The Pitcher Plant: An Analogy for Alcoholism

The Pitcher Plant

In This Article

In the early 2000s, author Allen Carr published a little known but very relevant book on alcoholism – entitled The Easy Way to Stop Drinking (2005). Sound too good to be true? Maybe. I don’t think there is really an easy way to stop drinking, at least not for the alcoholic. However, Carr takes a refreshing spin on what it really means to engage in alcoholism, and why alcohol doesn’t do the things for us that we think it does. He basically shoots down every myth about drinking using scientific fact, and exposes what a tricky little devil alcohol is when it comes to hijacking our brains and bodies.

A little background on Carr: long before The Easy Way to Stop Drinking was published, Carr authored The Easy Way to Stop Smoking (1985). Similar in scope to his other books, this text exposed the lies told to us about smoking, as well as the false notions our brains form around the concept of smoking (remember, this was 1985, long before TheTruth.com, etc.) Tragically, Carr died of lung cancer in 2006, at the age of 71. Although he had quit smoking for 23 years, he had smoked 33 years prior.

In his book, Carr brilliantly used a perfect analogy for alcoholism, which he simply called The Pitcher Plant. I’m going to do quite a bit of paraphrasing, with just one select quote. I highly recommend that anyone who is, has been, or knows an an alcoholic read this book in it’s entirety.

The pitcher plant is a real plant, that is real scary for insects. Like the venus flytrap, it loves to eat bugs, particularly flies. As the name implies, it is shaped like a pitcher. Inside the pitcher is sweet, sticky nectar that is delicious and aromatic to flies. They land on the lip of the plant, and soon to begin to feast on this amazing delicacy.

As the fly eats, a very interesting thing begins to happen. It slowly descends deeper and deeper into the pitcher, legs becoming sticky and belly becoming full. Indeed, the fly may see yet another fly, or several flies, positioned deeper or at the bottom of the pitcher plant. The fly, instead of sensing immediate danger, keeps eating. It probably thinks that it can take flight at any time, and what has happened to other fly – well, that simply won’t happen to him. He’s been warned.

If you can’t see the parallels immediately, consider this: when we start drinking, often as teenagers or young adults, we don’t ever picture ourselves as the gutter alcoholic. We look at others who have it worse than us, and presume we will never be in that situation. Either we’re too smart, too driven, or just too good for something like that to happen to us. Every person who takes a drink has lit on that pitcher plant – the extent to which we descend is not entirely up under our control. We just can’t help ourselves.

If there really is an easy way to stop drinking, it’s got to have to do with remembering this analogy and taking it to heart. Carr sums up the idea perfectly when he states

“Normal drinkers are in an earlier stage of the same disease.”

The disease is the pitcher plant. Perhaps we would all sink into oblivion if we lived long enough.

If you suspect you or someone you know is an alcoholic, please seek help immediately.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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