Addictions – Part 1

January 27, 2013 // Book Reviews

Clegg-AddictOne thing about reading is that it puts you in places you might never find yourself. Sometimes you wish you could; others, you hope you never do.

Such is Bill Clegg’s Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A MemoirHere’s a guy who seems to have it all, he’s young, gorgeous, in a relationship, and runs his own literary agency. BUT he likes the crack a bit too much. And that’s what this story is about.

Is it the car-wreck fascination that makes memoirs like this so enticing? Watching people make THE worst decisions they can make? Watching them crumble and lose it all? Is it knowing that they make it out OK in the end because, after all, they wrote this book?

I think it’s all of those things and the inevitable comparison against our own choices, the fears about our own habits and decisions undoing us. It may be an extreme comparison when you, the reader, join Clegg on his binges, as he first decides to simply take the edge off with one huge hit … that turns into another … that turns into another … as the hours spiral down the drain and all his obligations and responsibilities evaporate. It’s easy to put yourself in his shoes even if you’ve never done a single drug. You have your own mundane weaknesses—food, drink, shopping, relationship choices. You find yourself overindulging or overextending or following the same pattern even though you swore you were going to stop . And these impulses and compulsions don’t even always make you feel GOOD. Imagine if we felt so very transformed and blissful in the arms of our weaknesses.

We all disappoint ourselves and promise ourselves to do better next time. And then we don’t. So we tag along knowingly with Clegg as he falls apart, spends all his money—tens of thousands of dollars, hooks up with questionable strangers in one hotel room after another, pushes his body to the limit and wastes away in the same drooping, soiled clothes day after day. We become so immersed in his crack-fueled existence that even his paranoia, though clearly delusional, seems a little believable as we look through his eyes. Every business traveler, every cab driver, every ho-hum person is a federal agent just waiting to pounce and drag him away. Well, maybe they are; why not? Or maybe he’s helped us, in his world, to also lose that touchpoint with reality.

Clegg pushes himself to the very edge, and then finally, at his lowest, when he can no longer make himself go on, he makes arrangements to check out, writes his note and all. Despite his best attempts, the body he has pushed to its limits for so long fights back and carries him back home where he is finally able to get the real help he needs.

And all the while we get a third-person narrative peek into his life as a boy, at the personal demons he battled and how these difficulties affected his relationships, especially with his parents. Is this childhood torment the source of his adult devils? We are left to wonder.


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