taking advantage of those around him, ruining those relationships. Alcoholism affects more than just the alcoholic, as the film makes this evident-it also ruins relationships by seeing others as obstacles to drinking. Don sacrifices the relationships he forms with those close to him, so that he may get closer to his inebriating liquid. The first person the alcoholism affects would be his brother. Wick chooses to provide for Don financially and emotionally because he loves him.
Yet despite Wick’s love and care, Don puts drinking before their relationship. In the scene shortly after Wick leaves for the theater, Don steals the rent money to buy more whiskey. He then avoids going on the weekend vacation his brother had planned just so he could stay home and drink. Wick makes it clear he disapproves of his habits and does what he can to stop it. Wick went though the entire apartment to clear out all the alcohol Don had hidden. He even went to the people Don buys alcohol from and told them not to sell Don anything. He covers up for Don when he is in trouble.
Don knows Wick loves him, yet he treats him as only an obstacle that he must overcome to reach his goal of drunkenness. Wick finally meets his wits end when Don does not show up to leave for the vacation, so he gives up and heads out. The only person to stay behind is Helen, who has not given up on Don since they met. The relationship between Helen and Don is also afflicted by alcohol. Helen shows the most concern for Don’s addiction more than anyone. She has the ability to end the relationship and move on, yet she has hope that he will change and continues to love him.
Despite this, Don still treats her as an obstacle. Don gives up drinking for a short time for her, meaning that he wants to put her first but chooses not to. While waiting in a hotel lobby to meet Helen’s parents, he overhears them discussing their expectations for who they want Don to be. Once Don realizes he is not the man that they desire for their daughter, he quickly backs out and no longer wants to meet them. The unwillingness to face Helen’s parents shows that Don does not want to take their relationship any further. From this point Don begins to love Helen less while continuing his passion for drink.
There is a scene where Helen has been searching for Don and she is clearly upset. Don sees her, but does everything he can to avoid confronting her. This is because he would rather be with the whiskey he bought than to be with his love. In effect, his love for whiskey is stronger than his love for Helen. The fact that he chooses her in the end is the only proof that he does indeed love her. Otherwise, the only relationship Don is concerned with is between him and the bottle. Don’s decision to give up alcohol at the end of the film gives a sense of redemption for the alcoholic.
The suicidal Don nearly succeeds in ending his own life, until Helen intervenes. Helen tries to stop Don by force, but when that does not work she then has to talk him out of it. Helen tells Don how much she loves and needs him, and how he must put both the gun and drink down. For Don the only reason he had to live was for Helen, but he did not feel that she should be with a man like himself, so he tried to take himself out of the equation to free her. It is only by Helen’s persistence does she finally get through to him.
Don realizes that he does have a reason to live for and that he does not have to be controlled by alcohol. Helen continues to discuss what they are going to do as Don comes across a cup of whiskey. The music becomes more dramatic and the camera zooms closer for more intensity. Don then puts the cup down and drowns his cigarette in the whiskey. This signifies that Don has indeed given up alcohol for good. With the alcohol behind him, Don speaks to Helen about how many more like him are out there. The film uses this line to indicate that Don is not the only alcoholic and there are many more like him.
So through proper intervention the film indicates that there is a hope for redemption from alcohol. Alcoholism is a disease that the film suggests will lead down a destructive path to nowhere, bringing all along that it possibly can. The film demonstrates this though the sacrifices Don makes of himself and those around him. The film-noir style gives a proper dark feeling to the darkness of alcohol and its impact on the individual. Alcoholism is a serious condition that is not easily cured. It brings about many health complications and can tear a person’s life apart.
It is only by intervention does Don overcome his addiction. Still, the redemption does not make up for the harm that came before. The sacrifices Don made for alcohol brought great hurt to himself, but he is not the only one in pain. Alcohol brings about collateral damage, hurting those around the individual, especially those who are the closest. Don is not the only one affected by alcoholism and the film makes it evident that anyone could succumb this disease. Through all of this the film advocates that no poison such as this is worthy to be sacrificed to, it is a false god that only brings despair.