The Problem With Addiction Memoirs

The happy news about Awl pal Julie Klausner sent me down a relatively shallow rabbit hole which resulted in my seeing this promo, for the short film Successful Alcoholics, for the first time. It looks great-Lizzy Caplan is involved, how could it not-but it stirred up resentments which I have held at bay for a long time but no longer feel capable of restraint in remarking upon. Specifically, what the hell is the deal with all the recovery memoirs?

You know what I’m talking about. “I was a successful literary agent, but I had a terrible secret life of drug abuse and sex in super swank hotels that brought me down.” “No one knew the sheer horror of my Jelly Belly addiction.” “I would hire prostitutes to make a doody on my chest because of my deep issues with inadequacy.” Etc. There’s one for every “addiction.”

But what the fuck? Where are the books from the guy who drinks half a handle of whiskey of an evening but still shows up on time at work the next morning and gets the job done? How come we’re not hearing from the mom with the minor meth habit who can still put together a play date at a moment’s notice while making freshly-baked cupcakes which she will never eat because the very sight of them disgusts her? The executive who snorts a couple rails every hour to keep himself sharp for the deals he makes and manages to skate through with no ill effects (other than to the economy), where is his voice in our culture?

It is all well and good that people who have “problems” have somehow been able to get the help they need and a platform from which to trumpet it, but, really, aren’t we basically celebrating failure here? There’s a reason you don’t read memoirs from the guy who finished fourth in every race: He couldn’t cut it, and there’s enough of that in life already. Show me a recovery memoir and I will show you a story about a quitter, someone who refuses to make a serious commitment and gives up when things get a little unpleasant. Basically, every book about a reformed addict is Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue but with more self-aware debasement at the beginning. Where is the recognition for the people who stick it out and deal with their problems the way that they’re supposed to: with drugs and booze?

I guess what I’m saying is, where’s my goddamn book deal? You want a tale of persistence against the (medical and emotional) odds? I’m right here! But get in touch quickly; I plan to knock off early today and get my weekend started sooner than usual.