Five Favorite Addiction Memoirs
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. In terms of addiction memoirs, this one was my gateway drug. It’s categorized as fiction now but originally was published as a found journal by an anonymous teenager. Either way it’s a shocking account of a teenager’s descent into a hell of drug use, starting with one sip of a LSD-laced soda.
Jerry Stahl. Stahl’s down and dirty account of
addiction hits bottom for me when he describes leaving his infant daughter in the car during
a drug run. The successful television writer (Alf, thirtysomething,
Moonlighting) was “good” at doing drugs (prolific anyway) but he’s
even better at writing about them, bringing to his harrowing story an addict’s
skill for persuasion, embellishment, and drama.
- Lit by Mary Karr. The Liar’s Club is one of my
favorite books. In it Karr blends a poet’s way with words with the memories and storytelling style of a good ol’ girl from southeast Texas as she describes a hard knock childhood in the 60s with an alcoholic father, a crazy mother, and a humorous and heartbreaking cast of characters. Reading her first book I remember thinking how (amazingly) Karr had escaped her childhood’s destiny through her writing. Fourteen years later Lit proved me wrong as Karr describes her alcoholism and her own version of crazy. Though she still does so with Texas charm, AA honesty, and literary finesse.
- Dry by Augusten Burroughs. You may know the young Augusten from his bizarre childhood: his mother gave him to her psychiatrist to live with the doctor’s own crazy family (Running with Scissors). Now read how that worked out: Dry is the grown up Augusten’s memoir of dealing with addiction and the equally challenging sobriety. Both books, alternating between heartbreaking and hilarious.
- Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. When I lived in Boston I loved reading Knapp’s wonderful column in the (now defunct) Boston Phoenix, the city’s arts newspaper. Back then Knapp was a highly functioning alcoholic and she went on to write one of the most candid, insightful memoirs about alcohol addition out there.