This is a passage from the Big Book that makes me think about what it was that fueled Emmett’s alcoholism (italics mine):
“I looked around me at people who seemed happy and tried to analyze their happiness and it seemed to me that without exception these people had something or somebody they loved very much. I didn’t have the courage to love; I was not even sure I had the capacity. Fear of rejection and its ensuing pain were not to be risked, and I turned away from myself once more for the answer, this time to the drinks I had always refused before, and in alcohol I found a false courage.”
Alcoholics Anonymous (3rd Edition), “Freedom From Bondage,” pages 546-547.
Emmett drank because he was an alcoholic, certainly. But he was drinking to hide from the world, and from himself.
But underneath the “-ism” of his disease was a demon of sorts; something sinister that ate away at him inside. It was fear, certainly, of having that demon forced out into the daylight, and that fear is what fueled his life; i.e., his single-minded ambition, his well-known isolation from others, even in a room full of people, his Constantinople-like resistance to any significant relationship other than to a trusted few family members.