Memoirs on Addiction and Recovery
It’s been awhile since I last posted a list, and it seems there are always books published in the addiction and recovery field. For example, memoirs of the road a person has traveled are always popular. Or, as a writer in the April 2012 edition of Details magazine said, “Addiction memoirs are hardly new—who can forget Thomas De Quincey’s 1821 classic Confessions of an Opium Eater?”
He goes on to mention James Frey’s controversial book, A Million Little Pieces, and former literary agent Bill Clegg’s Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man.
I saved a book title from an article in the NY Times Styles section last June: What Did I Do Last Night? Doesn’t the title perfectly sum up drug abuse for some users? It’s by Tom Sykes, a former night-life writer for The New York Post.
Kristen Johnson, who appeared on the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun published a book called Guts, in which she revealed that her stomach burst from her abusing alcohol and Vicodin. If that isn’t a wake-up call about your lifestyle, I don’t know what is.
Memoirs like these might make us forget that there are other addictions besides drugs. Catherine Townsend-Lyon has a new book out: Addicted to Dimes (Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat), that she says is “for recovering or non-recovering addicted, compulsive gamblers.” (This is especially timely for my fellow New Jerseryans, where online gambling just became legal.)
Another book I’ve been hearing about is Drinking With Men: A Memoir, by Rosie Schaap, who writes the Drink column in The New York Times magazine and also bartends. It always amazes me how someone can do drugs and/or drink for a period, have it become well-known and then become a noted journalist, like David Carr, another NYT staffer, has done (and I suppose Tom Sykes, who I mentioned earlier, although I’m not familiar with his story as I am with Carr’s.) It’s such a great story about recovery, but it still amazes me.
Schaap doesn’t seem to have been an actual alcoholic when she started hanging out in NY bars, but she does say she drank there every day. So this may not technically be an actual addiction and recovery book, but it sounds like it could be instructive anyway. It seems reminiscent of the well-received book The Tender Bar, by Moehringer, about the lessons he learned, and how he grew up, in a bar. I can point you to a wonderful review of Schaap’s book in the Jewish Daily Forward.
I started looking for reviews of some of these books I hadn’t heard about, and then I remembered the news that’s been making the rounds about Amazon. People have actually been paying others for reviews, and if you anger someone, they’ll write scathing review after scathing review. You can’t trust Amazon reviews anymore. I’d look for trusted sources if I wanted a preview. (I’d like to think that newspapers have done some fact-checking and have honest reviewers, despite some of the disreputable writers out there.)
Memoirs about drinking to excess and becoming addicted to other drugs serve a purpose: they show that people can and do recover, and give others hope. For that reason, there will probably always be a place for them.