Life's just peachy through rose-coloured glasses

Your pain is not unique.

You might tell yourself no human has experienced the same combination of setbacks and frustrations, that you feel things others do not, but - let's face it - mankind's greatest pain-reliever, alcohol, has been around longer than you have.

The older I get, the more friends I seem to rack up who have addiction problems. As the tide of youthful optimism withdraws, many of us run aground on the reef of ''the way shit just is'' and, well, can you make that a double?

I know people who use cocaine, marijuana and Xanax. For some, it's sleeping pills or synthetic opioids such as Oxycodone, but mainly it's booze. In all but a few extreme cases, it's difficult to tell whether the person or the drug is in control. Pretty much all of them consider life more ''fun'' when they consume these substances because it makes them ''feel good''.

Most would also admit that boozing, snorting or smoking is a way of letting off steam and escaping the stresses of work, family or, perhaps, negative self-talk.

Get them at the right point and many will also acknowledge their self-medication is a way of temporarily numbing the sheer discomfort of being alive.

The human condition, the void, the meaning of life, the inevitability of isolation, the denial of death - describe it how you will. There aren't many of us besides Tony Robbins and kids' TV hosts who fail to recognise that life's challenges can be painful.

One of my favourite big brains, the Stanford University professor James Sheehan, quotes the political scientist Martin White: ''All of us know that what we want to do, and what we do is always a subject of an interaction between our will and the world around us.''

Sheehan continues: ''We continually face as we live our lives … friction; that is, the resistance of the world to our effort to master it and act within.''

Anyone who's had carpet burn or skidded knees on bitumen knows friction can be painful, but I find nowadays there's a trend towards people repositioning the world's resistance to them as something new. The complexity of modern life, our species' imminent demise, racism, misogyny, consumerism, corruption - they all go into the pot of despair as we tell ourselves our pain is so personal and unique. British music writer John Doran captured this recently, calling it ''the quest for beauty, a struggle to achieve aesthetic perfection in an imperfect world''.

''Every morning I woke up, the world was too ugly to face. There was dirt, horror and disfigurement everywhere I looked. But after one stiff drink I could leave the house; after two, the fear started lifting and then, after the third drink, I'd feel like an artist.''

When Doran, a former alcoholic, drank, the friction disappeared; there was ''just the sweet sensation of your life passing you by with no struggle and no fuss''.

Many would disagree with him, but then many people also run marathons or work 100-hour weeks to keep from confronting who they are, the choices they've made, what they've become.

The ability to deal with life's friction non-destructively is viewed as ''functional'', while those who numb themselves are seen as cowards, addicts or wastrels, with the odd artist poking 'round the wreckage, watching the tide roll away.

This article Life's just peachy through rose-coloured glasses was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.