Sex, food, envy, drugs, dreams, drink: addiction is never simple and is rarely forgotten by those who survive it. Addiction is a very patient disease. These 5 writers learned that, and lived to tell their story.
1. Night of the Gun by David Carr
New York Times reporter David Carr chronicled his descent into addiction in “The Night of the Gun.” As his drug use spun out of control, Carr lost his job and became a father to premature twin daughters. He recalls driving to a crack house with the babies in tow, leaving them in the car, and entering the house to get high. The night served as a turning point for Carr, who took the moment of extreme despair and turned it into a motivation for sobriety.
2. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
At heart, this is a book about friendship, but featuring friends bonded through addiction. Heroin features heavily, but Welsh shows us the spectrum of addictive behaviors. We have sex, theft, and most memorably Begbie, who considers himself morally superior to his “junkie” friends, even though he is addicted to amphetamines, alcohol and violence. It’s dark, deceptively complex, and shines with humanity for the characters it refuses to condemn.
3. The Shining by Stephen King
Jack Torrance, an ex-alcoholic, thinks he’s on safe ground when he spends the winter in a hotel whose bars are empty. But the hotel has other ideas and it’s not long before a ghostly bartender is serving him gin that is all too real, opening the doors to the return of the alcoholism he thought he’d conquered. A lesson in the vigilance necessary if an addiction is to remain beaten, made all the more poignant for King’s own battles with alcohol.
4. Love Junkie: A Memoir by Rachel Resnick
The story of Resnick’s addiction to “undesirable, dangerous men”, this book skilfully articulates the reasons she found herself hooked on bad relationships, and the ways in which she was replaying the patterns of her childhood. It’s raw and honest, difficult but worthwhile.
5. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher
Addiction usually concerns excess, rather than denial, and I hesitated before including this unflinching account of Hornbacher’s battles with a severe eating disorder in the list. But it strikes me that her story of obsessive control, of an overwhelming need to do something even though one knows it might ultimately kill you, is as much about addiction as anything else. It’s essential reading for anyone who still believes eating disorders are just about how thin someone wants to look.
Need more reading material? Checkout 6 more of the best books about addiction & recovery so you can avoid going to that great rehab in the sky.